Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Sci-Fi ALIEN 3 (2003 ASSEMBLY CUT)


Despite all the rumors that have been circulating since the film’s release, there is no director’s cut hidden in the vault of 20th Century Fox that magically transforms the movie into the “Citizen Kane” of the series. But we do have an early version of “Alien 3”, a cut put together for test audiences in late 1992. What we’re treated to see is a very different version of the movie, at times extremely different from what was released in theaters and on home video. An ugly duckling finally transformed into a swan, this version truly shows how visually brillant “Alien 3” is an foreshadows the talented director  Fincher would become.

The third film brings us to the medieval prison planet of Fiorina Fury 161, where the inmates live a monastic life while following an apocalyptic brand of fundamentalist Christianity. Their dreary existence is shocked to an end when an EEV crash lands on the planet, carrying Lt. Ripley. Apparently the sole survivor of a fire aboard the military ship Sulaco, she soon finds herself in an increasingly hostile environment consisting on an unsympathetic warden and prisoners who haven’t seen a women since God knows when. But all that soon pales when a mysterious accident kills a prisoner, and a strange acidic burn mark is found at the scene. Ripley soon has to face the realization than an alien has followed her to Fury 161, and she has to rally to prisoners to destroy it with practically no weapons. But Weyland-Yutani has learned the alien is on the backwater planet, and is speeding towards it desperate to acquire their prize. 

The addition of over a half hour of previously cut footage plugs some glaring plot holes, as well as adding some much needed depth to the stories and characters. Charles Dutton benefits enormously from the extra screen time; his character of Dillion goes from being a one dimensional leader of the convicts to an extremely religious man who views his fellow inmates as his flock. The new scenes highlight his deep beliefs, as well and underscore his feeling of responsibility towards the men he’s taken leadership of. Another actor who has his part restored is Paul McGann as the psychotic Golic. A somewhat minor character who inexplicably vanishes in the theatrical cut, he becomes a major player in this cut as an inmate who worships the alien and is responsible for setting him free. Not only does this fix a plot problem, it also allows McGann to really flex his acting muscles and show the true depths of his character’s madness. A restored subplot involving the inmates trying to incarcerate the alien in a fiery trap is now successful, until Golic intervenes.

Some of the restored footage does little to enhance the plot, but simply looks gorgeous. Clemens walking on the Fiorina’s beach and discovering Ripley, an expanded EEV salvage sequence, the alien emerging from an ox, more scenes of prisoners readying to fight the alien–all of these are shot by Fincher with a sense of dark beauty and bleak wonder. With all the inventive camera angles and nifty cinematography, “Alien 3” is more an art house film than a science fiction/horror movie. But not all has been improved; Clemens is still killed off way too soon, if the producers kept him alive longer he might have provided a sympathetic character and helped the plot exposition. Ralph Brown is still more of a failed comic relief figure in the role of the warden’s second in command, never contributing much to the film except being the butt of jokes regarding his IQ. But the biggest fault is the script; all the writers who’ve worked on could in the end only come up with a retread of the first film only with more characters. All the new footage and amazing camerawork still can’t hide the fact that’s the film’s foundation is pretty shaky.

“Alien 3” was a good film in 1993, and in 2003 it’s finally allowed to be an truly great film. With all the horror stories that have surfaced regarding the film’s production, it’s amazing it managed to get made at all much less be something watchable. While possessing some problems, it still manages to be the strongest and artistically daring of the series. This version is available on the “Alien Quadrilogy” dvd set, and well worth the effort in tracking down.     

1 thought on “ALIEN 3 (2003 ASSEMBLY CUT)”

  1. I enjoyed Alien 3 as well. I do agree that it does have some problems, but I still enjoy it, and appreciate that it tried to resemble the first movie in terms of going for more eerie atmosphere and true chills, not just action as there was in Aliens. Good review.

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