Mourning Sickness: Three
If this film resembles its predecessor in any respect, it is in its rejection of the expected way of noting its own status within the series of ‘Alien’ films. James Cameron’s title avoided the number ‘2’ altogether (whilst discovering it obsessively within the film itself); David Fincher’s incorporates the necessary numeral, but only after subjecting it to a radical displacement. In one respect, to present the number ‘3’ as a superscript simply emphasizes the fact of the film’s belatedness (its appearance after not one but two highly idiosyncratic directors have imposed their very different personal visions on a very distinctive original idea), as if Fincher feels that anything he might do with his film will be superscriptural, a writing over the writings of others, as if this third film in the series cannot but constitute a palimpsest. But such a constraint is also a liberation, a form of empowerment; for the creator of a palimpsest can either reiterate the work of his predecessors, or obliterate it without trace, or subject it to radical displacement. More specifically, the advantage of directing ‘Alien III’ is that it means making a contribution to a series, not a sequel. For Cameron, there was no distinction between the ‘Alien’ universe and Ridley Scott’s realization of it, or at least none until and through his own reworking of that original realization; but for Fincher, Cameron’s response to his inheritance opens up the possibility of distinguishing in each case between the director
and his material, and gives him the chance critically to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their specific inflections of that common subject matter. And given that Fincher’s structural belatedness links him more closely to Cameron than to Scott (with his enviable, truly creative and ineliminable priority), we might expect him to be rather more sensitive to his immediate predecessor – rather more concerned to establish a critical distance between ‘Alien II’ and ‘Alien III’.