"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Alien 3

“We tolerate everybody. Even the intolerable.”


May 22, 1992

Let’s get this out of the way first: many things went wrong with ALIEN 3 (or ALIEN3 if you prefer). After Ridley Scott’s sci-fi-horror masterpiece in ’79 and James Cameron’s ass-kicking miracle sequel in ’86, producer/writers Walter Hill and David Giler struggled to develop a worthy followup. After numerous reworkings with a series of writers and a late-in-the-game switch of directors from New Zealand’s Vincent Ward (THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY) to MTV’s David Fincher (Madonna’s “Vogue” video, the “Would you give a cigarette to an unborn child?” American Cancer Society PSA), they finally got the ball rolling. With an unfinished script. The 27-year-old first time feature director fought for (and lost) creative control, eventually quitting during post-production, at which point the studio recut the movie without his input. Never great when that happens.

Based on what we learned from THE PLAYER, studio interference should mean they gave it an unearned happy ending that changed the whole spirit of the thing. Like when they reshot the ending of FATAL ATTRACTION, or later when they tried to make Fincher get rid of the head in the box in SEVEN. This is a different situation. What came out of that battle was a mean, dark, anti-crowdpleaser that disappointed, outraged or depressed many fans. Artistically I never thought it was the outright disaster it was initially received as – in fact, I always liked it – but I could never pretend it matched its predecessors.

30 years later – after it’s been in my life so long I can’t remember anything else – it requires no effort to drop all the baggage and admire ALIEN 3 as a singular-ish vision or, at the very least, an act of sheer audacity. Another ’92 blockbuster sequel I’ll be reviewing caused a commotion for allegedly being “too dark,” but I think this baby is still the undisputed bleakness champion of big studio sequels to mainstream hits. To illustrate how unusual the approach is, let’s imagine if the summer’s earlier part 3, LETHAL WEAPON 3, had made some of the same decisions. What if rather than bring back the whole gang, including Leo, they only brought back Riggs? Murtaugh and Leo are said to have died in between 2 and 3. We see brief glimpses of Murtaugh’s mutilated corpse. Riggs goes to the morgue to see Leo’s body, then demands to watch the autopsy. He spends the movie working with murderers and rapists, almost all of whom die, and then the triumphant ending is that he commits suicide. How about that? Do you think that would go over well?

But sharp left turns like that were the beauty of the ALIEN series. Each was from a different visionary (or soon to be visionary) director. Each sequel drastically reinvented the world and form and took big swings. I’m sure many would’ve enjoyed an ALIENS rehash with a few new twists, but it was a brief, beautiful time when the producers and even the studio agreed that this series doesn’t do that shit. Doing something very different each time is the priority.

With that mandate, and after the long and indecisive development of the script (more on that later), they settled on a story that only involved Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in her followup to GHOSTBUSTERS II). So in the opening a facehugger of unknown origin is loose on the Sulaco during cryo-sleep, causing a fire, an escape pod ejects, Ripley floats ashore with bugs all over her, but Newt and Hicks are killed and Bishop is “negative capability.” Three of the four characters we watched fight for their lives in ALIENS never made it home after all. Killed offscreen. That’s fuckin harsh. Some people never got over it.

It’s in the past, though. They did it, and you can’t change it, (just ask Neill Blomkamp). So I ask you to step outside of your personal feelings about it for a moment and at least admire the fact that some crazy motherfuckers went ahead and did that in a $60 million sci-fi sequel! How did that happen? It could never happen again. Safeguards have been put into place.

Charles de Lauzirika arriving to put together the Assembly Cut without Fincher

Whether or not ALIEN 3 itself was a catastrophic unexplained accident that crash landed the series, I have no problem enjoying it for what it is. Since 2003 I’ve preferred the “Assembly Cut” special edition, put together by DVD box set producer Charles de Lauzirika, based on an early cut prepared by Fincher and editor Terry Rawlings (THE SENTINEL, ALIEN, WHITE OF THE EYE) before the studio reworked it. For historical purposes I went back to the theatrical cut for this summer of ’92 retrospective, but I still liked it, maybe even more than I ever have. I consider ALIEN and ALIENS to be perfect movies. This is not that, but it’s a movie with many more strengths than weaknesses. And the strengths only grow as the weaknesses become less nagging over the years.


Ripley wakes up on Fiorina 161, which is also called “Fury” as a cool nickname kind of like “Frisco” or “Hotlanta”. The only thing here is a maximum security prison/foundry which has actually been closed, but a group of prisoners who have converted to “some sort of apocalyptic, millennial, Christian fundamentalist” sect were allowed to stay there with three chaperones to keep the machines running. They were all born with a rare double-Y chromosome condition that gives them a pre-disposition to anti-social behavior, but they seem to have figured out a way to live mostly in peace here.

As far as justice goes this is ideal – they don’t live a great life but they’re not being tormented or anything, they’re just on an entirely different planet from anybody they could hurt, or anybody they could push their religion on, for that matter. But for the movie it’s a dramatic situation – Ripley is literally the only woman on the planet, the only one they’ve seen in years, one of only a few not practicing this religion, and without a past as a violent criminal, so they openly resent her as a possible temptation and distraction. There’s something powerful about their instant anger about the presence of a woman they haven’t met, most of them haven’t even seen, but they blame her for the fear they have of what they themselves could do to her. Of course, they’ll turn out to be lucky she survived that crash. At least from the standpoint of redemption. Only one of them will survive. Spoiler.

Warden Andrews (Brian Glover, KAFKA) and the former-inmate doctor who treats Ripley, Clemens (Charles Dance, THE GOLDEN CHILD) insist Ripley needs to stay out of sight, but in a classic Ripley move (and sort of a callback to ALIENS) she defiantly walks right into the mess hall, sits down and eats with them, staring them down like “You got a fuckin problem with me?” It’s a good move because it gets the tension out of the way and I think earns her some respect.

They make her shave her head to avoid lice. It’s funny to remember (and verify in old articles) what a big deal was made about that. Weaver’s hair was already pretty short, and she doesn’t even do it on screen like Demi Moore later did in G.I. JANE. But I tell you, it was mentioned in any review, article or blurb about the movie. And reportedly Fincher suggesting it was what convinced Weaver he’d be good.

Many articles also compared the ALIENS incarnation of Ripley to Rambo. I think that’s part of why the plot ended up being what it was – Weaver did not want to be Rambo blowing swarms of aliens away, and preferred the idea of outsmarting one alien without the luxury of weapons.

Ripley’s first priority is of course to make sure that she hasn’t brought aliens/xenomorphs to another planet. She does insist on checking Newt’s body, watching the autopsy and cremating the remains. Clemens knows something is up but Ripley won’t tell him, pretends she’s worried about an outbreak of cholera. After she’s satisfied that the threat is gone she bluntly recruits Clemens for casual sex. “I’ve been out here a long time,” she explains. It’s a little shocking at first (I forgot it went down like that) but honestly, good for you, Ripley.

By the way, Pete Postlethwaite plays one of the inmates, and I want to mention that since he was also in SPLIT SECOND this summer. To be honest I haven’t really picked up on anything that distinguishes his character from the others other than having the distinct face and presence of Pete Postlethwaite, so I suppose it’s fitting that his character’s name is “David Postlethwaite.”

Obviously this is ALIEN 3 and there’s an alien out there. We saw the facehugger sneaking off the wreckage of the escape pod. So did Spike, a dog belonging to inmate/janitor Thomas Murphy (Christopher Fairbank, who I never recognized as the guy who makes Batman say “I’m Batman” in BATMAN!). Spike barked at the fucking thing, but nobody listened. And later poor Spike is its victim, attacked in a tunnel.

The inmates are kind enough to attend a ceremony for Newt and Hicks, dropping them into the foundry, and their religious leader Dillon (Charles S. Dutton, CROCODILE DUNDEE II) follows up the warden’s sermon with a very good impromptu one of his own. Maybe it’s an obvious choice, but I really like the ironic intercutting between the funeral and the baby alien bursting from Spike. The circle of life and all that.

I don’t usually give that much thought to the design changes in the aliens between sequels – it always seems like they’re just trying to update the FX technology to seem more animal-like and less like a guy in a suit. But of course the intent is that this one runs on all fours because it comes out of a dog. Well, in this cut. In the Assembly Cut it comes out of an ox.

(For a laugh, check out the DVD/blu-ray extra where they test putting a latex suit on a whippet to portray the baby alien. It sounds like such a freaky idea but the dog refuses to wear the head and under the beautifully sculpted bio-mechanical parts his movements are so clearly a dog’s that it’s more cute than scary.)

The alien grows up fast, as they do, and kills Murphy while he’s working in that tunnel. He gets thrown into a giant fan, so it’s at first assumed to be an accident. I like that Fincher, being a pioneering music video director, has a spinning fan blade with a light behind it. Russell Mulcahy must’ve been proud.


Complaints about the movie tend to center on what happens to Newt and Hicks, and not Bishop (Lance Henriksen, also in JENNIFER 8 and DELTA HEAT that year). Maybe because he does get to appear in the movie briefly, and is used in a very cool way. But his fate hurts. He’s equipment now. The prison doesn’t have any computers that could read the ship’s records, so Ripley has to go find Bishop’s head unceremoniously dumped in a giant pile of garbage. When she plugs into him it’s so fuckin sad. It’s Henriksen’s voice coming out of a distorted speaker, and it’s an animatronic head, but it’s so life-like I thought it was makeup at first.

The fact that he can operate makes you hope he could be repaired, but he’s in so much anguish he asks to be put out of his misery. “I’d rather be nothing,” he says. Devastating.

Bishop confirms that a facehugger made it to Fury, and anyway various inmates start to get killed, which is at first blamed on mentally ill Golic (Paul McGann, EMPIRE OF THE SUN) who survives an encounter and rants about seeing a dragon. Ripley tries to convince the warden of what’s going on, but whether or not he believes her is kind of moot – they have no weapons, so he thinks they just have to wait for the Weyland-Yutani ship that has been sent to pick her up. There’s a great moment where Ripley runs into the mess hall to warn everybody the alien is there and as the warden is dismissing her as a “foolish woman” the fuckin thing reaches down and yanks him right up into the ceiling, in plain sight of everybody.


