According to David Fincher, filming Alien³ was such a nightmare that he couldn’t look at another script for over a year. He might have had an advantage, though, in not having a great feature film debut, because that allowed moviegoers to head into his second film, Seven (I refuse to spell it any other way. Deal with it), with no expectations, and that gave them one of the great joys of popular culture: the unexpected masterwork.
I remember seeing this for the first time in 1995 and not being able to go home for about two hours because I needed the sun to get the chill out of my bones. Fincher’s control shows in every moment, creating a series of medieval tableaux out of Andrew Kevin Walker’s screenplay. The theme of body horror that was part of Alien³ gets pushed to its Cronenbergian maximum here; the Sloth scene shows how the strength and vulnerability of our bodies can combine in the most unsettling and unforgettable ways. Fincher used a unique “silver retention” process on some prints to create an image that was both dark and somehow glistening; for the DVD release, he supervised the color correction for a different yet equally effective look. Howard Shore provides one of his best, most elemental scores, although that’s future Fincher collaborator Trent Reznor in the opening credits. The performances are subdued and perfect (Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, and especially REDACTED); it’s Fincher’s best ensemble that side of Zodiac. Alien³ was his first film, but this was Fincher’s true debut, the one that made everyone pay attention.
However edited for basic cable, this is worth seeing. It’s on tonight at 10pm Eastern and Pacific on SyFy.