Following the events in Aliens, the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco experiences an onboard fire and launches an escape pod containing Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt, Hicks, and the damaged android Bishop who are all in cryonic stasis. During the launch, the ship's medical scans of the crew's cryotubes show an Alien facehugger attached to one of the crewmembers. The pod then crashes on Fiorina 'Fury' 161, a foundry facility and penal colony inhabited by all-male inmates with "double-Y" chromosome patterns and histories of physical and sexual violence. After some inmates recover the pod and its passengers, an Alien facehugger is seen approaching the prison dog. Ripley is taken in and awakened by Clemens (Charles Dance), the prison doctor, and is told she is the only survivor of the crash. Many of the ex-inmates have embraced an apocalyptic, millenarian version of Christianity, and Ripley is warned by the prison warden, Harold Andrews, (Brian Glover) that her presence among them may have extremely disruptive effects.
Suspicious of what caused the escape pod to jettison and what killed her companions, Ripley requests that Clemens perform an autopsy on Newt. She fears that Newt may be carrying an Alien embryo in her body, though she does not share this information. Despite protests from the warden and his assistant, Aaron (Ralph Brown), the autopsy is conducted and no embryo is found in Newt's body, and Clemens proclaims she simply died in the crash. Meanwhile, Ripley's unusual behavior begins to frustrate the warden and is agitating the prisoners.
A funeral is performed for Newt and Hicks, in which their bodies are cremated in the facility's enormous furnace. In another section of the facility, the prison dog enters convulsions, and an Alien bursts from its body. The Alien soon begins to attack members of the colony, killing several and returning an outcast prisoner Golic (Paul McGann) to his former deranged state. To get answers, Ripley recovers and reactivates the damaged android Bishop, who confirms that there was an Alien on the Sulaco and it came with them to Fiorina in the escape pod. She then informs Andrews of her previous encounters with the Aliens and suggests everyone work together to hunt it down and kill it. Andrews does not believe her story and explains that the facility has no weapons. Their only hope of protection is the rescue ship being sent for Ripley by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
Back in the prison infirmary, while talking to Ripley about the situation, Clemens is killed by the Alien, but when it is about to attack Ripley, it suddenly pauses, then retreats, mysteriously sparing her life. She runs to the mess hall to warn the others, only to see the Alien kill the warden. Ripley rallies the inmates and proposes they pour highly flammable toxic waste, which is stored at the facility, into the ventilation system and ignite it to flush out the creature. An explosion is caused by the creature's premature intervention, resulting in several deaths. Using the medical equipment aboard the Sulaco escape pod, Ripley scans herself and discovers the embryo of an Alien Queen growing inside her. She also finds out that the Corporation truly wants the Queen embryo and the adult Alien, hoping to turn them into biological weapons. Deducing that the mature alien will not kill her because of the embryo she carries, Ripley begs Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), the religious leader of the inmates, to kill her, who agrees to do so only if she helps the inmates kill the adult creature first. They form a plan to lure it into the foundry's molding facility and drown it in molten lead by trapping it by closing a series of doors. The bait-and-chase style plan results in the death of Dillon and all the remaining prisoners, except Morse (Danny Webb), who pours the lead. The Alien, covered in molten metal, escapes the mold and is killed by Ripley when she turns on fire sprinklers and sprays the beast with water, causing its exoskeleton to cool rapidly and shatter via thermal shock.
While Ripley battles the Alien, the Weyland-Yutani team arrives, including a man named Michael Bishop who looks identical to the Bishop android, claiming to be its creator. He tries to persuade Ripley to undergo surgery to remove the Queen embryo, which he claims will be destroyed. Ripley refuses and steps back onto a mobile platform, which Morse positions over the furnace. The company men shoot Morse in the leg, and Aaron picks up a large wrench and strikes Bishop over the head with it, believing him to be an android. Aaron is shot dead, and Bishop and his men show their true intentions, begging Ripley to let them have the "magnificent specimen". Ripley defies them by throwing herself into the gigantic furnace, just as the alien Queen begins to erupt from her chest. However, as she is dying from the wound, Ripley grabs the creature and holds on to it as she falls into the fire.