Okay, so I guess we’re all on the same page now. That’s good.

Ripley convinces the inmates to work together, strategically coordinating the burning of toxic chemicals to flush the alien out of the ventilation system and trap it in a nuclear waste storage tank. I like how easily the alien defeats them by just grabbing one guy, causing an explosion to go off early and fucking up the whole plan.

The most memorable image (used in trailers and posters) is when the alien comes right up to a wincing Ripley and opens its drooly mouth next to her face. A simple image that’s an incredible combination of animatronic puppetry and acting, and the first sign of one of the movie’s twists. The alien isn’t killing her because it senses that she (somehow) has what will grow into an alien queen inside her. She can’t let it survive,or especially let the company get ahold of it for their bio-weapons division, so she makes a deal for Dillon to kill her after helping him slay the “dragon.”

The second plan is so cool: luring the thing through the tunnels, shutting a series of doors on it, eventually drowning it in the molten lead of the foundry, and when that doesn’t work the improvised solution of setting the sprinklers off so the cold water on hot skin makes him crack and explode. Beautiful. What always bothered me about this movie, but that I’ve mostly gotten over, is that the way they composited the alien into any scene where he runs simply looks artificial, which was never the case for the suits and puppets in the previous movies. Here the suits and animatronics by Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis look absolutely perfect, but it’s hard to think of them as the same creature we’re seeing run around. I used to think it was early computer animation, but what they actually did is much cooler: it’s an elaborate rod puppet being controlled by multiple puppeteers in front of a blue screen and composited into the footage of the tunnels.

One thing I never thought about enough to give it credit for is introducing a new type of action to the series. Even the action-packed ALIENS is mostly about the things popping up by surprise and getting sprayed or torched at close range. This one uses the scurrying alien puppetry with numerous EVIL DEAD style POV shots – zipping through the tunnels, running up the walls and on the ceilings – to create a high speed chase.

I could be forgetting something but I think this is the only movie I’ve seen where the thrilling climax is a race to commit suicide in time. The chestburst is gonna kill her anyway but she’s gotta jump into that hot lead before the Queen comes out and would potentially hatch more xenomorphs or, worse, be captured by the Weyland-Yutani motherfuckers, who have arrived and offered to surgically remove her. It’s convenient but so fucking cool that Ripley just barely makes it, the baby busting out as she plummets. (That was a studio change, and though the original shot looks more beautiful I think I prefer the scene with that last exclamation point. And I like how it kind of looks like she’s cuddling it but I think she’s choking it so the lead can kill it without the sprinkler trick.)

For most of the movie the criminal past of the Fury inhabitants is more of a thematic element than a narrative one. The exception is when Ripley goes to find the remains of Bishop and gets jumped by a bunch of them, presumably to be gang raped. The rock ’n roll guitars in that scene are my only issue with a strong score by Elliot Goldenthal (DRUGSTORE COWBOY, PET SEMATARY).

Dillon appears out of nowhere and fights them off. Earlier, when Ripley thanked him for the sermon at the funeral, he said, “Yeah, well you don’t want to know me, lady. I’m a murderer and rapist of women.” In movies the latter is harder to forgive than the former, so that cloud remains hanging over a character who otherwise seems like one of the fiercely righteous men Dutton was known for playing on Roc and in MENACE II SOCIETY, GET ON THE BUS, etc. So Dillon is a symbol for the possibility of change, and Dutton is powerful casting for that because he really did time (“three years for killing a black man and eight for punching a white man”) and found a new life while in prison. In his case it wasn’t religion but reading about Black playwrights and radical movements that changed him. Maybe that’s why his sect here ends their prayers by putting a fist in the air.

My point is that this is a movie that has Ellen Ripley and Charles S. Dutton collaborating on a rousing speech to lead the troops into the last act. So it’s a good movie.

There’s one thing I was always wrong about, but I still prefer my interpretation. Just as Ripley and friends are succeeding in their plan, a character played by Henriksen shows up with a crew of Weyland-Yutani employees to try to convince Ripley to let them surgically remove the Queen, claiming they’ll destroy it and save her. Ripley assumes he’s an android from the same line as Bishop, but he says he’s actually the designer of Bishop.

He ends up getting bashed over the head and when he stands back up his left ear is dangling bizarrely from the wrong part of his head. Though he has red and not white blood, I always took this resistance to strange battle damage to be confirmation of my suspicion that he’s lying about being human.

He’s also credited with the robot-like name Bishop II. But over the years I found that many people didn’t take it that way, and according to various references he was human in the script and in some official ALIEN-universe literature.

One reason I wish he was an android is because I’ve always hated the cliche of “the same actor who plays the robot plays the creator of the robot.” What kind of an asshole would do that? Admittedly, in recent years I’ve realized that the first androids like this might be funded by some billionaire and yes, I do believe that Elon Musk would make an android of himself. Still, we don’t have to do that in fiction. We can be better than them.

Whatever Bishop II is (he’s a robot), as a representative of the Company he brings a different type of evil into the movie. Maybe some day he’ll cordon himself off on a barren planet somewhere and try to make amends, but until then he’s more of a danger than the inmates here. Whether or not we in our personal lives can forgive a person with a violent past like that, we can at least believe this in the operatic/poetic terms of sci-fi. Here on a perhaps literally godforsaken planet, the absolute scum of the galaxy – not just fun scoundrels, but actual terrible people – stop a space corporation’s plans to obtain the Queen for military applications, a project that would cause mass death even if everything went as planned. Their actions prevent death and suffering all across the universe. That’s inspiring. It’s never too late to do something good.

Since we have no idea how she got a baby Queen in her, I guess there’s an element of immaculate conception here, but Ripley’s death is obviously in a Christ-like pose. Just Christian stuff flying around willy nilly in this story. I think it’s earned, though, because it really is more of a “dying for our sins” situation than most stories that use that type of imagery.

When blockbuster season came around, Weaver understood what kind of movie they’d made. “People coming from the trailer expecting to see TERMINATOR 2 are going to be very disappointed,” she told Entertainment Weekly for their Summer Movie Preview, because “It’s not ALIENS, it’s not DIE HARD 2. It’s a sort of intellectual, existential action drama.” The write-up mentions that they fight the alien without weapons, but some of the reviews didn’t seem to notice that, describing it as just a rehash.

The Washington Post’s critics Desson Howe and Hal Hinson both wrote snidely dismissive reviews that start with a reference to “In space no one can hear you scream,” give story-provider Ward more credit than director Fincher, and mention Ripley’s quickie with Clemons (Howe calling it “oddly appealing,” Hinson “entirely pointless”). Howe does note the lack of weapons, but Hinson concludes that Ripley has become “just another girl with a gun.” What are you talking about, dude? She hasn’t touched one since LV 426, light years away.

But for a little bit in the middle Howe’s review seems to get it. “Ironically,” he writes, “ALIEN [3] is not a bad movie. In fact — here’s the rub — it’s too interesting to make an exciting summer flick.”

Brian Lowry in Variety just thought it was too depressing, predicting a future where “word-of-mouth and the dour tone pull ALIEN 3 down to earth” and calling it “a muddled effort that offers little more than visual splendor to recommend it.” Indeed, as is the case with all of Fincher’s films, the look is impeccable. Director of photography Alex Thomson’s credits include such visually-oriented films as THE KEEP, YEAR OF THE DRAGON, LEGEND and LABYRINTH. And also DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN and RAW DEAL. (The credits thank BLADE RUNNER cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, who shot for two weeks but had to suddenly retire due to Parkinson’s disease.) Fincher was also blessed with Norman Reynolds, the production designer of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, RETURN OF THE JEDI and RETURN TO OZ.

But Lowry seems to argue that even that visual splendor is too dark for normal people:

“…the production design proves so relentlessly bleak that there’s no relief from the film’s oppressiveness, even when there are lapses in the tension. While the look is an accomplishment, this isn’t the sort of environment that tag-along filmgoers–or even those who bring them–will relish visiting.”

As was Fincher’s intention! A Premiere set visit described the director “fighting to keep the film bleak” and quoted him saying, “I’m not making this movie for 50 million people. I’m making it for 8 people, my friends, people who know the cameras and lighting.”


An unusual thing that set people up for disappointment was an early teaser trailer made, one would hope, before the story was finalized, because it promised that the aliens would come to Earth.

In my research I came across something called the “Awful Movie Wiki” (which is indeed an awful movie wiki) and it complains of “false advertising” because of this trailer. I never understood the big deal about the concept. It was 187 years into the future – what difference would it make to say it’s Earth or some colonized planet? But some people were excited by the idea and couldn’t let go of it.

I have a 1997 magazine called Cinescape Presents Movie Aliens which includes a 7-page article by Douglas Perry that goes into detail about the development of ALIEN 3. As the article puts it, they started working on it while ALIENS was still in theaters, planning for an Easter 1990 release, but the production “eventually would consume three directors, eight screenwriters and a phalanx of scripts and studio execs before it finally debuted two years late.” Of the story ideas mentioned, the only one matching the teaser is about “the aliens invading Earth, where they fuse into a giant, multi-talented monster that destroys New York City.”

Hmm. I mean, I’d like to see that, but it sounds much stupider than what they ended up making.

Another took place “in a BLADE RUNNER-esque off-world metropolis.” But the one they spent the most time on was “a Company-run space station/shopping mall” called Anchorpoint. In a plan that seems ahead of its time, Hill and Giler plotted a two-part movie to be filmed concurrently. It was a Cold War allegory with evil Weyland-Yutani battling socialist Earth-expatriates, and both sides seeking to weaponize the xenomorphs. Part 3 would’ve starred Hicks with Ripley in a cameo (Weaver approved) and part 4 would’ve centered on Ripley battling the manufactured xenomorphs.

While struggling to find a director (Ridley Scott was too busy) they hired novelist William Gibson (JOHNNY MNEMONIC) to write part 3. Giler says Gibson’s script (which was written quickly to beat a WGA strike) was better constructed than they expected, but stuck too close to their treatment when they were hoping “he’d open up the story” with “many good ideas we could use.”

