Given that Alien: Covenant is coming out on Friday, I thought it would be timely to say something about one of the films in the franchise. I chose Alien 3 because I’ve always been interested in the primary, general objection to the film at the time of its release, namely that it was “too dark.” How on earth (or Fury 161) can an Alien film be too dark?! Clearly the audience wasn’t responding to the production design or cinematography, for in Alien, Giger, Scott and Vanlint created as literally “dark” a look as one could possibly imagine. So, if the objection is more metaphorical than literal, then it’s worth thinking about what exactly constitutes the “darkness” being referenced. I suspect that the charge refers primarily to the film’s characters and their relationships. Unlike Alien, in which we meet a crew of sympathetic, well-differentiated “space truckers,” Alien 3 gives us a humorless gang of self-described thieves, rapists and murderers who have become religious fundamentalists. Okay, that’s a pretty “dark” group of folks. Ripley is essentially still Ripley, but even she is now “darker,” being bald, bitter, and shorn of the maternal instincts that humanized her in Aliens. Clemens, played by Charles Dance, is the only bright spot on the entire planet and he is killed off halfway through the film! So, the absence of Alien‘s sympathetic crew members and the engaging comradery between them has a lot to do with Alien 3‘s perceived “darkness.” Watch Walter Hill films like The Warriors and Southern Comfort and you’ll come to appreciate the value of what I call “The Lost Patrol Template” – a group of sympathetic, diverse personalities struggling under extreme pressure to achieve a common goal. It’s no coincidence that Walter Hill was one of Alien’s producers. That film holds up to multiple viewings primarily because it’s fun to hang out with the characters. And that’s why I tend to turn Alien off once the story gets down to Ripley as the “Final Girl” versus the alien. I am curious to see if Alien: Covenant returns to The Lost Patrol Template. I certainly hope it does.