David Fincher’s Career Long Response to Alien 3
In the wake of Prometheus, the Alien franchise has once again come into the spotlight. Opinions on the four film series remain the same: Alien is great! Aliens is also great! Alien 3 sucks! Alien Resurrection is really weird! Any discussion of the Alien films is incomplete without the haranguing of Alien 3, perennial whipping boy of the franchise.
Much of the critical vitriol came from the film’s decision to kill Newt and Corporal Hicks, as two characters survived the devestation of Aliens only to be killed during the opening credits of Alien 3. This criticism seems a touch unfair, especially considering that the only connections between Alien and Aliens were Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the titular creature. Alien 3 wasn’t just a sequel to Aliens; it was its own film in the Alien series. But even when regarded as its own entity, Alien 3 received less than stellar reviews. After the war-movie scope of Aliens, returning the series to its single-alien origins felt like a rehash, and many considered the prison planet setting offensive rather than inventive. The Washington Post summed up popular opinion as it declared Alien 3 the “most oppressive, most redundant movie in the series.”
But nobody seems more offended by Alien 3’s existence than its own director, David Fincher. “A lot of people hated Alien 3,” he told The Guardian. “But no one hated it more than I did.” Today, Fincher has two Academy Award nominations under his belt and critical acclaim as an auteur working within the Hollywood system. But back in the early 90s, Fincher was a kid in his late 20s trying to make his first feature film. And it was hard.
An interview with Fincher from 1991 shows the director openly admitting his unhappiness with the film while in the midst of production:
Interviewer: So you’ve been depressed?
Fincher: I don’t know. It’s just… I don’t get any sleep any more. At a certain point, I just start waking up. Wake up at two, three, four on the hour.
Interviewer: Thinking of things you could have done differently?
Fincher: Why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that, how do I fucking leave the country without you knowing.
Interviewer: I can’t imagine what it’s like, having spent a year of your life…
Fincher: Two years, my friend, two years…
After Alien 3, Fincher told Sight & Sound: “I thought I’d rather die of colon cancer than do another movie.” Since making that statement, Fincher has directed eight feature films and appears to have remained cancer-free. Considering how awful his formative experience withAlien 3 was for Fincher – and how it nearly turned him off filmmaking forever – his career since can be viewed as a response to his first film.