ELM STREET 4 hotshot Renny Harlin was hired as director, Gibson left, and on came Eric Red (THE HITCHER). According to the Alien Anthology wiki, Red’s script followed a hero named Sam Smith who in the opening scene finds the Sulaco with Hicks, Newt, Bishop and Ripley already dead. Nobody liked the script, Harlin left to do DIE HARD 2, and Giler and Hill hired David Twohy (years before PITCH BLACK, and even before WARLOCK, when he was the CRITTERS 2 guy) to rewrite Gibson’s part 1 of 2 to stand alone. He removed the Cold War themes (which were becoming dated) and moved it to a penal colony. Only when he was done did they decide he needed to rework it to be about Ripley.

Then Hill saw THE NAVIGATOR and decided to meet with its director Vincent Ward, who came up with a new story during his flight to L.A. He wanted Ripley to “land in a community of monks in outer space and not be accepted by them” and, most interestingly, wanted to set it “on a wooden space station that would look like something Hieronymous Bosch might imagine, complete with glass-blowing furnaces and windmills—and no weapons.”

That might’ve made for an even weirder summer! John Fasano (ANOTHER 48 HRS.) wrote it up as ALIEN 4 but then they ditched Twohy’s ALIEN 3. Hill and Giler rewrote the space monk thing but couldn’t get around “the sheer ludicrousness of the wooden space station,” so they brought in Larry Ferguson (HIGHLANDER, BEVERLY HILLS COP II), who is credited with them on the final movie, though they didn’t use him for long. Then Ward left so they made his wooden space station monks into zealots on Twohy’s prison planet and hired Fincher.

 

Fincher was a talented visualist with a visual effects background, having worked for ILM at the age of 19 (including on TWICE UPON A TIME, RETURN OF THE JEDI and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM). Then he co-founded Propaganda Films, and directed many music videos and commercials.

It’s not surprising that critics didn’t take him seriously. Being the director of Paula Abdul videos and Nike commercials was more appealing to studio executives than civilians. A few years ago while promoting MANK, Fincher remembered the ALIEN 3 gig as “a hired gun to make a library title for a multinational, vertically integrated media conglomerate.” I think they were looking for a puppet and accidentally got an auteur who already exhibited the meticulous perfectionism he’s still infamous for, reportedly requiring dozens of takes to get all that lighting so perfect. Premiere quoted Fincher saying, “This movie isn’t made for people who see a movie one time, it’s a movie for people who’re going to see it five times,” to which Fox executive Michael London comments:

“That’s where a lot of the friction comes. David wants it to be perfect every second.” He quickly adds, “Which is what he’s paid to do.” It comes out only a tiny bit grudging.

The rookie director was frustrated that the higher-ups didn’t care about quality as much as he did. He told The Independent at the time that he was told, “Look, you could have somebody piss against the wall for two hours and call it ALIEN 3 and it would still do 30 million dollars.” And yet they wouldn’t let him do everything he wanted, so I guess they considered what he wanted less commercial than the two hours of wall-pissing idea.

A major blow-up happened when Fincher hired writer Rex Pickett (who later wrote the book that SIDEWAYS is based on) to incorporate some new ideas into the script. Hill and Giler were infuriated to see Pickett criticize their draft in a memo, so they threw his out but abandoned the production, leaving Fincher to fight the executives alone. They still called in long-distance to belittle him as a “shoe salesman” and fight for their ideas, such as changing the ending. To the studio’s credit, they felt that both viewpoints made sense but that they should default to the director.

Jon Landau arriving at Pinewood Studios

But after Fincher went overschedule, executive Jon Landau (now James Cameron’s producer) showed up like an expedited Weyland-Yutani medivac team and, according to Weaver, “Came over with instructions to cut this, slash that… it was very contemptuous of the effort we were putting in.”

Fincher didn’t buckle, so Landau pulled the plug on the whole shoot, and Fincher and Rawlings had to go back to L.A. and beg the executives to let them shoot just some of the stuff they felt they needed to make sense out of the thing.

But once it came together it sounds like everybody besides Fincher was pretty happy with ALIEN 3. At least until they released it.


Though considered a disappointment in North America, ALIEN 3 was hardly a flop. Here it opened at #2 below LETHAL WEAPON 3, but it hung around for a while, and it did better overseas. In October ’92, Fox claimed in a Variety ad that it had become the biggest of the franchise with $175 million worldwide, seen by something closer to the 50 million people Fincher didn’t make it for than the 8 he did.

It’s still a controversial sequel, but Fincher’s later acclaim seemed to cause some people to reassess it, and its reputation especially improved when the Assembly Cut was plucked out of the garbage and brought back to life like Bishop. In preparing this review I was excited enough after the theatrical cut that I watched the other one again too. Maybe the most noticeable change if you haven’t seen the old version in a while is the alien coming out of the ox – I could go either way on that one (and I’ve read that changing it to the dog was Fincher’s idea, not something forced on him). But I love the longer (and gorier) recovery of the escape pod (towed by a team of oxen), and I think the many little added moments with the inmates (like Dillon chewing them out about “disharmony”) flesh out the characters and the dynamics of Fury. Golic is especially expanded on, seeing the “dragon” as a manifestation of their religious beliefs, calling it “magnificent” when it splatters Clemons in front of him. The biggest change is that the first plan actually succeeds in trapping the alien, but Golic lets it out (resulting in his immediate death). This religious reverence for monsters reminds me a little bit of Clive Barker, but it make so much sense. If you saw a thing that looked like that, you’d have some kind of awe mixed in with your fear, right? Maybe I can relate as someone who sees a summer movie this disinterested in pleasing a crowd and says “Magnificent.”

Which ever version you watch, I really think ALIEN 3 is some kind of Weird Summer miracle, an edition-of-one blockbuster birthed in chaos and imbued with an ability to evolve over time. ALIENS ended in triumph and relief, but ALIEN 3 begins in catastrophe, knocking Ripley to rock bottom, as life can do. She’s lost everything – her new family are all dead, and she plummets to a dangerous Hell where she’s not welcome. She finds temporary comfort in Clemons, but when she realizes she’s terminally infected she almost gives up. She tries to die, and can’t yet, so instead she sets out to do the only thing that’s important to her. In the process she sways the others to her way of thinking and leads them to find their purpose.

That’s the trajectory of Ripley, but it’s also sort of the trajectory of David Fincher as a director, and of ALIEN 3 as a sequel. Something magnificent crawling out of the slime in Vent Shaft 17. “For within each seed, there is a promise of a flower. And within each death, no matter how small, there’s always a new life. A new beginning.”


Tie-ins:

The novelization was by Alan Dean Foster, who had done the same for ALIEN and ALIENS (not to mention STAR WARS). His is apparently closer to the Assembly Cut, but he was frustrated that they wouldn’t let him make his own changes (he wanted Newt to survive) so he turned down writing one for ALIEN RESURRECTION. (He did return for ALIEN: COVENANT and a prequel called ALIEN: COVENANT – ORIGINS.)

Dark Horse Comics published a three-issue comic book adaptation, which includes the Assembly Cut scenes where they succeed in capturing the xenomorph but Golic lets it out.

Many years later, legends of William Gibson’s script led to three adaptations. His second draft was adapted into a comic book mini-series by Dark Horse Comics in 2018 and an audio drama by Audible in 2019 (with Biehn and Henriksen reprising their roles). In 2021 Gibson’s more action packed first draft became a novel by Pat Cadigan. That’s kind of a cool idea to do novelizations of these legendary unmade movie projects.

When I originally posted this review, I wrote that a cartoon series called Operation: Aliens was intended to follow the release of the movie in the Fall, but was cancelled – which I got from this still interesting but apparently misinformed article. This other one from AVP Galaxy corrects the record saying that Kenner had pitched such a cartoon to Fox Kids, but they were concerned about what broadcast standards would allow and 20th Century Fox themselves were not interested in kiddy-fying the ALIEN series. Of course, Kenner went ahead with the action figures, and the screengrabs that the older article identifies as a promo reel for the show are confirmed to be animation produced but never used for a commercial. (Thanks to my buddy and ALIEN toy expert Frank S. for correcting me on this.)

So I guess the only relation between ALIEN 3 and this merchandise is its lack of relation – they were off making these toys and didn’t attempt to relate them to the current movie in theaters, either through characters, or Ripley being bald, or even the title – the toys were just labelled Aliens and featured a colorfully dressed and more traditionally feminine Ripley joining the Colonial Marines. They did use the idea that different types of xenomorphs could come out of different animals – there was a “Bull Alien,” for example. But Frank sent me a Ridley Scott quote about what would happen if a xenomorph implanted in a dog, and I think they also had xeno-animals in the Alien vs. Predator comic books before ALIEN 3.

The name Operation: Aliens did end up on some random things like a boardgame, t-shirts, posters and the above action figure carrying case I found listed on ebay.

 

There was an ALIEN 3 video game released on multiple systems, not really based on the movie but just involving ALIENS type action. There was also an arcade game called Alien 3: The Gun which I believe I have played and in my opinion it was not  entirely faithful to the spirit of the source material. (Pretty cool though.)

Finally there was a separate ALIEN 3 game for the Nintendo Gameboy. I like researching these because the pixel art is so adorable. The funny thing about the Gameboy game is that it does kind of follow the plot of the movie (except with many aliens to kill) and then it gives it a happy ending! I’m not sure if it’s the one Giler & Hill wanted, but THE PLAYER would be proud.

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71 Responses to “Alien 3”

  1. Yeah, I’m one of those people who has never been able to get over the [SOMEHOW]. I don’t know why they just didn’t tell a story with new characters instead.

    I came to peace with the movie when someone on another board said, “It’s a good film, but a bad sequel.” I can live with that.

  2. Great review. Really appreciate your recognizing the film’s counterintuitive impulses. The last one was a fun rollercoaster ride with blazing guns and explosions, this one is a somber thriller that strips everything down to the essential story of confronting a monster. The fact that it’s one woman alone in a world of gross, dirty men with more men coming to make things worse just puts the viewer that much more on Ripley’s side.

