Saturday Night Weaver

Don't be misled by her sex: She's big. She's mean. She's bald. In a world filled with scampering rodents calling themselves macho, she stands firmer and taller than a forest oak tree. In the solitude and vastness of outer space, she fears no evil. No challenge is too great. No force is too strong. Her commitment to duty knows no bounds. Her compassion for the innocent knows no limit. She has the grit to serve. She has the guts to protect. She perseveres. She prevails. She's the baddest warrant officer in the galaxy, the toughest cookie in the universe. And now, after six years in "hypersleep" (with millions of dollars accruing interest in the bank, of course), she's back.

Yes, sports fans, get out the Kleenex, roll up your trousers, put on your raincoats, and open those umbrellas: It's time for Alien 3. Rivers of descending slime, swill, muck, ooze, and sludge are back with a vengeance, along with Sigourney Weaver's parasite-pulverizing Officer Ripley, the mater dolorosa of the dark empyrean. In this sequel, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's favorite intergalactic dominatrix - who, amazingly, was nominated in the "Best Actress" category for Aliens - takes on the double-jawed, multiple-molared, gut-bursting alien for a third, and apparently last, time.

On this outing, Ripley wages war against the serpentine man-muncher in a black-as-coal, maximum-security prison called Fiorina 161. She's the sole survivor after a crash landing on the grimy facility, which has killed two humans (Hicks and little Newt, the girl from Aliens) and rendered the dismembered android, Bishop (Lance Henriksen), out of service. This lice-infested prison planet serves as a subterranean mineral ore refinery for its inhabitants, most of whom are homicidal or sexually perverse criminals and all of which are bald and male. These prisoners, instead of mounting a bargain-basement production of The Boys in the Band to relieve their frustration, have become devotees of a rigidly celibate, pseudo-Christian religion, and view Ripley's arrival - she's the first woman they've seen in years - as an intrusion to be shunned. Thus is Ripley commanded to shave her hair, first by the warden, later by Mr. Clemens (Charles Dance), a jailhouse doctor with a shady past. (Later, fully clothed, presumably to enhance their macrocontinental charm, they ride the hobby horse and share a thought.)

Strange clues begin to lurk. First, a prisoner's dog shows signs of infestation. The side of his head is stained (with what looks like ricotta-stuffed manicotti and marinara sauce, to which a dollop of Dipity-Doo has been added, for shine). The convict blanches in horror, and asks, "What kind of animal would do a dog?"

Holy heavens! Faster than you can say, "Fetch, Fido," the belly of the pooch erupts - ouch! - and out steps the alien. Now, in Alien 3 the director (not James Cameron, as before, but youngblood David Fincher, of MTV and tube advertising) appears to have researched his model with a touch of genius: The bloodthirsty replicant racing through the dank prison corridors and eating alive any poor fellow in its path is the spitting image of - and this is no joke - Metro-Dade commissioner Joe Gersten. No doubt the production crew predicted this choice would be controversial, even shocking, to Dade County's inhabitants and the A-class patrons of the Hotel Negresco in Nice. Their courage is rewarded - the alien provides the best portrayal of a Miami political figure ever. Yes, perhaps the razor-sharp teeth are too generously drawn. Arguably the shape of the head is too elegant when compared to the hideous source. Ah, but those dark reptilian eyes and fleeting demeanor are right-on. Pure, unadulterated Joe.

As there are no weapons on Fiorina 161, Ripley takes over. The alien is afraid of fire, Ripley reminds us. Of the technique to create fire, she informs her convict colleague, "Most humans have enjoyed that privilege since the Stone Age." ("No need to be sarcastic," he responds.) They opt for a plan to trap and destroy the omnivorous Joe-lookalike with molten lead. But lo and behold, Ripley discovers that the alien has a crush on her, and for a good reason: she's the host body for an alien queen capable of giving birth to hundreds of future Dade County politicians. (When the embryonic alien queen is shown during a TV-monitored scan of Ripley's ailing body, we don't get a good enough look to see whether the leechy fetus is Rosario Kennedy's twin sister.)

Now a word or two about the use of language on Fiorina 161. The noun commonly used to express discontentment, the same word that also serves as an adjective to denote something damnable, indeed, the same four-letter word that when employed as a verb means to copulate - yes, folks, the f-word - spews forth from everyone's lips (save the alien's) in this picture. It makes an appearance, oh, some 300 times throughout the course of Alien3: one calls another a F, another mentions some F-ing thing, yet another simply wants to F. In part, we have that journeyman genius behind the lens, Walter Hill, to thank for this innovative screenplay, whose circumlocutionary creativity reaches heights unheard of since the heyday of Linda Lovelace and Georgina Spelvin bumping and grinding in porno. (Hill co-wrote the script with David Giler and Larry Ferguson.)

No, whatever impact this sequel leaves is due, in greater measure, to Sigourney Weaver. This ever-statuesque performer plays the maiden warrior as a cross between Telly Savalas and Julia Child; when she's not being a bald-headed sourpuss, she's confounding us with her line readings from Mars. Weaver's amazon athleticism and actressy mannerisms have rarely been put to better use: she can land a face-busting hook without losing her composure; she can run down a subterranean alley without breaking a sweat. (To demonstrate these unique abilities, Weaver punches a prisoner in the mug and races throughout Fiorina 161 without a drop of perspiration.) She's magnificently silly, like Joan of Arc playing rough-house with the boys in Sing-Sing. Weaver is triumphant as bad-mama Ripley, but truth be told, Alien 3 isn't really worthy of her.

Directed by David Fincher; written by David Giler, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson; with Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, and Lance Henriksen.



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