Alien3 (1992) – Dir. David Fincher.
Now comes the most troubled of the series. Troubled in terms of production and also the overall feel of the film and what it tries to accomplish.
The plot picks up as an escape pod containing Riply, Hicks and Newt crash lands on a planet called Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. The crash landing causes Ripley to wake from cryonic-stasis and discover she is the the only remaining survivor, having been rescued by individuals from a penal colony. Evidence leads them to believe that somehow an Alien survived the events of the previous film, and is now loose in the prison. And thus, it begins to pick them off one by one…
To be honest, as a story, it’s not a bad idea. It’s just unfortunate that some of the writing and special effects (God awful special effects) let it down. As the special features reveal in greater detail, it is obvious that a lot of the elements were rushed, during production. The Alien does suffer the most unfortunately, given that it is a vital point of the film…you know, being titled ‘Alien’ and all that!
Visually, the quality doesn’t seem that impressive when compared to the two older movies in the series. Perhaps a bit of greater care was taken in the restoration in those two rather than this one, due to the fact of popularity – there was more pressure to make the first two chapters spotless. One side effect which I’m not sure whether is the result of a slight image enhancement is a slight green hue around the composites of the alien, during the sequences in which it is seen sprinting along corridors. It really just highlights it as a visual effect and literally looks like an extra layer added in at the last minute, which someone forgot to blend in with the scene.
Again, audio is ok but doesn’t seem as though much effort was put in to clean it up all that much. So, volumes can be a little jumpy between quiet dialogue and loud musical cues/action sequences.
The best thing about this film is probably the behind-the-scenes content…
• 1992 Theatrical Version – Not as bad as a lot of die-hard fans would say. Yes, it doesn’t compare to the two predecessors, but generally, a decent enough story that is let down by some dodgy writing in parts and awful special effects.
• 2003 Special Edition (Restored Workprint Version) – This is to be considered the closest we will ever get to Fincher’s original vision for the film. He disowned the film after the studio undercut him on various decisions during production and post-production, but it’s a shame he couldn’t have set the record straight with a commentary track in his own right. It does stand overall as a better film, but perhaps clocks in a little too long for my liking.
• Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, B.S.C., Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, A.S.C., Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal – Not yet viewed.
• Deleted and Extended Scenes – From what I can tell, these are what mostly make up the work print cut of the movie.
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream
Wreckage and Rage: Making ALIEN3
• Development Hell: Concluding the Story (17 mins) – Interviews with various people who came close to being writers and/or directors of the third Alien film. It is interesting to hear why so many people decided against the project and despite losing a few very passionate individuals, the studio still didn’t budge on their demands for a release date. It sounds like it could have been a really promising project in the hands of people who had genuine visions for where the story could go, but once again – proof that a studios belief that they know best, more often that not spoils the final product.
• Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Ward’s Vision (13 mins) – Details on Vincent Ward’s idea for the story of what could have been Alien 3. This sounds absolutely insane, in the best possible way! I won’t spoil the experience, but this would’ve again been a complete shift in genre for the series and it’s such a shame it didn’t make it past pre-production hell. One of the best features of the box set so far. What an incredible vision! Some of the ideas and themes did make it across to the final script, but overall the story just wasn’t as interesting as the one Ward proposes here.
• Stasis Interrupted: David Fincher’s Vision (13 mins) – The in’s and outs of the decline in David Fincher’s enthusiasm for the project. It gives account of the changes and ideas he brought to the project once he was hired and how the studio shit all over them effectively. Michael Biehn gives an insightful anecdote about why he didn’t want his likeness used in the film and a very brief look at Richard E. Grant screen-testing for the character of Clemens (eventually Charles Dance won the role.)
• Xeno-Erotic: H.R. Giger’s Redesign (10 mins) – Giger returns! An interview with the man himself about how he was brought in to design some new creature concepts for the third instalment. Love how this man talks about the horror of his designs – such a interesting figure and would love to have met him personally! Once again, they left out a lot of design elements due to time constraints which is just another nail in the failed coffin. As more of these features unfold, it is so surprising that they went ahead with making the film at all!
• The Color of Blood: Pinewood Studios, 1991 (23 mins) – Not a great feature. The best aspect of this one is a few short glimpses of Fincher directing on set and early signs of his growing frustration manifesting itself. But for the most part, not all that good in terms of information.