    Although it took me multiple viewings over the years to distinguish some of the bald-headed prisoners from each other, I like that the characters don’t fit into any stereotype. Well, maybe the prick of a warden,* but otherwise you’ve got Morse as the kind of cowardly loudmouth you’d expect to be there just to get killed, yet he’s the only one to survive. And 85, despite his belief that the Weyland–Yutani team will save the day and refuses to stick his neck out because of his faith in the system, does the right thing in the end when he sees what they’re trying to do. His death is almost as tragic as Bishop’s.

    It’s funny that you question whether a character is indeed an bioengineered humanoid in a movie that stemmed from a Ridley Scott movie. Maybe the novelization reveals that Bishop II has dreams of unicorns? I definitely prefer the interpretation that he’s a company robot pretending to be a sympathizing human…his obsession with the “purity” of the xenomorph certainly matches that of Ash and David in the more recent movies.

    Other things I love: the CT scan scene, which perfectly captures the anxiety and horror of waiting to see if a test will reveal a terminal illness. I get why people wouldn’t enjoy spending time in this bleak world of skull-ripping and autopsying 12-year-olds, but that scene is perfectly done and Weaver is amazing in it. Also love the foreshadowing of the oil can that cracks after the sprinklers come on following the explosion, a nice touch. And the shots of the empty facility at the end following Ripley’s death, including the effective use of her logbook entry from the end of the original, really brings home that this is it: she’s gone, the threat is finally ended…until they clone her for the next movie, of course.

    * Funny that Charles Dutton butts heads with him, considering how in real life the warden of the facility where Dutton did time inspired him to get his GED as a condition of starting a drama program in the prison.

  3. Great work. Something I probably shouldn’t sully with the pithy crap I’m going to post.

    I kind of hate this movie. I don’t think it’s terrible and never did. I didn’t see this until 2004, so I think I already knew Hicks and Newt died, but if I didn’t, I was a self involved teenager who didn’t care about a couple of fictional characters dying. I just think it’s a very, very mediocre movie without much to draw me into, that’s no fun to watch and has nothing much to say except “life kinda sucks, huh? Oh well, at least we die!” I mean you’re making a case for some interesting themes, but I don’t think the film does a very good job of exploring, or even presenting, them.

    So I think I’d probably cool with and a little cool on the movie, and that would be that, but geez man the ALIEN 3 stans…usually I think it’s pretty basic to hate a movie or TV show or band or whatever because of its fans but in this one my experiences really have turned me against it. They seem to crop up with the inevitability of the xenomorphs themselves, often with worse manners. There was a forum I posted on, a generalist forum with a film section by the way, not some kind of ALIEN or even Sci-Fi/Horror specialist one, where every week a thread would turn into an ALIEN 3 circle jerk. A thread on updates about Shane Black’s THE PREDATOR? Don’t you know the PREDATOR films are so much worse than the ALIEN films, particularly the superb ALIEN 3?”. A thread about the 30th Anniversary of ALIENS. “It’s undeniably very dated, the masterpiece ALIEN 3 has aged far better”. A lot of ALIEN 3 fandom (“David Fincher’s ALIEN 3” they often questionably clarify) is in my experience often the other side of a “ALIENS is plebian gun porn nonsense for imbeciles, by that hack James Cameron, AVATAR, phffft, you know literally no human being has discussed that since 2011, that’s a fact, I know because there were no Na’avi at my Comic Con”. And I can get loving ALIEN, hating ALIENS and thus loving ALIEN 3, I really can, but masterpiece? This? Sorry I don’t get it.

    And yes I have seen The Assembly Cut, more than once I think, and no I don’t think it’s a huge improvement, if anything I think it’s worse. That intolerable scene with that pratt going on about “the dragon”, ugh! And sorry, call me Elis but the bit where the alien bursts out at the end is actually the best scene in the theatrical version, so that’s a knock against it for me too.

    Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have posted this everyone. And knowing me I’ll probably end up seeing ALIEN 3 in a month and decide I actually really like it. But it wouldn’t be an ALIEN 3 discussion without some whinging would it.

  4. I’m Team: It’s a not very good edgelord shitshow.

    My review and also what I think the storytelling process was like:

    Also what Pacman 2.0 said. The ALIEN 3 stans are obnoxious and the gist of their argument is dark and depressing = good

  5. In early summer ’92 I was stuck out in the woods with only an issue of Premier “Hot Summer Movie Preview!!!” to read (long story)

    This was before I knew about his dissatisfaction, or even who he was. But I remember Fincher coming off as the biggest pretentious, egotistical, blowhard, jerkoff Hollywood had ever crapped out. And, he was a fucking Paula Abdul video director for crying out loud! (not even very original Paula Abdul videos, since the only one a ever saw ripped off “All That Jazz” wholesale)

    I was like “Wow! This guy fucking sucks! Looks like I’m skipping Alien 3” So I did. Then people told me it wasn’t very good and I was like “No shit…” because that was a forgone conclusion as far as I was concerned.

    (the story I repeatedly heard, was that the climax was so badly bluescreened, and looked so phony/bad, it elicited laughter. That must of happened at every screening because I swear I heard that 200 times)

    So later, when I heard he was was basically fired, and the movie was recut/reshot without him, I figured he must have been purposefully trying to come off as obnoxious to get back at Fox or whatever. But perhaps he did too good of a job, because I still get a douche chill whenever I hear his name 30 years later.

  6. As I said over on Patreon, I don’t think that acknowledging the movie’s qualities isn’t THAT much of a controversial opinion anymore. The movie itself is sadly too mutilated by all the behind-the-scenes shit to ever fully work, but in general the public’s opinion on it has softened a lot.

    I still can’t get over the disposal of Hicks, Newt and Bishop though. I feel like I SHOULD have accepted it and a part of me actually doesn’t mind that much anymore, but at the same time I hate it more than ever, because randomly killing important (and even beloved) characters to establish a false sense “NOBODY IS SAFE, Y’ALL!”, became even before GAME OF THRONES a way too annoying and overdone storytelling device.

  7. Deep Fried Noir

    June 20th, 2022 at 8:51 am

    As far as I’m concerned, ALIEN (original cut), ALIENS (director’s cut) and ALIEN CUBED (assembly cut) is a perfect trilogy. I also think this third one has the most interesting iteration of Ripley, and Weaver’s best performance.

    I’d never heard of that two-parter idea until now. Sounds like some of it may have inspired the game ALIEN ISOLATION which is an excellent, absolutely terrifying survival horror that is full of love for the original film. I’m not a gamer but I love ALIEN so much I had to give it a go, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  8. I haven’t seen Alien Cubed since the 90s, so I should probably give it another shot, but I remember it being something of a slog at the time. And I agree that the Fincher stans have further soured me on it. They pretend like killing off Newt and Hicks is some great big “fuck you” to James Cameron. But the bigger fuck you would have been to make a better film than Aliens, which Fincher couldn’t do, either because of studio meddling or because he just didn’t have the juice. Also, I think on average the Predator movies are actually better than the Alien films. Granted the first two are untouchable, but after that they’re kind of a mess. At best, they’re an interesting mess, but after Aliens I don’t think any of them are even half as enjoyable as Predator 2.

    And I think Fincher is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I think Zodiac is a damn masterpiece, and he’s a brilliant stylist, but when I look at his filmography, there’s a handful of movies that don’t work for me.

  9. Having fought for this movie for so many years I’m happy to see that at least this sight can offer some “Well, I like it better now” comments. In my book it’s the second best ALIEN movie ever made (because the original is one of the best movies ever). And, just to throw in some controversy, it’s more original, better filmed and better acted than any of the other five.

  10. This is going to undoubtedly put me in the minority but I never really saw the killing of Hicks and Newt as daring or bold at all. It struck me more as a “fuck, we can’t figure out what else to do with these characters, so let’s just take them off the board” move.

    I don’t exactly remember but I think there was some beef with Michael Biehn over money and Newt at least would’ve had to be recast since it had been 6 years and Carrie Henn didn’t want to be an actress anyway (Aliens is literally her only-ever role). So…let’s just do away with them…off camera. While conjuring up a reason for this movie to exist in the first place…also off camera.

    I think once the movie gets going it hits some interesting notes and there are some good scenes / sequences, chiefly Clemens’s death > Ripley’s close encounter > the warden getting snatched. But it’s not enough, and also the Xenomorph-vision is stupid because clearly the thing moves much too fast for a person to run away from it.

  11. Long overdue a rewatch of this one.

    My own vague memory of it is that the first hour or so, introducing the new setting and building up tension, was really well done. Everything went downhill once the new Alien became the focus. At the time I really struggled to get onboard with the effects and the movement and that soured me on the second half.

  12. Like any major ALIENS fan, I took the death of Newt and Hicks hard, and it hung a pall over the rest of the movie. But that mournful, sad, and confused feeling seems to be what Fincher was going for, going along with that great Ripley quote (“You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.”) that paints the xenomorph not as a situational terror that can be dealt with and eventually conquered (“Crap. ‘Nother alien in the goddamn vents. Better blow it out the airlock before it nests.”) but as an existential terror that taints all who come in contact with it. Once Kane came onboard the Nostromo (against Ripley’s Cassandra-like unheeded warnings), Ripley has been fucked, and she’s always kind of known it. Why else didn’t she stay home with Jonesy when she had the chance? The xenomorph is her fate, and she knows there’s no escaping it. So while the shocking offscreen revelations of this movie were for sure a bummer coming after ALIENS, they felt right, and the movie that followed was just awesome enough to justify the heartbreak. The film has always looked great, a few bluescreen hiccups aside, and Weaver’s performance is just next-level badass. In my heart, I’d have preferred that Newt and Hicks lived, but what Fincher and Co. did instead was too strong to stay mad at for long.

  13. I picked up the Alien Anthology for cheap and have been meaning to watch the various extended cuts. The main thing I remember about this is a bunch of indistinguishable bald guys in identical brown outfits running down identical brown tunnels. That said, the cast is an amazing array of That Guy actors. I definitely see this being the type of movie I’d reappraise and like a lot now.

    I had a few of those Alien toys, including the Snake Alien. I didn’t see any of the movies until years and years later, at which time I was surprised none of those creatures showed up!

