johnlink ranks ALIEN3 (1992)

I once saw ALIEN3 years ago, on VHS, rented from Major Video. Things that no longer exist: VHS and Major Video. Things that probably shouldn’t have existed: ALIEN3. But I’m revisiting the series and knew I would watch it again. When the special editions were created, David Fincher refused to come back and rework the film due to his poor experience. He did, however, give Fox his blessing to try and put together what they would call an ‘Assembly Cut’ which is substantially different than the theatrical version. It is longer, and major plot points are either different or given further explanation. While some of the special effects suffer, there would never be any reason to watch anything BUT the Assembly Cut of ALIEN3.


I watched ALIEN3 (1992) on 3.22.15. It was my second viewing of the film, first in probably twenty years, and first time watching the superior ‘Assembly Cut’.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) opens this movie upon the ship which she, Newt, and Hicks used to escape the end of ALIENS. Unfortunately, Newt and Hicks are killed off before we even get to see them, really. And, so, ALIEN3 starts with the difficult task of making us forget that it eliminated beloved characters without any dramatic closure. Never before, perhaps, had a sequel dug itself such a hole before the end of its opening credits.

But ALIEN3, directed by then unknown David Fincher, does try. The longer Assembly Cut shows us some religiously inclined prisoners working on a desolate planet which has little working technology and no weapons. This crew, led by its Superintendent (Brian Glover) has become a communal near-prison in which none hopes to escape, so there is no reason to rebel. These violent murderers and rapists are docile under the tutelage of lead prisoner Dillon (Charles S Dutton) and a prisoner-turned-doctor Clemens (Tywin Lannister). The introduction of Ripley – the first women these guys have seen in years – threatens their peaceful existence. But she doesn’t threaten their peaceful existence as much as the new species of Alien which has made it to the planet from Ripley’s ship.

The Assembly Cut runs nearly two and a half hours, and surprisingly little of it has the alien in it. While the first ALIEN film used this formula well, this post-ALIENS third installment feels like it needs a little more action. We know these prisoners have little hope of survival, so their story is somewhat less interesting than the marines from the second film. Fincher, working off a script under constant rewrites, did his best to craft a story filled with surprises. He doesn’t always succeed, though a couple of the deaths (and the non-deaths as it turns out) are true surprises which would be considered genre-busting if the film itself was less of a mess.

The movie tries to stick to the formula of the first two movies. While there is only a single xenomorph in the third film, the movie has a large collection of cannon fodder for it to snack on. We once again get a character who betrays the crew. We once again get a period of disbelief before the truth becomes deadly obvious. Once again, Ripley is in the position of not being respected or believed and having to earn the respect of the crew. In this third film she does it using her sexuality as well as her toughness. If the first two films explore the female as both feminine and heroic, this third film gives a more muddy picture. Ripley sleeps her way into the trust of the doctor and is suggested to be naked several times. This is offset by unflattering clothes and a shaved head. It’s as if the movie is struggling to establish that feminist icon and chooses all of the generic ways to try and get it back.

Weaver continues her string of strong performances, and both Charles Dance and Charles S Dutton provide solid additions to the ALIEN character train. The problem with ALIEN3 is that it feels very much like the derivative sequel it is, rather than being a transcendent sic-fi/action film of its own as its predecessor, ALIENS, was. The Assembly Cut goes a long way towards salvaging the movie, and it is watchable at least, but it doesn’t hold up to the first two at all.




FINAL SCORE: 5.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on March 23, 2015.

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