• Adaptive Organism: Creature Design (20 mins) – My absolute favourite moment of this feature is the use of a whippet in an Alien suit, as a possible way to film the monster running. Enough said!
• The Downward Spiral: Creative Differences (14 mins) – And so the shit hits the fan! The small cracks in the foundation between director and crew become full on divides. Footage of aggression on set along with stories from crew members and studio execs provide insight into the climate during filming. It really sounded like an oppressive situation for David Fincher to work in and his frustration understandably boiled over to the point where, as fans will know, he refused to have anything to do with the film after the shoot.
• Where the Sun Burns Cold: Fox Studios, L.A. 1992 (17 mins) – A feature about, I guess were the final blows which led to Fincher having such bad blood about the experience. People from both sides of the argument provide their accounts of what happened. Studio heads saying they were patient and understanding and crew explaining how rushed and oppressed they were (especially David.) It seems like a real shame that this film is half of what it could’ve been, had the studio just left the director to bring his vision to life. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think it’s a bad film, as far as bad films go…but it obviously could have been so, so much better! Best part is the discussion about how the character of Golic changed from the original idea…Paul McGann’s comment about the arc being the only reason he accepted the role, only for it to then be cut is priceless!
• Optical Fury: Visual Effects (24 mins) – An in-depth look at the effects they were going for and why it didn’t quite work some (most) of the time!
• Requiem for a Scream: Music, Editing and Sound (14 mins) – Even the composer and sound designers had issues about who’s work should appear more prominently in which scenes! Madness. Elliot Goldenthal used a lot of electronic sounds in his score, at the request of Fincher asking him to go with his experiential roots, which ultimately led to points where someones work had to be toned down…
• Post-Mortem: Reaction to the Film (8 mins) – Not as interesting as with the previous films, because obviously it’s all a bit more downbeat. However, it’s nice to hear the cast and crew saying how proud they are of the project despite how it was originally received.
• Enhancement Pods (74 mins) – Highlights include; ‘Renny Harlin Quits’, ‘Roaming The Fury 161 Set’, ‘Hick’s Alternate Future’, ‘Filming the Oxburster’, ‘Sausage Motivated Alien Whippet’, ‘Fincher’s Alienation’, ‘Ripley’s Evolution’ and ‘Mixed Reactions.’
• Storyboard Archive
• The Art of Arceon
• The Art of Fiorina
• Furnace Construction: Time-Lapse Sequence (4 mins) – As it suggests, a time-lapse showing the construction of the Furnace set, built for the films finale.
• EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary
• Production Image Galleries
• A.D.I.’s Workshop
Post-Production and Aftermath
• Visual Effects Gallery
• Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
• Alien3 Advance Featurette (3 mins) – Funny to hear everyone praising the film and warning that it is the most terrifying one yet, considering just a few short featurettes ago, they were all apologising and wishing it had gone differently.
• The Making of Alien3 Promotional Featurette (23 mins) – Nothing spectacular and intact most of it is just re-hashed from previous interviews and clips from the trilogy.
• Trailers & TV Spots – Some cool trailers. My favourite being an early one that was clearly created before the film began production, hinting that the action will take place on Earth.
So, all in all, not as awful as I’ve been led to believe. This was my first time watching the theatrical cut if I’m honest and whilst it clearly does lack the direction and narrative that the assembly cut provides, it’s still not awful. It’s main issue is that it was labelled an Alien film. If it was any other science fiction horror, it probably would’ve been embraced a lot more than it was historically.
To say the effects are dated wouldn’t feel right, because the predecessors are obviously older and still hold up. However, the effects are simply put…rushed. Bad composites due to scheduling issues are the main offenders but looking beyond that – it was cool that they tried taking the Alien in a new direction with it being seen sprinting like a rabid animal.
Given the option, from now on I’ll only ever watch ‘The Assembly Cut’, it is a far better experience. The only thing this disc is missing, is a few words from the man himself, Mr Fincher. It would’ve been amazing of him to just bury the hatchet, given how successful he is now and come to say a few words on his experience. Fox probably would’ve edited most of what he had to say out anyway, which reflected badly on the studio, but it would’ve been gold. One day…for another anniversary edition.
I’d probably say I classify Alien & Aliens as the true cannon films, but this chapter and the next review…’Resurrection’ are just fun films. Nowhere near as classic or incredibly well made, but pretty damn watchable as far as science fiction goes.