A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alien3 is not for kids. There is a heavy atmosphere of doom and hostility, even without the ravenous, clawed monster on the prowl. Ellen Ripley is surrounded by unfriendly men, who are, in fact, dangerous convicts, described as murderers, rapists, and child molesters, just barely keeping their violence under control with work and monkish religion. Authority figures, when they finally show up, are untrustworthy and evil. The only solution shown in dealing with this situation and this society is suicide.
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What's the story?
In ALIEN3, the third installment of the series, alien-fighter Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finds herself all alone on a dangerous planet after her escape pod crash lands. The only one to survive the crash, Ripley discovers an all-male prison/factory, staffed by murderers, rapists, and child-molesters. The men live without weapons; they control their psychotic impulses through work and prayer, living much like monks. Ripley's feminine presence alone is disruptive, but not as much as the larval alien that stowed away on board the escape pod. It infects a prisoner's pet dog and emerges a full-scale monster, on the chase for fresh human victims. Prisoners begin to turn up hideously killed, and Ripley suspects alien invasion but the few men who can tolerate her are disbelieving. Worse is to come; there's no way off the planet except by in the treacherous organization called "The Company." And worse is to come, worse even than that.
Is it any good?
Grim and uncompromising, this movie was a troubled, expensive production that burned through an assortment of directors before it finally landed on the screen courtesy of filmmaker David Fincher. His work dwells on serial killers, crime, and the darkest sides of human nature -- but if cheering sci-fi fans thought that Fincher would continue the militaristic heroics of the previous Aliens, they were badly mistaken.
The original Alien seemed gloomy and gothic, more of a haunted-house chiller than the cosmic fairy tales popular at the time and Alien3 goes even further to convey a sense of desolation and hopelessness. There's not an ounce of humor here, but if there were, it would have to be someone saying to Ripley at some point, "It sure sucks to be you!" Weaver does a commendable job, in a very grueling physical performance that takes the beleaguered heroine to the outer limits of despair and ultimate sacrifice. But if science-fiction is meant to convey a "sense of wonder," the question here is "wonder who would find this entertaining?"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the setting of Alien3: a prison-planet of life-sentence criminals who use prayer to stay docile and disciplined, so much so that no weapons are needed. But they are all men, living more like monks than convicts, and not to be trusted around women. Is this a real solution?
The finale poses a real what-would-you-do question, when there probably isn't any comfortable answer. Why do some people find a grim tale like this entertaining?
What are your favorite sci-fi movies and why?
- In theaters: May 20, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2004
- Cast: Lance Henriksen, Pete Postlethwaite, Sigourney Weaver
- Director: David Fincher
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: monster violence, and for language.
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