  14. Loved reading this review and love thinking about Alien 3 and it’s defiantly miserablist tone. Such a sense of finality for a franchise (something you wouldn’t really get in today’s cinema).

    However the practice of watching it never quite lives up to the version in my head. Even the Assembly Cut is disjointed and full of woeful bluescreen work.

    That said it does has some great performances (Dance in particular is great – such a gut punch when he gets offed halfway through).

  15. Ha! Just realized this is the T-shirt I had on as I read this review. I feel like ALAN³ would have let Herks and Nort survive and thus would have a better reputation than ALIEN³.

  16. I did forget to mention one point that I think is in the movie’s favor – Weaver does arguably her best work as Ripley here, which is really saying something because she was essentially flawless in Aliens.

    Even after 30 years and multiple repeat viewings though…I still come down on the side of “interesting failure, but failure nonetheless.”

  17. “The main thing I remember about this is a bunch of indistinguishable bald guys in identical brown outfits running down identical brown tunnels. ”

    There is an interview on the LEGACY Box somewhere, where one guy (forgot who it was) says exactly the same thing as an example for why Americans hated the movie. “They just saw a group of bald men with British accents running through dark tunnels.” (Paraphrased from memory)

  18. I love that in the 30 years since release, I have had ALL these opinions about Alien 3.

    On first viewing opening weekend, having only seen a poor VHS recording off of cable of Aliens multiple times (and not the original one, but aware of chest bursters because of Spaceballs – thanks a lot, Mel Brooks) I thought it was pretty good. I was reaching a weird point in life, just started teenagehood, so into edgy weird dark things, I dug the bleak look, how it was different, and that lots of folks died.

    Honestly my favorite part was after the warden gets taken and everyone’s silent except for a lone “FUCK!” Saw it twice that weekend actually, probably based on that alone. And one more time for good measure because there was a theater in walking diatance with a lax stance on teens in R rated flicks.

    As the years go on, I read about the different versions saw the Assembly Cut, proclaimed it better, watched it again, proclaimed it inferior, praised this, bashed it, picked Resurrection over it… Everything you say.

    Haven’t seen it in a long time, and I may have been on shrooms. (Though I think that was the directors cut of Resurrection). This review makes me wanna check it out again and just appreciate it for what it is: a solid sci-fi flick. No comparisons to the others, just enjoy it.

    And wonder what the hell is going on with Bishop’s ear at the end. If he is human, and he yells out “I’m not a droid!” in the assembly cut, than that is really gross.

  19. I’ve only ever seen the theatrical cut, not the assembly cut. I like it a lot, and I am not at ALL a Fincher worshipper. (SEVEN is overwrought nonsense, FIGHT CLUB seemed cool when I was a twentysomething dipshit, PANIC ROOM was …okay… and everything he’s done after that just feels simultaneously sterile and overcooked. Honestly, this is the only movie of his I’d willingly re-watch.)

    But I am also kind of an ALIENS hater. ALIEN was a genuinely chilling horror masterpiece. Why did anyone think what was needed next was a big-balls 80s action movie? So the dark, subdued tone of ALIEN 3 was exactly what I was looking for from a sequel. Especially since I found the whole concept of the prison society fascinating. (I’m always up for a story about a cult or a cloistered religious order or whatever reason a bunch of dudes have for rejecting the world and sitting around someplace grim glaring at each other.) Honestly, I’d have watched a six hour movie about the prison, with Ripley and the alien crash-landing somewhere around Hour Four.

  20. Thanks for pointing out those adaptations of the unused scripts. Tho not sure when I’ll have a chance to listen to Audible or read a novelization, but they interest me.

  21. Fred, I have the Gibson graphic novel from a few years back, and its worthy. I can loan you it!

  22. burningambulance – I would call myself a fan of Seven because it checks a lot of cool boxes for me and I think it’s well designed, but I don’t wholly disagree with your assessment.

    I personally consider it so atmospheric and well-acted that it took me a few viewings to realize how much of it was completely ridiculous.

  23. The movie is very well shot and edited. I remember thinking it looked great, even though I disliked the story.

    Killing off Newt, Hicks and Bishop before the movie was a disappointing downer and ultimately not worth it. I get it that sometimes you’ve got to kill a character off to give weight to the new story, and although it hurts it’s worth it for the audience if makes for a good entry. Like in Rocky, losing Aidrien hurt but it was necessary to give Rocky Balboa, and later Creed, some of their stakes. (Come to think of it, this was Stallone’s go to move, first killing Micky to amp the drama in III, and then Apollo to juice it in IV). It’s a lot to ask the audience, and if you do it you’ve got to spend the loss on energizing a story worth telling. I just never thought this prison-colony-in-space story was worth it. It was less interesting than what happened in the first two, so why do we need it?

    I generally don’t like “episodic” sequels where it doesn’t matter whether you saw the one before it or not because they’re interchangeable. That’s what this was. It was like they said, we don’t want to get bogged down with any new characters or relationships forged in ALIENS, just whipe the board and start this the movie where ALIEN ended: Ripley alone in cryosleep. It’s almost like ALIENS didn’t happen. Modular sequels which you can see or not see, don’t mattter (alike the lesser DIE HARDS). This is where I felt Aliens became low rent, story wise, even though it was visually distinctive.

  24. I had never heard the theory that Fincher killed off Hicks and Newt to show James Cameron who’s boss, but it just isn’t possible because that story decision was made long before he was hired. I think Tom is right, the opening wasn’t intended as some kind of daring shocker, it was just the expedient way Hill and Giler came up with to kick off a story that didn’t involve them and has these themes.

  25. I love the Alien 3 novelization by Alan Dean Foster. Adds a lot of details about the Fiona Fury prisoners.

    I’ve never been able to see the Assembly Cut. The one on Netflix is the Theatrical.

  26. I had a few of the Kenner action figures back in the day. The Gorilla Alien had beefy arms with a couple of levers that you could squeeze to make it grab things. It’s head was also hollow, so you could suck up water and squirt it out of it’s mouth. The Bull Alien had a button on its back to make its head shoot forward and knock things over. Each figure came with a little comic book, which were mildly amusing in a Saturday morning cartoon kind of way. It makes sense the figures came out of a failed cartoon series.

  27. I really don’t think it was to show ANYONE CAN DIE. I’m with Vern. There’s no room in the story for a 6-year-old (who’d either be 12 by then or recast) and a marine. I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest a version of Alien3 that includes them. I would’ve entertained Blomkamp’s idea tho only as a Halloween 2018 situation. I still wouldn’t disrespect the Alien 3 and 4 that were made.

  28. Still, they could’ve kept them out of the movie without killing them. For example what if the whole ship didn’t crash, but the escape pods were activated, then Ripley’s drifted a bit too much to the left and while she landed in Fiorina, the others are still floating safe home?

    Or maybe…MAYBE…what if at least one screenwriter tried to be creative and kept them alive? At least for a while. I guess killing Hicks and Bishop halfway in the movie or even just in the finale would be more acceptable than their off screen deaths. And Newt being the last survivor of the prison planet would pack a more emotional punch.

  29. I know people here are a different breed than your common yo-yos on the world wide web, so I’ll try to thread softly. There are a couple of things I’ve learned from debating this masterpiece for 30 years – 20 of those online. For those of us who saw it in the cinemas 6 years after ALIENS the deaths of Newt and Hicks weren’t more sad/shocking than the killings of Dallas, Kane, Parker and Lambert. This was the ALIEN universe and everyone could buy it any minute. I understand that seeing it on VHS/dvd a minute after, with ALIENS’ adrenaline kick still in your system, it might be a huge shock, especially if you’re 10 or 12. Adding to that you’ve probably seen TERMINATOR before that, and think Biehn is the coolest guy ever. And what do Fincher have, a bunch of unknow bald guys? Well, to me and, I hate to say it, most grown-ups, he had Paulsen from SPLIT SECOND, the inn keeper from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, the worlds biggest stoner from WITHNAIL & I, Polish Joe from PARADISE CLUB and the legend Marlowe from WITHNAIL & I (all the girls stood and cheered in London Odeon when his name came on the screen). All of whom we happily took over Cameron’s mostly underwritten characters.

  30. I agree with Cruz. Aliens really had you caring about Newt, Hicks, and Bishop, and this movie does absolutely nothing with those relationships. It doesn’t even really make their deaths tragic, just grosses you out with Newt getting filleted.

    And I understand the criticism that “oh, you just want it to be more Aliens.” Fine. For the sake of argument, let’s say that’s a bad thing. Alien 3 is just more Alien! Only we’ve replaced the varied and memorable cast of Alien with a bunch of bald British character actors.

    Points for audacity, but audaciousness is useless if it doesn’t result in a good story–this just isn’t.

  31. To be sure, one of the incidental pleasures of ALIEN 3 is all those British character actors, but it feels a bit like a consolation prize.

    Quickly, I don’t think it’s so much that Newt and Hicks die as that their deaths negate Ripley’s triumph of ALIENS. What exactly was the point of “Get away from her you bitch!”, if everyone dies offscreen later? I saw this and ALIENS in cinemas, and I was definitely disappointed with this. Ripley’s triumph here is, in comparision and however grown up we may be, a bit of a downer.

    It may be worth noting at this point that William Gibson’s screenplays [SPOILERS FOR UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAYS] keep Hicks and Bishop (and Newt) alive but leaves Ripley in a coma. But it all reads like an exercise in demonstraing to Sigourney Weaver that the franchise could go on without her.

  32. This all got me interested enough to Casper this for the toomany’th time. It can be charged that I perhaps didn’t go into it with an open mind and perhaps didn’t approach it in entirely good faith. I can’t deny that. I’d like to think I’d be a big man and admit when I was wrong, but maybe I’m not. At any rate, sorry, but I still don’t like it very much.

    There are some good scenes and performances, and so forth. That cleaner gives a pretty sweet rendition of In the Year 2525. I do like some of the layering transitions between the characters, like it’s PROSPERO’S BOOKS or some shit. But mostly it’s a movie that put a lot of thought in to how it looked that I don’t much like looking at, or sitting through for that matter.

