Asta 2

Alien3 Musings (Yeah, they're late - blame the Buffy Dailies :p)

For those of you who are interested (and, surprisingly, there are a few of you), here, to the best of my recollection, is what Alien3 could have been, should have been, and what ultimately was...

There were three directors attached to this film. The first was Reny Harlin who signed on with the hope of putting a new spin on the franchise. His idea was to go back to the alien home world, see where they originated, and perhaps discover they aren't quite the menace they appear to be. That idea was jettisoned in favor of bringing the aliens to earth - an idea Reny saw himslef still being able to work with. It's when the studio wanted to go with (yet again) battling the alien on some sort of spacecraft is when he quit the project.

His replacement became Vincent Ward whose imagination seems to have exceeded what realistically could have been done - at least in 1991. His concept was, essentially, monks in space. Yes, really. It sounded like a very intriguing notion. These men, fed up with society and it's reliance on technology abandon earth to live on a planetoid constructed of wood.

Why wood you ask? Well, a lot of people asked that. Sure, from the production art I saw the sets would have been spectacular (though, this planet bared more than a passing resemblence to the Death Star in my opinion), but it didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. David Giler - who would go on to do a rewrite of Ward's script - states as much. I have to agree with him, there is a certain suspension of disbelief with these type of films, but you still need some sort of basic logic to hold it all together.

Tthe structure of Ward's premise is still present in the film. Ripley's ship crash lands onto the planet with her being the sole survivor. One of the monk's befriends her and assists her when she's accused of bringing a 'demonic' presence into their society. She's still impregnated by the alien and, in one of two versions of the final shot, walks into a fire to kill herself and the alien within her.

How far did this premise go? Pretty damn far. Sets were being built in England. Yet, Vincent Ward, preparing to start the shoot was suddenly being asked to do rewrites. It was determined that the wood planet was not doable and that the monks should become prisoners. Ward complied, at first, with the alterations, but eventually put his foot down. He left the production/was fired - it's never made clear from interviews.

With trailers already in theatres touting a 1992 release, sets being built, and cast and crew growing impatient, David Fincher agreed to take over as director and walked into one of the worst scenerios one could imagine. The film never had a script. The movie was written as it was being filmed. And the studio never finished production, essentially, as one of the producers put it, they just stopped shooting one day.

FOX determined (as the film was hemoraging money and going over schedule) to stop filming, edit a cut of the film, and then determine what additional shots they needed. No one seemed to disagree with this idea. So, three months after principle photography wrapped, it was back to England. Of course, Sigourney had grown her hair out by then and didn't want to shave her head again. Apparently, it was in her contract that if she had to do so she got paid another $40,000. FOX spent $16,000 on a latex head piece instead. :p

Before I get to the differences between the version of the film Fincher wanted (which runs about thirty minutes longer) and the theatrical release, there's a very interesting interview with Michael Biehn in the supplemental materials. I have to admit, the brutal death of Hicks and Newt at the beginning of Alien3 largely tainted my initial viewing of the film. Most of Aliens fans had grown to love those characters as much as Ripley. Newt was what saved Ripley - in more ways than one. To add insult to injury, Michael was told by James Cameron during filming of Aliens that he (assuming Cameron had opted to do another) would have Ripley, Hicks, and Newt as a "famly unit" back on earth. Cameron even went so far to make sure he set up shots of just the three of them together to establish this scenerio. :(

As I mentioned before, Michael still seems extremely bitter over Hicks being killed off. He never hid his anger, caused a lot of problems for FOX and the producers of the film and, I think, shot himself in the foot in the long run. His outrage began when he found out from the producer of a film he was shooting at the time, who had been walking through the effects shops in England, that a replica of him had been constructed with a huge hole in his chest - apparently from where an alien had burst out. He contacted his agent, his agent contacted FOX, and, in fairness, they offered him a lot of money to use his likeness. He said no and hence we have the alien eminating from a dog instead of Hicksy. Funny thing is, when FOX came back to him later to get permission to use a still photo of him in the film, he agreed - for more money than he made on Aliens.