The film ends with a sequence showing the facility being closed down, the last surviving inmate, Morse, being led away, and a shot of the Sulaco escape pod as the sound recording of Ripley's final lines from the original Alien film is heard.
ALIEN³ was directed by David Fincher and written by David Giler , Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson (HIGHLANDER, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER), based on a story by Vincent Ward and based on the characters created by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Man, that is a boatload of writers! Is writing talent additive? Let's find out.
The opening credits are devastating, especially if you're a fan of the first two movies (ALIEN and ALIENS). Before the movie really even begins you see that everything Ripley (Sigourney Weaver: ALIEN [all], GHOSTBUSTERS [all]) fought so hard for is lost. Her tremendous fight against hordes of alien warriors and the huge alien queen in the last movie and the thrilling rescue of her surrogate daughter, Newt, was all for nothing. While she, Newt (Carrie Henn in the last movie but Danielle Edmond here), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn in the last movie but no one here because he's dead) and the android Bishop lay in hyper-sleep (suspended animation for the long space voyage) we see one of the spider-like facehugger creatures (which must have come aboard with the queen) crawl toward the hypersleep tubes.
Damage caused by the facehugger using its super-acidic blood to burn through the tube causes an electrical fire on board the completely automated ship and the computer heads for the nearest inhabited world on its flight path. The sleep tubes are placed in a lifeboat-lander, which lands very hard indeed on Fury 161. On screen text tells us this planet is home to a combination mineral ore refinery and "double-Y chromosome" work correctional facility. Men born with two Y-chromosomes have a tendency toward violent crime. In other words this is a mining colony where extremely violent criminals are used for slave labor.
Or at least it used to be. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation (referred to in all the movies as "The Company") used to have a 5000 prisoner facility here, but apparently it wasn't profitable. They shut it down but left behind a skeleton crew of 25 former prisoners to maintain the infrastructure in case they decided to do something with it later. These prisoners, almost all double-Y's, have found religion and don’t wish to return to the temptations of society.
Ripley is the only survivor of the lifeboat crash. Hicks is impaled in the wreckage and sad, brave little Newt drowns in her sleep tube. The android Bishop is smashed beyond repair and the pieces tossed on a trash heap. The locals take her to the see Clemons (Charles Dance), the closest thing they have to a doctor. A large dog owned by one of the prisoners stays by the crashed lifeboat, barking at something inside.
Ripley wakes up and is given the bad news. She's in very rough shape and one eye is horribly blood shot. One of the things I admire about Sigourney Weaver is that if a part requires her to look bad, she goes all the way. That takes more self-confidence than most gorgeous, appearance-conscious movie stars usually have.
Superintent Andrews and his assistant Mr. Aaron (Ralph Brown) inform Ripley that her presence will be very disruptive and upsetting to the men and she’s not to go anywhere unescorted. A message has been sent to the company and a rescue squad is expected in about a week.
When Ripley inspects the lifeboat and sees the burn marks on the sleep tubes, she insists on performing an autopsy on Newt. She had been holding it together emotionally but this almost pushes her control past its limit.
Newt's autopsy reveals nothing but in another part of the complex a very sick dog will shortly be put out of his misery.
The superintendent holds a very perfunctory service for Newt and Hicks. During the service a prisoner named Dillon steps forward and says a few words of his own. His eulogy moves Ripley. Dillon is a sort-of preacher to his brothers in exile here.
Ripley finds a friend in the sort-of doctor, Clemons (lots of "sort-of" people here) but she keeps the details of her past secret. But when people begin dying or simply disappearing, Ripley knows what’s happening. She barely has time to tell the disbelieving staff what’s going on when she herself is confronted by the alien. It gets up close, inches away and her fate seems sealed. But then it leaves her unharmed. Why?