Alien3 – Rediscovering a Masterpiece

The Aliens franchise is one of the longer running and most interesting scifi properties out there. It spans 4 dedicated films, 2 spin-offs, 1 pseudo prequel, hundreds of comics, a plethora of games, books, toys and more! When I saw Aliens I became an instant fan and never let go. My fandom went so far that my college film thesis was even on Alien (and a little on Aliens).

Most fans of the franchise focus only on Alien (Ridley Scott) and Aliens (James Cameron) and discard Alien3 (David Fincher) and Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet). After reading a few articles and rewatching the movie again, I’ve found new excitement around Alien3 and think you might too!

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I recently learned that Alien3 had a director’s cut, called “The Assembly Cut”, available on the latest blu-ray discs and instantly picked them up on Black Friday. The making of Alien3 has as complex and sordid a past as some of the best films in Hollywood and is worth a read (ARTICLE: Alien3 – A Haunting Failure).

If you’re on the fence as to why Alien3 is worth another viewing, watch this video (ARTICLE: The Escapist : Video Galleries : Movie Defense Force : Alien 3). I was instantly convinced to rewatch and see if the”Assembly Cut” (plus the points raised in this quick video) changed my opinion of the movie.

The blu-ray has a great special feature that you can turn on that identifies (via a small icon in the lower right) which scenes or sequences are new. Although I have seen the movie many times I found this helpful as it insured that I paid attention to what was being said/done in those scenes.

After seeing the “Assembly Cut” I would say that it is the version to watch. It is longer and slower and definitely feels that way at times. Some of the scenes are awkward and out-of-place as we’ve come to think about films. Yet viewing it as a whole piece, the canvas that is painted via this version is much richer and brighter (perhaps with a few bad splotches here and there) than the previous version. It is also the type of big budget, big franchise type film that will probably not be made again in Hollywood for a long time. Everything about this film screams that it wouldn’t be made in today’s risk adverse, over-sexified, merchandise/tie-in/spin-off required industry. Despite its problems, I applaud Fox for taking the risks that it did to “kill” its main character and effectively its franchise at the same time.

There are a few scifi films that have attempted to keep the grit and reality of space and character development but most have not gone on to critical success – such as Sunshine and Pitch Black. Interestingly enough, David Twohy was on Alien3 and left and went on to make Pitch Black. Notice any similarities? I certainly do!

Upon rewatch I was reminded about another scifi trilogy that met with similar outcry as it relates to its ending – Mass Effect 3! How can franchises really carry on without their key lead characters?

Although Ripley is “reborn” in Alien:Resurrection, the Ripley that we knew and watched over three films already came to her heroic ending. The “Ripley” in Resurrection is an echo of a character we once knew and the decisions she makes are further perverted by her cloned nature and Alien/Human hybrid genetics to render her character growth as something completely separate from the first three films. The true Ripley character arc and eventual conclusion is in Alien3 – not in Alien:Resurrection. Knowing that the fourth, and final, installment is what it is, makes the ending of Alien3 and the Ripley story line even more bittersweet.

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Easily one of the most recognizable images from the franchise and within all of scifi!

A few other interesting articles and links…

ARTICLE: The Lost Tale of the Wooden Planet (The story of the Alien3 that almost came to be!)

ARTICLE: Alien 3 – Unrequited Vision Graphic Storyline (Storyboards from the Alien3 that almost game to be)

GAME: Aliens: Colonial Marines (Launching 2/12/13) (What looks to be one of the best games in the franchise comes out soon!)

On a final note, there is enough cannon material in the Alien vs. Predator film via the character of Charles Bishop Weyland (the original design for the robot “Bishop” and future founder of Weland-Yutani corporation) to give it a viewing. While not great it has some merit in the series as it keeps similar tone and suspense to other films. It is unfortunate that the characters were fairly stupid – a trend that happens in many of these stories. The original Dark Horse Comic series is amazing and worth a read to any dedicated fan!

The direct-sequel AVP: Requiem is terrible and only has a passing connection via the films epilogue sequence where a Predator gun is presented to one “Ms. Yutani”. Skip the whole movie and just believe that this somewhat pointless fan reference took place.

So, go and give Alien3 another viewing and make sure to wear your “Free Hugs” t-shirt when you do!

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