    I hate the thing in some sequels where too much time is taken where people go around trying to figure out what the deal is with this thing the audience knows all about from previous films. Yes, it’s what new characters would do in that situation, but you’re making a film mostly for an audience that already knows what the deal is from the previous films. It’s also a problem I have with PREDATOR 2.

    Too much bloody whispering and mumbling. I don’t think I even realised Ripley slept with Charles Dance’s character until now, because of all the mumbling.

    The Alien POV shots are cool, I’d remembered them doing one or two too many of them, but it didn’t bother me this time. Actually the last half hour in general is pretty cool (although they perhaps could have come up with something a little more inspired than shutting doors). But it’s a looooong time coming.

    The low point of the film, and the low point of any non-AvP film in the franchise for me, is the attempted rape scene set to what sounds like a My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult demo by a man who puts on goggles and screams like a WCW Wrestler. Note I say WCW and not WWF, and this would be 1992 WCW we’re talking about. Poor taste, in every sense. Even if I agreed with every other tenant of the ALIEN 3 faith, I don’t think I could get on board because of this scene.

    Just to give my Fincher opinions for reference, I like SEVEN although I’m not one of its superfans, THE GAME is probably my favourite, I just plain don’t like FIGHT CLUB very much whatever its merits, PANIC ROOM is an above average but not particularly special potboiler, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and GONE GIRL are both pretty great, and BENJAMIN BUTTON was absolute dreck. I don’t think he predisposes me towards or away from the movie, although I get what jojo says about getting “douche chills” from him. And as discussed, my favourite shot in the film is (still) something he didn’t want in here (and isn’t in the Assembly Cut). Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely very cool that the original set of four ALIEN movies were all made by people who were or became great artists in their own right, that should be celebrated, and it may never happen again, but I can’t get on board with ALIEN 3 in itself. For sure, the citizens of 1992 took against this because of Newt and Hicks dying, but I do think they could have been won back around, to some extent, with a more engaging film.

    So, sorry ALIEN 3, you’ve been in my life so long but blah, blah, blah, something no one would find funny anyway.

  33. Can we all appreciate for a moment what a masterpiece of minimalistic storytelling the opening credits are? They get the whole situation across without any dialogue and only by short glimpses of what is going on.

  34. Excellent piece, Vern. Enjoying the series, and indeed the sight (medium-time reader, first time commenter).

    CJ Holden: The opening credits are indeed great, and I love the score (except for the later fretboard frenzy Vern mentions) – Goldenthal had a pretty good run going there in the early-to-mid 90s. The cryochamber cracking makes me jump every time, because I can never remember whose credit it comes after.

    – I’m pro-ALIEN TO THE POWER OF THREE, though not to the extremes that some corners of the internet apparently take it (if the first two are five-star perfection, this one’s a three-and-a-half). I rewatched it recently for the first time in a few years, and was struck by how Dutch-angled it is; even when not explicitly shot from the alien’s POV, a whole bunch of it appears as if seen looking up from floor level. I don’t recall ever being bothered by Hicks and Newt being killed off so unceremoniously, but I do remember Clemons’ death being a shocker (it’s even more brutal in Foster’s book), partly down to Charles Dance being the only actor I knew when I first saw it, not counting a random background-bloke who was on CASUALTY.

    – As a backdrop, it’s worth noting just how grim the British film industry was when this was in production, still three-plus years shy of FOUR WEDDINGS blowing up – I’m pretty sure this was the only film being shot in the whole of Britain at the time. If Fincher also had to put up with all the union nonsense that Cameron dealt with, but without Cameron’s confidence and clout to plough through it, no wonder it was so bleak.

    – I was obsessed with Foster’s novelisations as a kid, when they were published as an omnibus, largely because they included all the stuff that the theatrical versions had cut – like most novelisations, they were based on the shooting scripts. (Strangely, for the first two, Foster was restricted – or restricted himself – to one f-bomb per book; so “this rat-fuck son-of-a-bitch” becomes “him”. Odd.) Since the extended cuts are out there, and they’re probably not sufficiently well written to stand on their own merits, maybe not worth a great effort seeking them out – though Titan reissued them a few years back, so they’re still in print – but I do have a nostalgic fondness for them.

    – Interestingly, there were Hicks-and-Newt comics stories out there that could have been used, but would’ve required some heavy reworking to accommodate Ripley. In between the second and third films, Dark Horse had released OUTBREAK and NIGHTMARE ASYLUM, a.k.a. The Continuing Adventures of Hicks and Newt, with the last page of ASYLUM reuniting them with Ripley, leading into FEMALE WAR. (ALIEN 3 meant reissues of the comics – and their subsequent novelisations – saw Hicks and Newt being changed to Wilks and Billie, with the novelisation of FEMALE WAR adding a twist to Ripley’s state of being.)

  35. The push/pull and countless battles over this movie seem like relics from another world today? For example, I can’t imagine there being multiple rejected scripts for the new Thor movie lying around? Maybe I’m thinking studios were more precious with their properties back in the day but the more likely reason is that studios had fewer chances to recoup so their hits had to be HITS. In any event, this was the first R-rated movie young Buzz saw in the theater thanks to his friend’s mother and her lax parenting. So I still have a soft spot for it. I think this review nicely sums up the world’s current feelings on Alien 3: that’s it not too bad (and really in good in some cases). But it was the whipping boy of the franchise for years. However, multiple farted-out sequels have people now LONGING for anything close to Alien 3. Myself included (though I do still kind of like AVP 2 if only because it’s a “nerd gets the girl” Hughes-esque story, only the bullies are aliens).

  36. “Quickly, I don’t think it’s so much that Newt and Hicks die as that their deaths negate Ripley’s triumph of ALIENS. What exactly was the point of “Get away from her you bitch!”, if everyone dies offscreen later?” This is exactly it for me. That’s why in my mind the story ends with ALIENS anything afterwards is some other universe that I don’t care about.

  37. Having read all the comment, I can safely say that the readership’s appreciation of Alien cubed is reverse-tied to their appreciation of Aliens.

    If you feel (like me) Aliens is a flawless piece of storytelling / filmmaking, you cannot in any way call Alien cubed a “great” movie, much less a masterpiece. At best you find it a flawed one, with some VERY bad effects and a sluggish bleak rhythm with nice production design. And on the fx front, I want to remind everybody that no matter how you like them, the 2 previous movies were flawless, while this one, made 13 years after the first, runs the gamut of “OK” to “atrocious blue screen”.

    If on the other hand for you, James Cameron is a hack with too broad characters and perfunctory dialog and as somebody said “after the first one being a thriller we did not need the second to be an action movie”, then Alien cubed is the second coming and the righteous continuation of the first movie we were robbed of in 1986.

    Taste in movies is highly subjective, but I never thought I would see such a high percentage of people on a thread casually dismissing a movie that is argued as the best sequel ever AND the best action movie ever.

  38. I’m all for finding things to appreciate in Alien 3, but saying it’s somehow a BETTER MOVIE than Aliens is clinically insane is all I’m saying! :-)

  39. I think Petros is largely right that your love of Aliens more or less determines your relationship to Alien Cubed. Above I’m not suggesting that Fincher is intentionally giving Cameron the middle finger by killing off Hicks and Newt off screen. Clearly, they didn’t know what to do with the characters and didn’t want to pay Biehn (which is why the decision isn’t so much shocking as it is just sort of cheap, in multiple ways).

    But, I’ve seen plenty of Fincherheads make that claim on the internet. I don’t think Fincher has the same obsessive following online that he did ten or fifteen years ago, but I remember his online fans being pretty obnoxious back in the day. And they absolutely believed that edglord David Fincher was metaphorically kicking that pansy James Cameron in the nards by unceremoniously killing off his characters.

  40. Winchester, is that the one with Pat Cadigan? They have it for Kindle unless that’s yet another adaptation.

    Ejecting Newt and Hicks is the most reasonable alternative I’ve heard. It’s sort of saving them for later as some sort of consolation prize but it works narratively. Alas they made their choice. I guess I just got over it in 30 years but I can see it being important to fans.

    SPOILER FOR SCREAM 2

    like I still think killing Randy in Scream 2 hurt the series and all it gained was a brief shock. So there are choices with ramifications larger than the movie that made that particular choice.

  41. Responding to PetrosMT:

    ALIENS is an extremely well crafted big-balls 80s action movie. I saw it in theaters when I was 14; I enjoyed the hell out of it. I’ve only watched it maybe twice since then, and not the theatrical version because the DVD set I have of all four movies only includes the director’s cut, which is 17 minutes longer. (I don’t know what was added.) The thing of it is, with vanishingly rare exceptions, that kind of movie doesn’t really hold up on repeat viewing for me, because it’s an amusement park ride. You can only go on the roller coaster so many times before you’ve got all the ups and downs memorized and you’re just sitting there reading emails or deciding what to eat afterwards.

    Even though it’s flawed, ALIEN 3 takes place in a world *I* find much more interesting than the world of ALIENS, because Giler and Hill (and Fincher) took pains to make you realize that the world was as important as the story. To me, the “mining colony” setting of ALIENS is of little importance — it could have been anywhere with an isolated civilian population there to be hunted. The penal colony, on the other hand, has specific rules, and the actual setting itself matters to the story. They have to herd the alien to one specific spot to kill it. Also, the rules of the society are laid out in detail, in ways that directly impact the plot. Basically, *to me*, ALIEN 3 has more “rewatch value” than ALIENS. Because it’s much more than just some kills and chase scenes. There’s emotional impact, and the people that the bad things are happening to feel real.

    The one thing I will say is good about ALIENS vis-a-vis the whole series is that it does retain the class politics of the original, and which are picked up again in ALIEN 3 — the idea that these stories are about workers (and convict labor) being exploited and sacrificed by a giant faceless corporation.