After nustering the courage to finally watch the flim again after all these years, I chose the 'extended version' - not a 'director's cut' since Fincher refused to participate in any of this. Then I scanned through the theatrical version to better see the differences.

There is no question that the extended cut is a better version. It still has it's fair share of flaws - some of which are just inherent in the concept. How can anyone possibly care that a group of rapists, murderers, and child molestors are being killed? Plus, shaving their heads and putting them in similar clothing makes it exceedingly difficult to differentiate them. And, some may disagree, but I still can't fathom Ripley having sex with the doctor, Clemens. She's been out in space a long time? I don't buy that. She's also just lost the two people closest to her.

As for the unkind cuts that made a perhaps tolerable film a mess:

There was a stunning extended opening sequence where we get to see outside of the prison, the doctor discovering Ripley's body which has washed ashore, and a group of prisoners sent to look for any more survivors. The one blessing to this cut - a much more graphic depistion of what happened to Hicks. Trust me, you don't want to know.

It seems a bit silly to me that they reshot this, but in the original cut, the alien burst out of a dead ox (oxes were used as beasts of burden) rather than the pet dog . There was also a discovery of the remnants of a facehugger. According to the supplemental materials, this was the one that had impregnated Ripley with a queen. BTW, in neither version is it clear how Ripley knows it's a queen in her and not your run of the mill alien. Personally, I have to believe it's a queen in order to rationalize it's extended gestation that allowed Ripley to be up and about so long after being impregnated.

In the theatrical version, the prisoners seem to die in fairly quick succession. You don't get to know them or understand what they are doing while the alien is on it's rampage. The film was so badly edited that Golic, played by Paul McGann, simply disappears during the film and you never know what became of him. Plus, he seems to have been driven insane by witnessing the slaughter of two of his fellow inmates. That's not the case. Turns out the character is just plain nuts. So much so that after he convinces another prisoner to free him from his restraints, he escapes to help the alien who he envisions as some sort of kindred sprirt. Yes, he frees the alien. There was an entire subplot in which they managed to capture and contain the alien until Golic unleashes it again.

Ripley's death differs slightly in the two versions. Originally, she just falls back, alone, into the molten metal. In the version you've all seen, she falls back and, as she is doing so, the alien bursts forth from her chest. She must struggle then to take it with her and ensure it's destroyed. I prefer the simplicity of original version. Not only do I think the latter is unrealistic (even within the confines of a sci-fi/horror film) and melodramatic, it seemed more fitting that Ripley die alone.

So, anyone still awake? Sorry, I know I have trouble editing myself. I hope some of you found all that interesting. I'm still not crazy about the film. I'll always have issues with some of the choices that were made. Not to mention, I just can't find it scary or suspensful as I do the first two and even number four to a certain extent. I will admit it's the most visually stunning with some jaw dropping shots that ended up on the cutting room floor. I've always had a lot of respect for David Fincher and he did the best he could under impossible circumstances (and it was his first film!), but, like other FOX properties, I'll always be left to wonder, what if?
  • Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
I'm missing something important and that the films are BRILLIANT.

But, they ARE!!! Well, the first two, I don't blame you for skipping 3 and 4. So, I should scratch the box set off my Christmas list for you? ;)
(Anonymous)
Thanks for going to the trouble of writing all this. It's all quite fascinating, and considering its history, no wonder the film was such a mess. It reads like an object lesson on how to destroy a great franchise. I read Joss was not at all happy with what was done to his script in the fourth one.

I'm awake, but it's relatively early in this part of the country. :)

Gail
I read Joss was not at all happy with what was done to his script in the fourth one.

