The Horror Honeys: The bitch is back.

The bitch is back.

A Sci-Fi Honey Series Retrospective - Part 3

Alien 3 - Assembly Cut (2003)

Alien 3 was a bit of an interesting movie to review - first I had to figure out which version to review. There was the original from 1992, which was widely panned as a big shamozzle. There was this one, called the Assembly Cut, which was re-released in 2003 in the Alien Quadrilogy, and which added 30 or so minutes of deleted footage and alternate scenes, and actually changes parts of the plot.  And finally, the 2010 Alien Anthology cut, which is basically the Assembly Cut with improved audio.

I decided on the 2003 version - I had both the original and the 2003 Assembly Cut on hand, and thought the revised version would be more interesting. I had seen the original years before, and wasnt super impressed with it, and hadnt seen the Assembly Cut, so why not start semi-fresh?

Alien 3 had a hard road to the theatre. It went through several screenwriters, changed directors, and was completely rewritten at least a couple of times. The initial screenplay, to be directed by Renny Harlin,  was penned by William Gibson, and barely had Sigourney Weaver in it at all, focusing on Hicks (the male survivor from Aliens) and Bishop, the Android played by Lance Henricksen. Gibsons screenplay was then rewritten by Eric Red (The Hitcher, Near Dark), and involved Marines and a biodome in space and no Ripley. I have to say, Im glad they didnt go with that, it sounds lame. Apparently Renny Harlin agreed, because after reading the script he left the film altogether. Red got fired.

Then David Twohey wrote a version, that Vincent Ward was going to direct. This involved a Prison Planet, with inmates being used for experiments, and again no Ripley. Ward refused to shoot it, and wrote his own screenplay with Vincent Fasano.

Seriously, you cant make this shit up.

The Ward/Fasano version involved a partially wooden Monastery planet/satellite with monks on it, who felt that the Alien is a punishment for transgressions they had made. This version of the screenplay is considered by some to be the best one. Ripley was again the main character.

But wait, theres more.

The producers Walter Hill and David Giler then took control of the screenplay and combined the Ward/Fasano version with Twoheys and kept Ripley as the main character, had a prison planet with prisoners who found religion and took a vow of celibacy. David Fincher (now the Director) and author Rex Pickett revised the script. Then Pickett was fired, Hill and Giler finished the screenplay, and then Fincher revised everything and started filming without a finished script.

Long story short, a writing clusterfuck, a fairly crap movie that no one wanted to admit they were part of, and bad reviews.

The Assembly Cut, which I review here, improved things and made some slight plot changes and in my view made it a better movie.

Synopsis: When last we saw Ripley, she was on the Marines ship taking off from the planet where she had first encountered the Alien in the first movie, and where the settlers on that planet  and a bunch of Marines died in the second movie. Only Ripley, the little girl Newt, and a Marine named Hicks survived (also half of Bishop the Android).

Alien 3 opens with The Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco experiencing an onboard fire and launching an escape pod with the three-and-a-half survivors in it. During the launch in the opening credits, the viewer sees glimpses the ship's medical scans of the crew, with a facehugger attached to one of the crew members. The escape pod then crashes on Fiorina 'Fury' 161, a penal colony/foundry populated with male inmates who were all sentenced there for various extremely violent and sexual crimes. Fortunately they had all found religion, and took a vow of celibacy, and after the penal colony had officially been shut down years before had volunteered to stay and look after it and stay away from society.

Newt and Hicks were dead, which pained me, I wont lie. Ripley went to great lengths to save Newt in Aliens, it seems a waste to just unceremoniously kill her off right off the top. Ripley has an autopsy performed on Newt, who it turns out just drowned. I personally really enjoyed the autopsy scene. The viewer doesnt actually see anything but some blood in a drain and some cutting tools, but knowing a little kid is getting cut up is wrenching. The bodies of Hicks and Newt are dropped into the foundry furnace for cremation, basically what looks like a giant pool of lava/molten rock.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, an ox has mysteriously dropped dead, and is hanging from the ceiling in the prison building, waiting to be made into lunch. A really neat little four legged Alien bursts out of it and runs off. Those of you who saw the original cut would remember the alien coming out of a dog; I like the ox better. H.R. Giger designed the Alien again, and I think its great. I really like the head, and I like that the alien adapted its form based on its host, and now runs like an animal, on four legs. You dont get as much looming over the victim as in previous movies, since its on four legs and not upright, but the chase scenes are more interesting for it.

