Notes on Alien 3

As soon as the opening credits run, I remember I had been told of the existence of an unused Alien 3 script that focuses on Newt, presumably with Ripley dead.  I checked with Uncle Wiki about this, and he didn’t mention it.  He did, however, recall a few other scripts, with elements  not present in the finished product.  Sci-fi author William Gibson had written one involving aliens that emit an airborne virus, which turns humans into aliens.  That sounds guff.  Given how bad the Alien 3 CGI was, I dread to think how a human’s transformation into an alien would look.  It does have Hicks survive, who investigates if Weyland-Yutani are developing aliens as weaponry.  Which, of course, they are.

Eric Red’s script also used the alien virus idea.  He made it sound even worse though, if Wiki is to be believed.  The virus would also infect animals.  Alien chickens.  Seriously.  I’m embarrassed enough just typing it here.  How you going to hand in a script with alien chickens in it?  The virus could also affect inanimate objects too, resulting in a space station becoming an alien.  The very thought of it makes me spew enough bile to fill the Sulaco.

David Twohy’s version sounds much more promising.  In a prison, executions are faked so the prisoners can be used in illegal experiments with aliens.  Criminals as alien bait, suffering horrible deaths?  Sold.  There are various forms of aliens, “Rogue Alien, Spike Alien, Alien chameleon, etc”.  That doesn’t appeal, too much like Gremlins 2 for my liking (a rare franchise comparison).  Then there could be an alien to fit any type of problem.  “How did they unlock the door?”, “One of them must be shaped like a key”, “Ah, the keyhole alien, I forgot about that”.

Vincent Ward’s ‘wooden planet’ script is well respected, and the one I’m currently reading, though I haven’t got far.  There are a lot of religious elements, which presumably were either used in some way in the filmed script.  Ripley lands on a planet of wood, which was built as a monastery.  They see Ripley (providing their own wood), and think she is part of a test of their faith.  They believe that the alien she brought is the devil.  Sounds promising.

When you hear about an unused script for a film, that’s generally because the final product is a disappointment.  Alien 3 is far from a  bad film, but it’s ultimately a bit of a let-down.  Undeserving of the criticism it received upon release, it still smacks of unfulfilled promise.  Compared to the Alien vs Predator films, Alien 3 can look like a masterpiece.  But with the well-publicised studio interference with director David Fincher’s vision, I can’t help but wonder, what could’ve been?  Anyway, onto what actually made to screen.  Small screen, in this case, as I’m watching the extended edition.

Right from the get-go, Alien 3 is impressive.  Shots of lonely, empty expanses of space are inter-cut with monitor shots of the crashed pod, including one of a body with a chestburster inside.

The alien universe would be so much fun to write about.  There must be a huge amount of fan fiction around.  The ships, vehicles, and weapons are all iconic, without even mentioning the aliens themselves.

The pod had crashed on a planet called Fury 161.  That’s quite high up on my list of cool names.

161 is a horrible place.  High winds, cold, and barren.  Ripley is found on a beach, covered in maggots.  Prisoners approach, holding the harnesses of oxen, barely able to stand in the wind.  Film franchises like the Chronicles of Riddick could learn from this.  As cruel as the places that Riddick was in were supposed to be, none of them could match Alien films.

Speaking of bleakness, the Ripley timeline is remarkably cheery.  All the crew of her ship are murdered.  She escapes and makes it home, but takes so long to get there that her daughter is dead by the time she arrives.  Tormented by dreams of the aliens, she joins the Marines who promise to kill them.  They die instead.  The only survivors outside of Ripley are a Marine; and a little girl she managed to save, who she sees as a replacement for her daughter.  Now they’re both dead too.  She’s trapped on a planet full of murderers and rapists, with an alien and no weapons.  Oh yeah, and even if she kills it, there’s another alien inside her, so she’ll die soon anyway, giving birth to the one thing she hates.  Of course, all this horror pales in comparison to her having to star in the awful Alien Resurrection.

Alien 3 is distinctly English.  Watching it again, it didn’t seem as overpowering.  Then Brian Glover turned up.  Glover is English enough for seven people and three bulldogs.

In all the unused Alien 3 scripts, there wasn’t one in which an alien landed in a monastery, and was adopted and raised by monks, as a monk.  That script does not exist.  But if I get some free time tonight, it will.

Every room in the prison is grim and depressing.  The set designs are top notch.

Glover, the man in charge, instructs Dr Clemens to confine Ripley to the infirmary.  Her confinement lasts about five minutes.

There are burns in the crashed pod, leading Ripley to believe that Newt might’ve been facehuggered.  The burn would mean that the alien on board had bled.  The ‘hugger (awww, cute) turns up dead later, but only after impregnating an ox, so we’ll never know about the bleeding.  If the alien cut itself just to try and get to Newt’s face, well, that’s gangster.

