Overclocked On Caffeine v.1.1 2009-06-26 16:54:00

If there’s a single film out there that doesn’t deserve all of the hate it gets, it’s Alien 3. The film’s reputation precedes it to a highly unfair degree: ask anyone about it and there’s a It’s the poster child for executive meddling, with tales of lengthy reshoots, gaps in production (the entire film ground to a halt for over three months at one point) and more dogging it.

Following the events of the last film, Ripley awakes to find herself on a hellish all-male prison planet, the only survivor following the crash of her escape vessel. She believes at first that she’s lost everything, however it quickly becomes apparent that something else survived the crash.

Okay, lets get the obvious targets out the way: yes, it is complete bullshit that Hicks and Newt die in the first five minutes – off-camera, no less. This simple decision is what garners much of the hatred for the film, and rightly so. But, in the context of the film, it actually works. The idea is that the alien has taken everything from her in one way or another – her crewmates in the first, her daughter in the second, and in the third, her replacement family, Hicks, Newt and Bishop. She basically says as much in the film. This is supposed to be a tragedy, a complete 180 from battle-hardened Ripley, breaking in to alien-infested hives with a pulse rifle and flamethrower.

The cast all look the same? Yes, but that’s intentional. They’re on a prison planet. A highly religious one at that. That alone should clue you in to the themes of rebirth and sacrifice alone. But even beyond that, the idea is that the shaved heads are supposed to de-humanise the characters, further emphasising Ripley’s crusade against the xenomorphs. By the end, her single-minded extermination of the species isn’t too far removed from the Queen’s hatred for her in the last movie. Whether it’s intentional or not is up for debate, but it’s a nice counterpoint. As for the cast being utterly unlikeable, again, that’s kind of the point. Nice people don’t get sent to maximum security hellworlds (usually), and while they may not be as likeable, it’s perfectly arguable they were able to handle the Alien a whole lot better than the marines in the last film: nice bunch, but the Keystone Kops could’ve put up a better fight.

The film itself is a mess? Ah, now that’s a more difficult one. Practically from Day One, David Fincher seemed to be director in name only. He was inundated with executive orders, demands and missives. At one point, he was due to direct one of the key scenes of the film, only to be told he was not, under any circumstances, to film it in any way. Upon hearing this, he grabbed Weaver and a hand-held camera and shot it before anyone could stop him. That’s the kind of backstage fuckery he was encountering on a daily basis. By the end of shooting, he was so disgusted by the whole thing, he asked to have his name removed from the production, and has refused to comment on it ever since. All things considered, it’s a miracle the movie has any coherence at all.

The Assembly Print (as opposed to a Director’s Cut, due to the director basically telling Fox to fuck off) adds a lot back in to the finished product. Rather than the Alien being birthed from a dog, it comes, as originally intended, from an ox, making the creature’s comparative lack of intelligence far more understandable, oxen being possessed of considerably less animal cunning than a dog. Of the other added scenes, the two most important ones are right at the end: in the original cut, Ripley is told she could have the Queen implanted in herself removed, giving her back the life she always wanted. There’s a short pause before she continues on her course of action. In the AP, this pause is much, much longer. she actually seems like considering it, before continuing, making the moment much more ambiguous: the Last Temptation of Ripley. Pretty apt considering how she falls at the end. The other is at the very end, with Ripley’s closing report from the end of the original film being played over scenes of the prison being shut down. It adds a nice bookend to the trilogy, and adds a sense of finality and melancholy to the end. It’s a shame that the one change that didn’t need to be made was the removal of the moment of the Queen’s birth, as Ripley’s triumphant smile in the original was arguably one of the better moments of the film.

When you consider what the film could have been with the Assembly Print, and all that went wrong with it, it’s hard to be so critical of the original. If anything, it’s difficult to not be more sympathetic towards it. Alien 3 was, in part, trashed because it was a bastardised version of what it could’ve been, but also because it wasn’t a sequel to Aliens. People were expecting more gung-ho marines vs. xenomorphs, and when the film failed to deliver, they hated it. It was an attempt to return to the pacing and tension of the original, but events conspired against it. It’s not a bad film, and the Assembly Cut goes a long way to restoring much of what could, and most likely should have been. Even for all that went wrong with it, it’s still worth a revaluation. After all, it could easily have been worse.

Next Time: It Gets Worse

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