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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Thriller > Alien 3 (1992/Expanded Work Cut/Fox DVD-Video Set)

Alien 3 (from the ALIEN QUADRILOGY)

 

Disc One:   Picture: B     Sound: B+     Extras: C+     Film: B+

Disc Two:   Picture: B-    Sound: B-     Content: B

 

 

After directing a notable set of Music Videos, David Fincher made his feature film directing debut with Alien 3 (1992), the film that was to be the end of the Alien franchise.  The film opens with drastic events that still shock audiences that have seen the previous films.  However, Fincher had major clashes with the studio and his cut of the film was whittled down so much, that Fincher washed his hands of the film since the theatrical release ran its course.

 

Where the previous DVD of the film offered only the theatrical cut of the film, this new DVD tries to do a reconstruction of the version Fincher was trying to make, though absolutely lacking his participation on any level.  Unlike the version we have had for over ten years, which seemed too short and even over-snipped in places, the longer version is much better, smoother and more well-rounded.  Now, it only feels a couple of minutes too long, but is still not Fincher’s cut either way.  It does offer Fincherisms that show it was his work and runs 30 minutes longer.

 

This time, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has her hypersleep unit jettisoned, when she lands up on a nearby planet that turns out to be housing dangerous prisoners and tons of junk.  It also turns out one of her companions was yet another one of the nearly indestructible title creatures.  The prisoners have found “religion”, which they will need, since even the prison-keeps have no weapons or guns.  The alternate is just surviving, but how to deal with the creature.  What could have been a disaster in most cases turns out to be a most worthy third act, with Ripley waking up from one nightmare, only to be in a distinctly new one.

 

One complaint was the lack of character development of the cast, all British male actors, but there is more of it in the longer cut, which helps immensely.  Particularly good is Charles Dance as the kind doctor Clemens who saves Ripley from being left for dead, unseen in the same junk area her EEV unit landed.  His only previous work in the genre was his work on the British TV series Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected in the late 1970s, though he soon after showed up in one of the best of all James Bond films as a “baddie” in For Your Eyes Only (1981).  There are also many good comic turns that do not become cartoons among the rest of the cast, which is not easy.  Charles S. Dutton transforms into Dillon, the head of the “converts” and de facto leader among the prisoners either way.  He generates a ton of energy for the constantly angry, radical, intense, beyond disgusted man, who knows how bad his life and things in general are though his well-spokenness.  It also makes for an interesting contrast as far as strong African-American male characters are in films, with George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead (1968) in mind, and certainly as compared to Yaphet Kotto in the first Alien.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is of the solid Panavision camerawork.  The longer version is, much like Anchor Bay’s recently reconstructed version of Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986), laced with substandard footage that should have never been cut in the first place.  With that said, the best footage looks about as good as that of the previous DVD and is only rivaled by (again) the first Alien for picture fidelity.  The cinematography by Alex Thomson, B.S.C., is exceptional, and was begun by the late, great Jordan Cronenweth, B.S.C. in the first week or so.  Though he became sadly ill, the cameraman behind Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Phil Joanou’s impressive State of Grace (1990), and that feel haunts the film.  Thomson is also superior and one of the few British lighting cameramen who could have taken over.  His remarkable work includes John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), Nicolas Roeg’s Eureka (completed 1983), Michael Cimino’s near-classic and much imitated Year of the Dragon, Ridley Scott’s Legend (both 1985), Peter Medak’s The Krays (1990), and Kenneth Branagh’s 70mm production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1996).  These films contain remarkable amounts of unforgettable, distinctive shots and images that are some of the best and most influential of the last few generations.  The Lord of the Rings films would be unthinkable without his work, and he is the greatest hero of Alien 3 behind the scenes, even ahead of Fincher.  That says something.

 

The only 5.1 mix here is, sadly, Dolby only.  Once, the shorter version was scheduled for a basic DTS LaserDisc edition, before the sudden upsurge of DVD cancelled that release.  Alien 3 also happens to be the last major multi-channel magnetic 70mm Stereo Dolby release before Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3 was introduced the same summer with Tim Burton’s Batman Returns.  That was a 4.1 Dolby magnetic SR mix, which was first available as 5.1 on the previous DVD.  The only LaserDisc of the film did not have any 5.1 mix at all.  The legacy of that great analog process, first used on Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987), had a glorious five-year run even after the debut and collapse of Cinema Digital Sound (CDS).  That system was used on a few films like Dick Tracy and Terminator 2 before the system failed to catch on and Fox did not option it for Alien 3.  This also sounds like the same 5.1 mix from the last DVD where only the shorter cut existed.  That includes an annoying problem with the music at the beginning of the film which was not a problem in theatrical playback or even on the PCM CD Stereo surround 12” LaserDisc.  It is just when the EEV unit flies by the Fiorina 161 prison colony planet.  There is a peak of the music by Elliott Goldenthal before the planet is identified.  The Dolby mix simply does not capture all the music in full, because it is too lossy.  That is why no DTS here is a great disappointment and we are skeptical that a newer Dolby mix that might possibly fix the problem, but unless there is a D-VHS release, it is going to be a while.

 

As far as extras go, Disc One also offers a brand new commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thompson, Editor Terry Rawlings, VFX Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, and actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen

 

Disc Two offers 11 new featurettes, including:

1)     Development -­ Concluding the story

2)     Tales Of The Wooden Planet - Vincent Ward’s original vision for the film

3)     Pre-Production III - The making of Alien 3

4)     Xeno-Erotic - H.R. Giger’s redesign of the Alien creature

5)     Production: Part One,

6)     Part Two, and

7)     Part Three

8)     Behind-the-scenes on the production of the movie

9)     Adaptive Organism -­ Creature design

10)  Optical Fury - Visual effects

11)  Music, Editing & Sound and

12)  Post-Mortem – A reaction to the film


plus E.E.V. Bio-Scan ­- A multi-angle vignette with optional commentary by Alex Gillis
The Art of Alien 3 with conceptual art portfolio, production gallery & visual effects
… Furnace construction time lapse and storyboard archives

 

The programs manage to cover every major point but two: 1) Fincher made Fox (and likely Rupert Murdoch in particular) uncomfortable with the religious themes, which become more trivial (like many other things) in Alien Resurrection and 2) that despite the chaotic circumstances in which Fincher arrived, he pulled off a decent film, especially in that long workprint cut.  The absence of Fincher’s participation can be felt throughout, while the archival footage of him at work is the best thing here.

 

When Aliens came out, the film was noted as a feminist triumph of Weaver’s Ripley character, but Alien 3 takes this farther with issues of who owns reproduction and it is an issue beyond the Abortion debate.  It has to do with how much the individual controls their life and on what levels, plus the constant issue of empowerment, which gets challenged in this particular film more thoroughly than expected.  Now, when people take the time to watch the film, they see how good it really is.  With the longer version now here for the first time, the film will finally get the kind of respect it should have had in the first place.

 

This set of Alien 3 is available as a double DVD set or as part of the nine DVD Alien Quadrilogy that includes all four films and a bonus DVD.  The reviews for those segments are available at the links that follow their names below:

 

 

Alien

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=670

 

Aliens

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=671

 

Alien Resurrection

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=673

 

Alien Quadrilogy (Bonus DVD)

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review.php?id=674

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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