In the theatrical edition, the alien is borne of a dog, not an ox.  I don’t know why this was changed.  If I remember correctly, the alien takes on characteristics of the dog.  Good thing it was an dog and not Hulk Hogan, then the prisoners would be in a whole mess of trouble,

Again, the bleakness.  A doctor is opening the chest of a dead ten year-old girl with a scalpel and a curved saw.  Cheery.

If there was an alien in Newt’s chest, and it was still alive, what would Ripley and Clemons do?  They’re unarmed and unprepared, they’d just be giving it an easy way out, literally.

There’s no explanation as to why the prisoners are almost all English.  Maybe it’s because they fit in well in a dingy and horrible environment.  Maybe the producers watched too many Ken Loach films.  Maybe the prisoners were all customers of The Slaughtered Lamb, arrested for not helping David and Jack in An American Werewolf in London.  That would explain Brian Glover’s appearance.

There’s a nice scene where the bodies of Hicks and Newt are being cremated, inter-cut with shots of the alien emerging from the ox.  Death and birth, circle of life, etc etc.

I’m really, really stupid sometimes.  As the alien bursts it way out of the ox and into life, Ripley gets a nosebleed, a sign of a link with the beast.  I think “Ooh, there’s some sort of bond”, forgetting that I’ve seen this before and know Ripley has one in her belly.

The CGI on the alien birth is poor.  The alien actually looks kind of cute, like the sort of alien you would let a baby play with.

There’s something about religious/biblical overtones that just works with the Alien universe.  I’m not sure exactly why.

This alien is even more stealthy than previous incarnations.  It kills and moves on.  When it kills Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), there’s a group of terrified, meaty humans, mere feet away. Yet it leaves.  It’s like a Predator, killing and moving on, enjoying the fear, feasting on the tension.

Ripley is the Angela Lansbury of sci-fi.  You see her coming, run, death isn’t far behind.

Shortly after he and Ripley make sweet love down by the fire, Clemons is happy to let Ripley wander off on her own to find Bishop’s remains.  Now that he’s had his end away, he cares no longer.  Clemons is a pimp.

Time for one of my favourite scenes, “the candle scene” .  I was sure that it was much earlier in the film, but its 50 minutes into this version.  Watching it again, it’s handled well enough, but isn’t great.  Golic, the crazy guy, has already been introduced, but this scene makes him much more important.  Having a crazy guy in your story must be a luxury, because most of the things you can make him do won’t seem out of character.  Want a character to sing to a doorknob?  Sorted.  Hump a streetlight? done.

Ripley finds Bishop on a rubbish heap.  Bringing him back, she’s attacked by a gang of prisoners who try to rape her.  More happiness.  This looks like an action scene from a different film.  It sounds like it too, with it’s metal score.  I don’t know if this was due to studio interference, but it’s jarring how different it is from previous scenes.

Ripley boots up Bishop.  He looks a bit rough.  He requests that Ripley finish him off, as he’ll “never be top of the line again”.  Bishop, vain ‘til the end.

Golic now reveres the alien, calling it “the dragon”.  I like this.  It fuels images of ancient cultures seeing the aliens as deities.

An hour in, and Ripley is showing the first symptoms of being ill.  She recovered quite well after the crash, finding out her two co-passengers were dead, discovering that she brought an alien to this planet, and nearly getting raped.  The only evidence that she wasn’t at full health was that her eye was bloodshot after the landing.  She’s made of hearty stuff.  But something is wrong with her.  Wonder what that could be?

Golic starts gibbering.  One of the things he says is “A sane man must appear insane”.  Because I am dedicated to all of my 0 readers, I look for a source for this quote.  Google doesn’t get me a definitive answer.  So it was possibly said by Spock, written by Kurt Vonnegut, or taken from a psychiatry paper.  There you go.

Earlier, Clemons was threatened by Glover’s character, saying that Ripley would be told the awful truth about what crime Clemons’ committed.  We hear that he gave patients too much medicine, which killed them, after working a 36 hour shift and getting drunk afterwards.  That doesn’t seem too bad, in a place full of rapists and murderers.

But now Clemons is deader than Elvis.  The alien appeared in the infirmary, killed him, sparing Ripley and Golic.  The alien took a sniff of Ripley, then left her unharmed.  They can smell their own you know.  I can’t understand why Golic was spared, unless the alien knows that he worships it, and likes having its ego stroked.  The CGI is again awful.

Now Glover is dead, which gives a brief respite from this seeming like Coronation St in space.

The prisoners finally get their shit together, and hatch a plan to capture the alien. After Glover’s death, there’s a nice moment where someone mops up his blood, cautiously peering up into the hole in the roof that he was dragged through.  However, now that they’re all preparing to capture the alien, they seem unconcerned that it might reappear.  It’s like they know it works shifts, so they can get stuck in just now without fear of double-jawed death.  “Nah, Zeno isn’t on until 6 tonight, I’ll get this trap set up no probs”.