  42. I always thought this movie was pretty decent, and I know I’m not supposed to care what other people think, but I totally turned on this movie as soon as I saw someone put their Alien franchise ranking as: 1) Alien 3 Assembly Cut, 2) Alien, 3) Aliens, 4) Alien Resurrection, 5) Alien 3 Theatrical Cut. I mean, I apologize if that was someone here who’s reading this now, but like, don’t the Fincher fanboys get that he probably hates the Assembly Cut too, hence why it’s not even a Director’s Cut??? And I’m with Pacman – the Assembly Cut is easily worse than the Theatrical in my book – just endless, ENDLESS scenes of prisoners arguing and yelling punctuated by Charles S. Dutton telling them to shut the fuck up. Over and over again. I don’t care that the Alien came out of an ox instead of a dog. I don’t care that they trapped the Alien then set it free. (that’s a narrative cul-de-sac that’s a literal waste of time and basically asking to get cut out.) And I don’t believe anyone who’s like, “But…but…the Assembly Cut explains what happened to Golic!” Because man, I always wanted to know what happened to that one bald British prisoner who was so distinct from the other bald British prisoners. I couldn’t tell you what happens to like, half of the cast anyways, (like Postlethwaite and the guy who looks like Tommy Lee Jones), since everyone gets blown up or killed in super quick succession at the end. You could have told me Golic was one of those dudes and I’d believe you.

    But I really do like alot of things about this movie. Weaver is great, there’s a TON of legitimately iconic shots, and yeah, I’m glad someone brought up the next-level opening credits. (I’ll always remember the awesome way Goldenthal makes the 20th Century Fox fanfare end on that dark note too). And call me crazy but I actually love the blue screen marionette Alien. It’s weird and off-putting and doesn’t look quite right but it seems perfect for the movie. It gives the Alien a different kind of scariness – instead of an immaculate practical suit/model like the last two movies, this one feels herky jerky and skin-crawling like Medusa in Clash of the Titans ’81, if that makes any sense. Also, bonus points for this movie for teaching me the life lesson that you shouldn’t put a hot plate in a sink of cold water or that shit will shatter. Which I’ve still found out the hard way several times since then.

  43. burningambulance: The rollercoaster aspect is more or less the reason why I rewatch the first two ALIEN movies only very rarely, despite my love for them. I just don’t want to wear them out. I think since the late 90s I’ve seen them all maybe just three times. 4LIEN in comparison is way more rewatchable in that regard. I would never dare to call it “The best of the series”, but it is my favourite and I revisit it every few years.

    There are some brillant movies that can be watched over and over without getting old and there are some brillant movies that you should only revisit maybe every 10-15 years, because they work best if you don’t remember them too well. And the first two ALIENs fall into that category.

    (Rewatched Alien³ today for the first time since the QUADRILOGY DVD set came out and still don’t like it, except for the visuals, the cast and the overall atmosphere though.)

  44. You can’t make someone love what you love, so I won’t harp on this too much. But the first ALIEN movie was about a sexual predator who raped and killed male and female members of a space crew. In the second the space soldiers boasted about having sex with undefined species of aliens, and got killed. Why on earth wouldn’t the third one be about sexual predators getting a taste of their own medicine? If you want to get the ALIEN universe you have to learn all about H. R. Giger. And then ALIEN3 will make so more sense.

  45. I have a hot take here people, and it’s an opinion that took me 25 years to form, the first 3 Alien films are all masterpieces, and on any given day, depending on my mood and what’s going on in my life I could rank them interchangeably.

    I definitely didn’t like Alien 3 when I first saw it, but like pegsman stated above, a 12 year old who just discovered Aliens isn’t going to get that same experience with Fincher’s debut, but in the ensuing years I grew to love this movie as much as Alien and Aliens.

    I have read almost all of the unproduced scripts for Alien 3, and I can state for a fact that Fincher wasn’t the first to kill off Hicks and Newt.
    1) Eric Red’s truly shitty script had all the Sulaco survivors(
    Ripley included) killed off screen
    2) Twohy’s script sidestepped everyone’s fate altogether, the most notable thing from this movie is one of the protagonists (which takes place in a prison) is a proto Riddick, I’m pretty sure there’s even a ” He didn’t know he was fucking with” one liner after he guts a xenomorph.
    3) Ward’s script shared the fate of Hicks and Newt much the same as the finished film, I remember a quote that Vincent Ward found Newt annoying in Aliens hence her death in his script, which is bonkers, but would probably be a shitty Alien movie.

  46. “He didn’t know WHO he was fucking with”

  47. Another thing is that for a finale with Ripley’s ultimate fate and the Alien’s ultimate defeat–the stakes are so *vague*. Ripley sacrifices herself so, what, a bunch of anonymous corporate suits can’t do experiments with the Alien which will lead to it escaping and eating… some anonymous future people we’ve never met. Yeah, that’s bad, but it’s bad in that same way that Doctor Evil nuking America is bad. I just can’t help but think her sacrifice would have more impact if it were on behalf of characters we knew like Hicks and Newt, not… whatever Hair Club for Men candidates were left standing by the end.

    (Not the movie’s fault, but it doesn’t help that we’ve had countless sequels where Aliens get loose and go on a rampage, and each time they ended up getting contained in one way or another.)

  48. Burningambulance I understand what you and others are saying and it SOUNDS right. But it doesn’t hold under scrutiny. Why?

    Because then

    Die hard
    The predator
    The terminator
    T2
    Speed
    Leathal weapon 1+2
    The hunt for the red October
    Robocop

    Etc

    Would all be movies “we don’t really re-watch because they are Rollercoaster rides” and only see…once?!???????

    People go to Disneyland and Universal studios more than once in their lifetimes (if they can).

    People rewatch fervently the best action movies of all time all the time. It is the most watched genre and in it, Aliens is one of the top ones.

    I can maybe go with cj holden’s take, if he lowered his prison sentence for these movies to 1/3 of 15 years.

    I sure as hell ain’t gonna see alien / aliens / die hard etc only 3-4 times in my adult lifetime by his metric, or only once by yours!!

  49. And guys don’t forget the thrill of SHOWING somebody a movie.
    A girlfriend. A friend. A nephew. A little brother. A son / daughter.

    Your eyes light up when you find out they have not seen something you love. You then proceed to see the movie through their eyes and live it again as if it’s new.

    What would you show these people as a GREAT sci-fi /thriller / creature feature?

    Alien and / or aliens? or Alien 3?

  50. “ And guys don’t forget the thrill of SHOWING somebody a movie.”

    Yeah, I hate doing that. Go be disappointed in my favorite movie on your own time. Don’t make me sit there and watch it happen right in front of me.

    I don’t know who the hell only rides a rollercoaster once, though. When I had a season pass to my local amusement park, I used to get off the biggest coaster and get right back in line. A fun ride is a fun ride no matter how many times you take it.

  51. I’ve very much enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on this movie. I’m watching it again now. I’ve seen both but I’m watching the theatrical cut because I like the Alien Queen bursting out of Ripley. I wanted to say I’m very much on the same page as CJ. I re-watch Resurrection more often than I do the others. It’s a very valid point to say don’t watch certain movies too often or they lose their power. Also, I’m fairly sure I just saw one of the Space Monkeys from Fight Club. It’s the scene where Ripley first comes out to the mess hall.

  52. Holt Macallaney. Probably misspelled that but “His name was Robert Paulson.”

  53. It’s still my least favorite of the first 4 but I do like it . I’m a very big David Fincher fan. Not a Stan. I’m old we used to just call ourselves fans. He did Zodiac partly because he was one of the kids on a school bus that was followed by Highway Patrolman during the time Zodiac was threatening do harm school busses.

  54. BuzzFeedAldrin- It does still happen occasionally to some extent; FAT4STIC is the most famous recent example, you’ve also got the 2016 GHOSTBUSTERS, POWER RANGERS, RISE OF SKYWALKER, the AMAZING SPIDER-MANs to a degree (I get the sense Sony’s productions are generally pretty messy). Most of these had a dreaded Maximum Landis draft at some point. And of course there is JUSTICE LEAGUE. I think everyone who signs on to a Marvel joint now knows how top down and/or micromanaged it will be when they sign on.

    Andy C- “Stan” is kind of silly young person speak that someone in their mid-30s like me shouldn’t really be using, but I used it because a) I think it’s kind of funny b) I think it denotes a certain kind of blind fanaticism and unpleasantness that I don’t think “fans” does. And yes, I am aware that, as per a million chinnyreckon internet posts from the last few years, “fans” is a contraction of “fanatic”, but language evolves over time, and I do believe “fans” generally denotes something more even measured and benign. And I personally said “ALIEN 3 stans” rather than “Fincher Stans”; I do believe they are often two different things (though often not, obviously).

    I listened to Lance Henriksen’s interview on ALIEN 3 episode of The Projection Booth episode; he believes Bishop II is a robot. He noted that the ear thing was something Fincher came up with on the fly, and they didn’t have that many props, so they used a prop ear Jack Nicholson had used in BATMAN! He thinks the red blood is some kind of upgrade.

    As much as I do kind of hate this movie, I’m glad it exists; it’s a fascinating production to read up on and hear about.

  55. I also tried out the ALIEN 3 games on my, um, totally legit above-board thing. There are versions on the getting long on the tooth NES and Master System in addition to the obvious culprits of the time. They all (apart from the Arcade game and the Game Boy) seem to use the same basic set-up, but are otherwise surprisingly diverse. The SNES version is the most distinct, and is by far the best, despite having the infamous LJN on the cover (they just published it). LJN also made the Game Boy game, which seems terrible and inscrutable, a shame as the mini-cut scenes (well, frames) are pretty cool.

    My favourite ALIEN game (I haven’t played them all, but knowing my tastes I feel it’s unlikely to change) is the Capcom ALIEN VS PREDATOR arcade game (an adaptation of the first AvP game, a not great SNES game from the previous year by another company). It later became an initially groundbreaking then rather stock FPS series (not really my bag these days), but this is a really fun beat-em-up game, and an amusingly askew look at American pop mythology by a Japanese company; the Predator is charged up with hamburgers and soda, and is accompanied by a Guile from STREET FIGHTER-esque soldier and his badass woman partner called “Lt. Kurosawa”!