I'm beginning to wonder if Joss is every really happy. But, that's a discussion for another post. ;)

Thanks for the information and you are right Fincher really did walk into an unholy mess. Now this leaves me wondering what Harlin or Ward would have actually gone with the film.
I also agree about Ripley and the doctor. She's in mourning and wouldn't/shouldn't be interested in sex at that point in time.
Yeah. You just crash land on a penal colony, put to rest a man you had feelings for and a child you loved as if she were your own, so what do you do next? Have sex with a stranger! Whatever. :p

I have vague recollection of hearing rumors that blamed Fincher, in part, for the movies failures. The poor guy didn't seem to have time to think about what he was doing, he just had to do it.

I definitely think Ward's vision would have been fascinating, but, from a technical standpoint it just didn't sound like it could be done. With CGI effects today, maybe. I have heard, if there is a fifth one, it would take place on earth or the alien homeworld. Maybe Reny should give the studio a call? ;)
Hey Asta, thankyou for that. That was great. Informative and interesting :) The alien would have been a lot different if it had come from an ox, as they tend to differ slightly depending which animal they burst forth from. Just compare the thin lithe and agile one from the dog, to the ones from the previou one.
They actually discuss the differences in the various aliens and how they take on attributes of their host. The reason they reshot the 'birthing' scene was because an alien that eminated from an ox would presumabely be slow. Hence, they changed it to a dog. That's fine, except that they didn't create a new alien to burst forth from the animal. While it's a good scale for the ox, it's roughly the same size as the dog! :p
This is really interesting to read about. It's hard not to feel sorry for Fincher, having to film a movie that had no script! It's hard to believe that a big-budget sequel with high expectations from its audience would have been made in such a haphazard way. Also, it's too bad that they went with prisoners instead of monks, since monks would have at least been sympathetic. Prisoners were "edgier", I guess.
I'm not sure that they made clear why they switched to convicts. It could be because they were more prone to violence (hence, action). Or perhaps the studio didn't want to slaughter a bunch of passive monks.

What really shocks me is that studios have not learned from the experience of Alien3. They're still making films without scripts or, just as bad, an army of writers. :(
OMG, that was bloody brilliant!!

I loved Aliens with the fiery passion of a thousand suns (which nobody ever seemed to get). I think it's the finest sci-fi thriller ever made. I still remember so very clearly going to the theatre to see Alien3. I of course had no clue about all these behind-the-scenes goings-on. My expectations were high, as was my excitement.

An alien came out of MY chest when Hicks and Newt were summarily killed off. And then it was all downhill from there. I was so bitter I could hardly speak. So thank you very much for filling in those blanks for me and making sense of it all. The whole travesty makes me kick myself for not having the guts to try to get something published - look at what's out there already! :0)
Awwww, now I really wish I was going to DragonCon - we could discuss Aliens! That's, by far, my favorite of the series and, in general, one of the best damn sci-fi/action movies ever made.

I was exteremely bitter as well when Alien3 came out. Seeing the behind the scenes stuff makes the bitterness go away a bit, but I still lament what might have been.

The whole travesty makes me kick myself for not having the guts to try to get something published - look at what's out there already!

Hey, it's never too late. I say get thee to a publisher. :)
Ooh, thanks for the information - very, very interesting. I've only seen Alien 3 the once, and I wasn't particularly impressed with it, especially in the wake of the brilliance that was Aliens (Hicks - come baaaackk!!). However, I might make the effort to hunt down the DVD and make a reappriasal.
If you reappriase, definitely check out the extended version if you are able to. It does make more sense than the choppy theatrical version.
Interesting. I always like hearing what went wrong with these big budget productions because, in some ways, I think that when things start going downhill, the amount of money invested in the film makes it all roll faster. The studio's nervous and interfering and, whether or not they've actually produced a workable film at the end, they have to release what they've got because they spent so much damn money on it.

It's also interesting to hear about the decisionmaking transition from monks to prisoners, which I also thought was a mistake, since I could never muster any sympathy for any of them.

The thing about Sigourney Weaver's hair is funny. Actors always have these amazingly specific contracts.
You've hit the nail on the head regarding the studios. It seems with contracts signeda and sets being built they felt they had to make this picture whether it was good or bad. One person associated with the movie, I can't recall who, even commented that they didn't feel as if they were making a film, but a release date.