A minor triumph over big brother


Alien 3
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Reviewed by Nick Everett

Unless Hollywood can come up with a resurrection of Ripley from a giant cauldron of molten lead, Alien 3 is the final part in a trilogy about a struggle against a totalitarian inter-global corporation drawing on all the resources of a massive corporate-state apparatus. For the purposes of its neo-colonial relation with numerous planets, the company's biological weapons division would like to control the dangerous alien life form which Ripley has battled through three movies.

What is interesting about Alien 3 is not its rather thin plot, but two characters who come to the fore against enormous odds in the struggle against the company and the alien. One is Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, the only woman in the film, and the other is a black spiritual leader, complete with Malcolm X spectacles.

Ripley is without doubt the strongest character, first fighting the bigotry of the inmates of a small, womanless, regimented former penal colony turned monastery, and then playing a crucial role in uniting them to defeat the company by ridding the colony of the alien. The spiritual leader is a refreshing contrast with the more usual Hollywood image of the Afro-American airhead.

On Ripley's arrival, the spiritual leader is already a leader among the brothers, and in a deadlocked power struggle with the local company rep. The brothers are former rapists and murderers who have decided to remain behind on the closure of their former prison. He fights the other brothers' misogyny and other antisocial attitudes, while the company tries to inflame these attitudes to prevent them uniting.

The presence of the acid-slobbering, flesh-tearing alien intensifies these contradictions, highlighted when one of the less spiritual brothers tries to rape Ripley. The spiritual brother intervenes, enabling Ripley to land the would-be rapist a staggering punch, and leaving the brother pondering the need for some "re-education". Eventually, the spiritual brother becomes the undisputed leader when the alien gets the company rep. The brothers all fall in behind Ripley's anti-imperialist analysis.

The film is a mixture of sharpness and weakness, most of all come into focus in the last scenes as the riot-geared SWAT-like cops move in. Given the context of a colony of about 20 rather brutalised men, the possibilities for social solidarity are never great; nevertheless humanity enjoys a limited victory. As always in Hollywood, though, this victory come through the exceptional efforts of a couple of individuals. It's okay to have a win against big brother now and then, as long as it's clear it's all in the realm of fiction.