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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Alien 3

Fishing in the Discount Bin once again, where I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  Way back, last January, I picked up the Alien franchise from a discount bin, and I've been re-establishing my nerd cred by watching them.  Today, we get to the third in the franchise, Alien3.  This was originally watched and blogged about on January 25, 2014.

Continuing the journey through the Alien franchise, we now get to the third one, appropriately titled Alien3.  From here, we go from the good into the not-so-good, according to the die hard fans of the series.  And really, who could blame them?  The first two had become so iconic in sci-fi circles, that the two of them together made for one tough act to follow.  Plus, you have the trilogy curse, where the third film in any trilogy tends to be the weakest.  But, even though the odds were stacked against it, there's still hope for Alien3

As I said in the earlier entries, the Alien films seem to have a knack for getting a super-talented director early in their career.  The first one, we got Ridley Scott.  The second one, we got James Cameron.  And for the third one, we got David Fincher.  Alien3 was Fincher's first theatrical film, coming fresh off a very successful career directing music videos.  After Alien3, Fincher went on to give us such modern day classics as Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the film that won him the Best Director Oscar, The Social Network.  So with such a talented guy behind the helm, Alien3 was sure to be awesome, right?


When it comes to the production of summer blockbusters, Alien3 is one of the most well-documented clusterfucks in recent history.  The movie studio just could not stop jerking around with it.  Constant re-writes to the script, changes almost daily, the producers kept more than a close eye on rookie director Fincher, pretty much micro-managing the production.  If the Internet Movie Database can be believed, $7 million was wasted building sets that were never used.  Because of all the changes and interfering with his vision, Fincher barely acknowledges the film on his resume these days.  When they put together the super-special editions for DVD back in 2003 (the same ones that you'll find on the Blu-Ray), the studio asked Fincher to put together a director's cut, record a running commentary and fun stuff like that, and Fincher responded with a hearty, "Go to hell."  So the director's cut you'll find on the DVD and Blu-Ray is referred to as "The Assembly Cut," an earlier rough edit, with some tweaks based on Fincher's notes they found in the studio archive. 

For the record, I watched the original theatrical version. 

I remember when it came out in May of 1992.  As I've already mentioned, I watched the first two when my friend Travis loaned them to me.  I can't remember if Travis loaned them to me before or after Alien3 came out.  I remember in June my Grade 9 class had its class trip to Banff, and when we had our free time to wander the streets of the town, I saw it was playing in the Banff movie theatre and suggested to Travis we go see it.  (We didn't.)  I also remember being deeply offended that Marc Horton, the film critic for the Edmonton Journal, gave it a negative review.  And my knowledge of the Alien franchise was next to nothing at that time!  Why did I get so offended?  I have no idea. 

I didn't get to see it until 8 years later or so, when I decided I should watch all the Alien movies to maintain my geek cred, and rented all 4 and watched them in a marathon sitting.  At that time, I had read up on the Alien films online, and I was aware that it was Fincher's first film.  So I watched it that first time kind of looking for echo's of Fincher's style.  And you can still see a few signs of Fincher's hand, despite all the studio interference.  The funeral scene for Hicks and Newt always struck me as being very Fincheresque. 

I also remember that's one thing the fans hated.  Hicks and Newt, the two survivors of the previous film, and much beloved characters, and they were unceremoniously killed off between films.  Michael Biehn, who played Hicks, was apparently pretty pissed, too.  According to legend, he asked for -- and received -- an amount of money equivalent to his entire salary for Aliens, just so they could show his picture in one scene in Alien3.

So, following Aliens, our heroes are on their way home.  But darn it, that sneaky Alien Queen managed to lay an egg on the ship before Ripley blew it out the airlock.  The egg hatched, and the facehugger started wrecking shit on the ship, leading our heroes to be ejected in a lifepod.  They land upon the planet Fury 161, where the Company maintains a penal colony.  There's 25 inmates and crew, and they compose a skeleton crew to look after the colony's foundry.  Most of these inmates found God, and so the penal colony is almost a pseudo-monastery.  Ripley is the only survivor, and seeing burns from the facehugger's acid blood in the escape pod, she's afraid that something survived along with her.  Lo and behold, something did, and soon the colony is being plagued by a new Alien.  With no outside support and no weapons, Ripley has to rally the inmates to destroy the Alien and finally eradicate this species once and for all. 

Watching it again this afternoon, all I can say is it's not that bad.  There is quite a bit of good stuff in here.  Ripley develops a relationship with Clemmens, the colony's doctor, and we see it's the first time in a long time she allows herself to love again.  It's very tender stuff.  The other 2 administrators of the colony are company men through-and-through, who seek to wait for the Company's orders, but as we know, the Company wants the alien for its own nefarious purposes, so Ripley really doesn't want to sit and wait for help. 

Which leads to the film's climax.  Spoiler-warning for a 22 year old film:  turns out, while in stasis, that facehugger did manage to plant another Alien in Ripley.  Not just any alien, but a Queen Alien.  The discovery of this leads Ripley to get suicidal for a point, but the other inmates say they won't let her die until she helps them kill the Alien.  At the end of the film, after the Alien is destroyed and the Company men show up to claim the Queen Alien from Ripley, Ripley refuses to let them have it.  So, since this penal colony is a metal foundry and they killed the Alien by drowning it in molten metal, Ripley decides to make the ultimate sacrifice, dives into the furnaces, killing herself and the baby Queen inside her.  I remember a lot of folks at the time, my friend Travis included, got all grumpy that it ripped off the end of Terminator II

But I'm running out of things to type, so that's pretty much my final though.  Alien3 isn't that bad.

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