Ripley’s sickness kicks in again.  I don’t know if there’s a lack of subtlety now or if I just notice it more because I’ve seen the film before.

Another prisoner dies by the alien’s hands.  And that’s actually how it does look.  This is the second one to die where it looks like the alien is choking them.  It may be the practical aspect of the this scene, where the guy dies at the top of a ladder, and the person in the alien suit has to hold him up.  I don’t like it, it looks too human.

I don’t know the details of how the studio interfered with Fincher’s plans.  I mention it because now, with the flames and the herding of the alien, this all seems much less Fincher than the rest of the film.

A poor scene about Golic’s release.  Essentially:
“Let me out”
“No way, you’re crazy”
“But they’ve caught the thing now.  And remember I used to give you cigarettes”
“Oh yeah, okay then”
The guard frees Golic, then turns his back and is soon rewarded with unconsciousness.  Golic  then goes to where the alien is being kept.  One man guards the entrance.  Just one.  Golic slashes the dude’s throat and lets the beast out.  It finally doesn’t spare him, and escapes.

Ripley finally finds out that there’s a chestburster in her.  She asks Dillon to kill her.  Some lovely visual work here.  Unusually, Ripley is framed dead centre of the shot.  She talks to Dillion, but it’s like she’s talking to us, pleading with us to end her suffering.  I just smiled and ate my crisps.

As the tension levels rise, the film becomes more and more English.  Both “arse” and “wankah” are used.

More poor CGI as the alien gets stuck into more prisoners.  Soon there will be lots of shots from the point-of-view of the alien.  As well as this being immensely cool, with us becoming it as it sprints through corridors and climbs walls, in pursuit of meat, it’ll also lessen the CGI shots.  Win, bloody win.

Something, and I don’t know what, got sucked out of the film when it got to the major action scenes.  The dread, the tension, the uneasiness of it all was sapped, and doesn’t seem to be returning.

With 15 minutes left, I realise I must be even more stupid than I previously considered.  Pete Postlethwaite is chased down a corridor by an alien.  I hadn’t even noticed him before.  Or I saw him, accepted it was him, then almost instantly forgot all about him.  Damn my memory.

I am liking the Ikea-style weaponry.  A kitchen knife and scissors to defend against a biological killing machine.  The Battle Royale people would be proud.

The Weyland-Yutani medivac team begin their landing.  Shot of the ship.  Another one, a little bit closer this time.  Finally walking into the prison.  Slowly.  The Weyland-Yutani people have the sense of urgency of a sloth and the pace of that falling van in Inception.

I’m desensitised to aliens now.  One doesn’t really do it for me anymore, at least not in this context.  Give me a bunch of ‘em, then we’ll talk.

The problem with the alien POV shots – the alien is far too fast for the prisoners.  So we either start really far away from them, which then doesn’t look much like chase; or the shots have to be really short.  Or you can cheat a little, as happens her, and have the alien slow down for effect.  Maybe it’s enjoying the chase, again like a Predator would.

The furnace scene drags on for far too long.  But at least the alien is in there now, burning to death in lead.  Well, until it leaps out, giving us more bad effects.  I can’t help but think of the end of Terminator 2, the alien giving a thumb-up.  Ripley puts the sprinklers on, and the cold water on hot lead causes the alien to explode.

Finally, the medivac team arrive.  Their soldiers look really cool, similar to the Combine in Half-Life 2.  Lance Henriksen is finally shown, claiming that he’s the man who designed Bishop in his own image.  He’s revealed to be a robot.  At least that’s what I took from him having his ear mostly lamped  off, there being almost no blood, him seemingly feeling no pain.   There’s no mention of him actually being Weyland, despite what the Alien vs Predator films do with the character.

Ripley understands that WY want the alien currently gestating inside her.  She moves onto a platform, about to kill herself.  I would expect the soldiers to have some sort of tranquiliser darts, if they want her alive, or at least wound her to stop her moving.

Weyland/Bishop lets out a Vaderian “Nooooo” as Ripley falls into the fire.  In this version, the chestburster doesn’t pop up as she falls, like in the theatrical edition.  I prefer this one, the timing seemed too convenient in the other.

The WY troops talk, and even they are English.  Did England take over the world while Ripley was away?

Done.  A final sign off on a monitor.  The prison has been closed down.  One prisoner remained, knee-capped by the troops.  He’s taken away.  Game over, man.

One thought on “Notes on Alien 3

  1. That movie sucked. While it is definitely a must for any horror movie to have a sense of hopelessness, Fox went overboard this time. In place of the fear and the thrills, we just get a story that seems to have come from the mind of a Goth. If I wanted to be depressed, I would watch the news. I go to the movies to be entertained, not to watch some mindless dribble that makes everything pointless. This movie ruined the franchise and (dare I say it?) the AvP films were better than this. And when the shitty crossover is better than a film from the original franchise, then you know that its a movie that should have never been made.

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