Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alien 3 (1992) Review

Alien 3
A.k.a. Attack of the Paranoid Studio

If there was ever a candidate for being one of the most troublesome and tampered with movies by the production studio, it’s Alien 3. Obviously after coming off the hot success of Aliens, 20th Century Fox wanted to make sure that everything went right because of the hiring of up and coming director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club). Unfortunately, their supposed care for quality only made things a living hell for the cast and crew. Production started with an unfinished script, so pages had to be faxed onto the set that would sometimes force the crew to completely redesign the set. Fincher was constantly under scrutiny over what decisions he would make for certain scenes, leading to multiple reshoots. It was not a fun time for anyone.

While in hyper sleep aboard the Sulaco, a facehugger is shown to have infiltrated the ship. After detecting it, the ship ejects Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop and they crash land on the plant Fiorina 161. The resulting crash kills Newt and Hicks, leaves Bishop in a mess, and Ripley as the only surviving member. Prisoners from the nearby prison discover the wreckage and move everything inside. Soon enough Ripley comes to, but is curious as to what happened to the facehugger. When her suspicions that Newt was impregnated are proven wrong, she attempts to try and fit in with the religious, all male prisoner population. We soon learn that one of the prisoner’s dogs contained the alien, and it is now running loose around the prison.


Immediately from reading that plot description, you already know there’s some problems here. How was the alien queen able to plant that egg in Aliens when not only did she not leave the hanger at its climax but also didn’t have her egg sack? Why would the writers kill off Hicks and Newt in such a horrible and disrespectful way?  To tell you the truth, the Hicks and Newt thing doesn’t hurt me that much, unlike the backlash from other fans, because Aliens still has them in its story and if Alien 3 wanted to go off in its own direction then so be it. The sloppy plot holes continue to mount when a plot twist is introduced and one character that had some attention placed on him disappears from the film at one point. The plot twist however is so good and shocking that I’m willing to forgive that flaw and accept that somehow it happened.

So the movie has got issues, and I’ll be noting a few more later, but underneath all of this muck is a potentially great movie. Complaints have been leveled against the film's near nihilistic tone, but the movie has a connecting theme of faith and God’s will presented by the prisoner’s beliefs. Although this is Fincher’s first gig as a director, he displays the same amount of visual prowess and directorial confidence as his later efforts. In fact without Fincher, this movie probably would have imploded on itself if he could not have held it together. He’s able to create very suspenseful encounters with the alien, and stages an intense chase through the prison tunnels at the end. The alien has gone through yet another redesign for this film, as it now contains characteristics of the dog that gave birth to it. It now runs on all fours and can stealthily climb and run on the walls and ceilings.

The version of Ripley that Sigourney Weaver plays here is very interesting and is completely unlike the previous ones (which is why most people don’t like her here). Ripley is not the hardened fighter she once was, and now seems to be right on the edge of total depression, given how the people she loved have died, and her attempts to rid the alien from her life keep failing. It’s the most polarizing portrayal of the character to date, but I still like it because Weaver really goes for the heart and we feel deeply sorry for her (especially at the end). Some of the other characters stand out, like Charles S. Dutton’s prisoner “leader” Dillon, and Charles Dance’s Clemens, who seems to be Ripley’s last hope for a happy life. The prisoners however mostly fade into the background, with some appearing only to die soon after and a great sense of great underdevelopment in their characters.


One other aspect I must note, which I keep forgetting to note in my other reviews, is the musical score by Elliot Goldenthal. Compared to Jerry Goldsmith's minimalist Alien score and James Horner’s intense and adrenaline pumping Aliens score, Goldenthal’s is a much more emotional piece of work. In fact, I’m willing to go out on a limb here by stating that the music that goes with the final chase all the way up to the credits is my favorite piece of the series. No joke. Anyway, so Alien 3 has plenty of problems with its story but it’s still an entertaining and interesting entry in the series.

Assembly Cut
The alternate cuts for Alien and Aliens were mostly minor additions and alterations, but this assembly version of Alien 3 feels like a completely different movie. Characters that were either previously bland or barely touched are now fleshed out even more, giving depth and actually getting us to root for them. The character Golic, who disappeared from the theatrical cut at one point, is now given a clear resolution and character arc. Previously in the theatrical cut the prisoners attempt to capture the alien but fail, but in this version they do capture it and this ties in with Golic’s resolution. The alien now is born from an ox instead of the dog, which explains why the newborn was the same size as the dog in the butchered cut. One alteration that I didn’t like so much was how an element to the ending was taken out, when I felt that the scene was more emotional and fulfilling with it still in. Too bad they couldn’t fix some of the bad blue screen work too. The assembly cut of Alien 3 is a much better and whole movie than the one released in theaters and should be given a viewing.

Theatrical Cut: 2/4    Assembly Cut: 2.5/4

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