THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
written by Dominick Cappello
(DISCLAIMER: I reviewed this film a couple years ago, but the article was edited by someone else, so I wanted to revisit the film and say what I have to say without a it being filtering through anyone else.)
Alien – “In space no one can hear you scream”
Aliens – “This time it’s war”
Alien 3 – ???
That about sums it up. This film had no tag line because no one knew what it was. Unless you want to count the teaser trailer that said “One Earth everyone will hear you scream” which was bull because it doesn’t take place on Earth. Pre-production on “Alien 3” was what is known as development hell. Screenwriter William Gibson wrote a story with Hicks, Michael Biehn’s character from “Aliens”, as the protagonist because it was uncertain if Sigourney Weaver would return as Ripley. It would have been a Cold War allegory with rival political factions experimenting with xenomorph DNA. Renny Harlin was attached to directed at some point in the process.
Screenwriter Vincent Ward then wrote a story where Ripley crash lands on a “wooden planet,” which was a monastery in space operated by monks. Ripley dies at the end of his story, so some of Vincent Ward’s ideas were incorporated into the finished product. Unfortunately, studio bigwigs hated the idea of the wooden planet. They demanded that it be Alcatraz in space. They were determined to have Ripley fighting the xenomorph at a penal colony. So, the compromise would a be penal colony with no weapons where the convicts have taken a vow of celibacy and adopted some form of religion. A compromise which satisfied no one.
David Fincher was brought on board to direct. He went on to make great films like “Seven” and “Fight Club,” but this was his feature film debut and the studio jerked him around. Also, the script was constantly being rewritten. Visually, it’s an impressive film, but it’s not scary like “Alien” and it’s not exciting like “Aliens”. Before you chastise me, I know “Alien 3” has its fans, and I admit it’s not as bad as people were saying it was for years, but now I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Just because the assembly cut shows how much better it could have been had the studio not interfered and allowed David Fincher to do his job, doesn’t really qualify “Alien 3” as some hidden gem. Yes, it’s underrated, but it’s no masterpiece either.
An electrical fire breaks out aboard the USS Sulaco because of a face-hugger’s acid blood. How exactly did the Alien Queen have a chance to hide an egg aboard the Sulaco? Beats me because it’s never explained. The escape pod crash lands at Fury 161, a penal colony which conveniently happens to be under Weyland-Yutani’s jurisdiction. Ripley was the only survivor of the crash. Remember that the next time you watch “Aliens” and Ripley battles the Queen in a power loader to save Newt. Newt died anyway. She drowned in her cryo-tube. Drowning? What a horrible way to kill such an innocent character. Hicks didn’t fare any better. He was decapitated by his own safety harness. Bishop was smashed to bits, but at least we’ll see him later in the film. On the DVD audio commentary for “Aliens”, James Cameron called the decision to unceremoniously kill these characters a slap in the face to the fans of his film.
Ripley befriends Clemens, the facility’s doctor. Andrews, the warden, doesn’t like having Ripley around because she’ll be a temptation for the convicts. A face-hugger attaches itself to a Rottweiler in the theatrical cut. In the assembly cut, it lays its embryo inside a dead ox. The problem with the dead ox is that I believe the embryo needs to gestate inside a living host. Also, the assembly cut features a super face-hugger (for about a second). A face-hugger which carries an embryo for an Alien Queen, but it’s not a Queen that bursts from the dead ox. It’s a xenomorph, similar to what we’ve seen in the previous films, only it’s a quadruped because it gestated inside an animal and not a human. Spoiler Alert: The Alien Queen embryo is inside Ripley, so why would the super face-hugger be by the side of the dead ox? Part of the backstory was that the face-hugger attached itself to Newt. After she drowned, the chest-burster crawled inside Ripley because it needed to finish gestating inside a living host. See what I mean about the dead ox not making sense? Everyone raves about the assembly cut, but it has its flaws because it’s not a true director’s cut, it’s strung together deleted and or alternate scenes. David Fincher has disowned this film and wanted nothing to do with the special edition DVD.
Dillon is the spiritual leader of the convicts. He’s also the only one with any characterization in the theatrical cut. The assembly cut gets points for fleshing out the other convicts and making them characters we care about. In the theatrical cut, they’re just a bunch of bald guys with British accents whose names we barely know. The xenomorph bursts from the dog during the funeral for Hicks and Newt. The theatrical cut is better than the assembly cut in this instance because we have more sympathy for a dog than a dead ox. After having sex with Clemens, Ripley goes rummaging through the garbage looking for Bishop. She nearly gets raped by three of the convicts, but is saved by Dillon. This is the problem with killing Hicks and Newt because now we’re left with these rapists and we don’t really give a shit about them. Bishop tells Ripley about the xenomorph and that the company knows of its existence.
The xenomorph kills Clemens (Charles Dance’s second best death scene after Tyrion shooting him with a crossbow in the privy), but it spares Ripley because she’s carrying an embryo inside her. It kills Andrews next, which leaves Aaron in charge. The convicts call him “85” because that’s his IQ. No one wants to take orders from an idiot, so they turn to Ripley for leadership. They set a trap for the xenomorph, but it starts a fire and an indeterminate number of convicts are killed. The assembly cut is far better because they actually trap the xenomorph! And it’s the leader of the three men who tried to rape Ripley who sacrifices himself to lure it into the trap! He redeemed himself! There’s no redemption in the theatrical cut! Why did they cut this scene out!? Making matters worse, the Golic character, who’s prominent in the assembly cut and just disappears from the theatrical cut, has a strange affinity for the xenomorph. He’s as nutty as a squirrel and he releases the xenomorph so it can keep killing people! Wow! What a horrible mistake it was to leave these scenes on the cutting room floor! They made the characters more interesting and made the film more exciting!
Ripley learns of the Queen inside her and asks Dillon to kill her. Dillon makes a deal to kill her only after she helps them kill the xenomorph. The final chase scene is really confusing, especially in the theatrical cut because we don’t who these characters are or where they are going. It’s just a bunch of bald guys with British accents whose names we barely know running in circles. Dillon sacrifices himself so the xenomorph can be doused with molten lead, but that doesn’t kill it. Ripley turns the sprinklers on and it explodes. Wait, what, why did it explode? Cooling lead explodes?
The Weyland-Yutani rescue team arrives led by Lance Henriksen as Bishop II. He claims to be the creator of the Bishop android and someone Ripley can trust. The theatrical cut leaves his true identity ambiguous whereas the assembly cut makes it clear he’s human. So, who the hell was Charles Bishop Weyland from “Alien vs. Predator”? If Bishop II is human, is he a descendent of Charles Bishop Weyland? I’m sure there’s plenty of fan fiction, but I’ll just assume the people who made “Alien vs. Predator” never saw the assembly cut of “Alien 3” and were under the impression that Bishop II was an android trying to fool Ripley. Either way, Ripley isn’t buying what he’s selling and commits suicide by falling backwards into the furnace. In the assembly cut, she simply falls, but the chest-burster emerges in the theatrical cut. I think it was best to show the chest-burster because it illustrates how important her sacrifice is.
I already referenced James Cameron’s audio commentary for “Aliens”. On it, he says that Sigourney Weaver had her own ideas for the franchise. Being a pacifist, she wanted not to shoot guns, she wanted to make love to the alien, and she wanted to die. Well, in “Alien 3”, she didn’t shoot guns and she died, but she had to wait for the fourth film to make love to the alien. Stay tuned?
– Dr. Rochester