  56. My favourite ALIEN game (I haven’t played them all, but knowing my tastes I feel it’s unlikely to change) is the Capcom ALIEN VS PREDATOR arcade game

    Heh, Capcom just released a new comp and there was a rumor AvsP may be included. (It wasn’t)

    While I have a fondness for the Atari Jaguar AvsP (and the $80 it snagged me on ebay), I think my favorite Alien video game is still the OG, the weird turn-based strategy one on the c64

  57. Uh… that was suppose to be a screenshot of the c64 Alien…

    https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/a/screen/full/0/3/9/82039.jpg

  58. RE: Bishop II’s ear, while I still believe that he was not a robot, at least one thing that kinda supports that robot theory IS the ear. Specifically when Ripley works on the destroyed Bishop, she at some point folds his ear the same way, to stick a few cables into his brain. So yeah, maybe he is a robot and the whole thing just wasn’t communicated right to the audience, because some important insert shots were never made. But until I hear some official word about it, I believe he was a human, although I’m at least open to the robot theory.

    BTW, one thing that pissed me off during yesterday’s rewatch, was how gleefully it rubs Newt’s death into the audience’s face. I do not believe that there were any hard feelings towards Cameron, but whoever was responsible, clearly edgelorded hard during it. I mean, Hicks was instantly dead and “didn’t even know what hit him”, while Newt drowned and “most likely wasn’t concious when it happened” according to Charles Dance, although we earlier saw her corpse in the pod with what seemed like a screaming, terror filled face. I think there was no way in hell that this was done in the belief that the audience will accept it as a good story telling choice.

  59. First – another great, what I consider more of an ‘essay’ about a film rather than just a review/appreciation/criticism Vern. And I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s opinion’s/takes on this film. Bravo to the various commenters here.

    Second – since we all seem to be unburdening ourselves to how we rate the films – for me it’s 1: Aliens, 2: Alien, 3: everything else, in no particular order after #2. I won’t wade into the debate over the merits of the first 2 movies – but will cop that some of the reason I rank Aliens first is that I originally watched it in the theatre first, in 1986, so it lives a bit larger in my subconscious. I did eventually catch Alien on a big screen, on a re-release, but first saw it on TV in the early 1980s/VHS.

    I drove everyone around me nuts during the lead up to its release by referring to it constantly as ‘Alien Cubed.’ I was one of those jerks.

    It does always sort of amaze me at the level of quality that surrounded the Alien movies – the first 3 all either first movies or second movies directed by 3 filmmakers that would go onto become really seriously well regarded filmmakers’ – it seems to me that no other film series has that type of ‘quality.’ Even Part 4’s director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a hell of a good filmmaker – and Walter Hill (ex. Producer) of all of these films is a really seriously great (if under appreciated) filmmaker. Hill had a film from later in the summer of 1992 that hopefully Vern will be writing about.

    pegsman’s mention of looking at the films from a sexual metaphor reminded me of an interesting essay I read on the films – in particular – the first movie – as being a metaphor for a man’s fear of childbirth – for what its worth.

    My problem with evaluating Alien3 is that, it seems to me – Fincher literally had no involvement with the editing of any of this movie – was he gone for all the editing process? I admit I have not closely looked into this – but if its true – then the director was not responsible for choosing/approving any of the material in any of the edits – so we can’t even be sure that a take from a scene was his preferred take of that said scene – this just leaves way to much ambiguity in my mind as to what is in any of the version’s we can watch.

  60. I doubt most adults cared that Alien 3 had Paulsen from SPLIT SECOND, or the the inn keeper from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

    Alien 3 blows, it looks like someone pissed all over the film and they got a dwarf to shoot it. And yeah, it negates Ripley’s triumph from 2 and if they wanted this story it would have been simple to do it and keep everyone else alive but out of the picture, Escape pod ejects Ripley because she’s contaminted, or they’re stuck in cryo and she can’t get them out until help comes. It’s sci-fi, so easy to pull this stuff out of the ass. And this movie is just sort of boring.

  61. I don’t agree with that because this was obviously intended as the end – it’s not like they would’ve made HICKS & NEWT: XENOMORPH HUNTERS a couple years later. So leaving Ripley alone and devastated was the more dramatic story choice and the one that wouldn’t have everybody spending the whole movie expecting Hicks and Newt to come back for Ripley and still be mad about *that* 30 years later.

    C.J., I thought you were right early on when you said that it’s not that controversial of a movie anymore, but these comments have changed my mind on that!

  62. ALIEN 3 was and remains pretty divisive, but for me it was always just OK, a reasonably stylish rehash of the first two films, kind of a dour slog, but with a few good moments.

    Really, though, the film it reminds me of the most is TERMINATOR 3. Not in terms of cinematic quality (this is obviously directed with much more craft), but just in terms of pointlessness. There is a reason Hill and Giler had so much trouble settling on a script, or even a concept — it’s just obvious that Ripley’s arc is complete, and there isn’t any apparent reason for this story to continue, except to milk the franchise for more cash. ALIENS had pushed the central creature to bold new places, but now no new avenues seemed ready to be explored, so with nowhere for the characters to go and nowhere for the concept to go, there was no particularly compelling path forward. But they wanted to make another sequel anyway, so they waffled around and eventually just settled on basically rehashing the first one with a little bit of the bodycount and setpiece concepts of the second one. There isn’t really a concept here. It’s another level of DOOM, superficially different, sure, but fundamentally it adds nothing new, and in fact even walks back a lot of the expansiveness of ALIENS. Making the tone so relentlessly depressing isn’t really enough, on its own, to make this feel like a story that needed to be told.

    The problem, then, isn’t that this is a terrible ALIEN sequel, or a misunderstood ALIEN sequel, it’s that it’s an obviously unnecessary sequel, a movie that just plain doesn’t have a real strong argument for its own existence. Say what you will about the goofy ALIEN VS PREDATOR, but at least that concept points in a new and previously unexplored direction (and one which doesn’t have to drag poor Ripley back and try to think of more for her to do). Same for PROMETHEUS, at least in theory — that movie at least wants to do something more with the concept than just have another Alien attack Ripley in another enclosed, bleakly industrial environment. Both of those kind of suck, but they feel a little more vital to me than this one does.

    PS: The Bishop at the end is 1000% a robot. But it’s a dumb concept anyway.

  63. I would push back a little bit against the idea that part 3 was just part of an attempt “to milk the franchise for more cash.” There were 6-7 years between the making of each of the first 4 movies – that strikes me as quite lengthy – and while one can interpret things many ways – I think that length of time could also indicate that people were certainly not interested in a quick cash grab – especially after the massive success of the first two movies – but might in fact have been interested in trying to make the best movie possible, regardless of the final results.

    Combined with the the 15 year wait for Prometheus – largely to accommodate Ridley Scott – that also indicates a willingness to wait for the availability of a great director rather than pumping out more ‘product’ from a hack, sort of like how the Predator movies have devolved interms of the quality of the filmmaker’s involved.

    While I will concede that things were a bit different 30 years ago movie business aside – compared to the machine like/soulless way that films/sequels/series etc. arrive with numbing regularity, things moved a bit slower back then, I guess the saying goes – I do not feel like ‘cash cow’ was/is the main/ or a main ingredient here.

    I mean – I am very interested in writer William Gibson – and believe me – you do not go to him, at anytime in his career – looking for some braindead/soulless product to suck in people to an artless summer product, and the fact that he was the first choice for a script indicates a real willingness to take a risk. The fact that Giler/Hill when that way as a first choice was pretty ballsy.

  64. Thomas, it was just another way of saying that people who were allowed to stay up on school nights knew Postletwaite, Dance, McGann, Brown, Webb, Glover, Mantle and Fairbank from film and television, and knew what kind of talent they brought with them. They could act.

  65. Pacman. My STAN comment was not a dig at you. I apologize if it came off that way. I just see the word all the time on AV Club comment threads and it’s strange to me.

  66. Alan – Also they were disappointed in Gibson’s script for being too normal! The above-quoted article says they expected something “all over the place,” but it was better written than they expected and “fast-paced” with “a plethora of thrilling battle sequences.” Unfortunately it was “not as inventive” as they wanted.

  67. Alan — I mean, I love Walter Hill and don’t want to imply I think he’s just an money-grubbing hack. Obviously they put a lot of effort into trying to think of a way to continue this series in a productive way. But then, ah, they never settled on one or didn’t find one they could make work, so they just did the rehash. Seems like they were never entirely satisfied with that decision, but maybe it was just too late to stop the moving train and they eventually just abandoned ship. Anyway, the end result is a movie which never seems to come up with a reason to exist.

  68. It feels like it was probably a MATRIX 4 situation: The studio was gonna make a third ALIEN movie one way or the other, so Hill et al. figured they might as well be the ones to get it done, despite not having a great idea about how to do it. I think the final product of ALIEN TO THE THIRD POWER makes a better case for its own existence than M4TRIX does; for better or worse, it makes an earnest attempt to put the story to bed and doesn’t just reboot the premise.

  69. Mr. M — That’s a good point; in just straight-up killing every remaining character in the series, ALIEN CUBE at least has the courage to say very definitively “This is it, this is the last one, we’re not gonna keep grinding these out every few years when we’re already out of ideas by the third one.” Didn’t take, of course, but I guess you have to respect the intended finality.

    I think the extremely prominent meta elements help M4TRIX seem like a trip worth taking, and overall like that movie’s good-natured, cheerful tone much more than ALIEN 3’s relentless grimness, but I can definitely see the comparison. And they seem to be somewhat equivalently divisive!

  70. I don’t think the studios kept holding out because they were trying to get the quality perfect…don’t discount reign changes and turnarounds. Like they were going to do that weird Vincent Ward story, got greenlit but the new boss came in and wanted to release it quicker, and HEN everyone started wondering if it was too weird of a script. So it died because of all those reasons, then back to the drawing board. Then have to redo deals and wait for Weaver to be free. If quality was a big thing, would we have had the Predator vs Alien movies? These can take longer because they’re not led by a specific vision…Back to the Futures can be done quicker because Zemeckis is going to lead the way and they’re gonna bang out a scrpt. But with an Alien, they have to find the next guy, do pitches, who do they trust, etc.

  71. So there has never been a crazy long gap waiting for a perfect new Alien movie with all the quality, because of the vs Predator series. You had generally a 5-6 year gap between each.

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