Ripley starts showing signs of illness, and the authorities seem overly insistent that they come and get her RIGHT NOW and that she not get harmed and that she stay quarantined, so it quickly becomes pretty clear who in the escape pod actually got face-hugged. The rest of the movie is basically Ripley and the inmates trying to kill the Alien, through a maze of tunnels and rooms, and Ripley being determined not to allow the authorities to get hold of the alien inside her.

So, given the clusterfuck that was the screenplay and the director changes, what did I think of Alien 3: Assembly Cut?

I like it, quite a bit actually. I like it way better than the original Alien 3 from theatres. I thought the switch from the alien gestating in a dog to an ox worked. The Alien looked great. The acting was good, sometimes excellent. Charles Dance and Charles S Dutton, who play the prison Doctor and Spiritual Leader respectively, do a great job.

One scene that I really like involves an attempted rape of Ripley by some inmates. When that started, I wont lie, I had a bad feeling Id be angry at the director shortly. But to me, it was handled really well. As you may recall if you read my review of Riddick, I am not a fan of rapey-ness in Sci-Fi, or misogyny in Sci-Fi in general. What was handled differently here, as opposed to the shitstorm that was Riddick, was that in Riddick no one gave a crap that men were rapey, it was pretty much expected, and was just allowed to happen as far as I can tell. In the scene in Alien 3, Ripley is saved by an inmate (played by Chares S Dutton), a man who had actually been sent there for rape. He severely punishes the perpetrators, to say the least, and makes it clear that rape is not acceptable. The juxtaposition of his extremely violent retribution on them, combined with his protection of Ripley, made for a complicated but really interesting scene. In my opinion, rape should never be a throwaway like it was in Riddick, treated as just a plot device to show what a Bad Bad Man someone is. Alien 3 handled it pretty well.

I also liked how Ripley chose what shed do with the Life inside her, controlling what would happen to her body, and not leave it up to the Authorities to decide what was best for her. It warmed my little pro-choice heart.

The chase scenes in Alien 3 were great. They were often shot from the Alien POV, and the four- legged alien ran on the ceiling then the floor then the ceilingit was disorienting and pretty neat. There was some lame dialogue on occasion, the usual Someone screws up and puts the plan in jeopardy, some interesting deaths, and some good effects - the effects were nominated for an Academy Award. The ending is slightly different in the Assembly Cut from the original. *SPOILER ALERT* When Ripley leaps backward into the furnace, in the original the Alien bursts from her chest as she falls. That doesnt happen in the Assembly Cut. I am on the fence about which way I like better, I like them both.

Best. Death. Ever.

And of course, Sigourney Weaver is awesome, I think its her best acting of the series thus far. The scenes after Newt dies, the autopsy, her realization that shes carrying an alien inside her and is facing death, all amazing. And her face when she speaks to the authorities at the end, and she is offered the chance to possibly save her life by allowing them to operate and take the alien out of her, her struggle with wanting to live (after all, shes a survivor) versus allowing the alien to be taken out of her and developed into a weapon that could destroy humanity, WOW, she is great. She does more with her face and eyes in that one scene than most actors can do in an entire movie with their whole body.

A warning though, the audio in the Assembly Cut is really bad. The audio on the re-added scenes hadnt been re-recorded (because they had been cut), so when those scenes occur, the audio is very fuzzy and faint, and occasionally requires subtitles, which they warn you about at the start of the movie. This affects the flow of the movie sometimes and is a bit annoying. I think Ill get the 2010 version when I watch this again - the audio was redone for that version apparently, and everything sounds good.
Ok, maybe not so cute.

Overall, I enjoyed the Assembly Cut, audio aside. It was more coherent than the 1992 version, I liked the cinematography quite a bit, the story was interesting, the music was creepy, the acting was good, and I really, really liked the ending of this movie. For once, added scenes made a movie better, and the Assembly Cut made this movie a good addition of the franchise. This movie is the second best grossing of the series also, so they must have done something right. The Assembly Cut deserves the improved reviews it received over the original, in my opinion. I still kind of wish theyd gone with the Wooden Planet version though, it could have been cool.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: I give the Alien 3: Assembly Cut 4 Exploding Oxes (not dogs) out of 5. Good comeback! But watch the 2010 version instead, youll be less frustrated with the audio.