Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #139
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: 22 May 1992
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Action Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $55,473,600 (USA)
Running Time: 145 minutes
Director: David Fincher
Producers: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
Screenplay: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
Story: Vincent Ward
Characters: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Special Make-up Effects: Scott Oshita, Greg Cannom
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Score: Elliot Goldenthal
Editing: David Crowther (extended version), Terry Rawlings
Studio: Brandywine Productions
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen, Christopher Fairbank, Carl Chase, Leon Herbert, Vincenzo Nicoli, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Brennen, Clive Mantle, Peter Guinness, Deobia Oparei, Philip Davis
Suggested Audio Candy
Elliot Goldenthal “Soundtrack Suite”
Certain films have a mountain to climb before they even set out. David Fincher’s Alien 3 was one such beast. From the offset I wish to state that I greatly revere the work of this fine British director. Even without delving into his extensive résumé one only needs mention the words Fight Club and I revert to soap suds. His work is more consistent than most and he has his own exclusive style that makes him one of the finest directors in the industry. Even Gods fall on occasion though right? Yes and no, certain works may dip slightly in form but as unmoved as I was by Panic Room, it was hardly what you’d call a stinker now was it?
Seven is one of his most decorated motion pictures and hardly has a bad word leveled at it across the board but, in truth, it left me somewhat cold. Let’s not get things twisted, it’s still a fine piece of cinema,, but I found it hard to warm to both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman’s characters and actually dozed off in the pictures for twenty minutes, something I never do. To this day I have never viewed it a second time and, whilst I’d never actually imagine ever scoring it less than an 8/10, it would find it hard to ever score higher due to the simple fact that I didn’t relate to its leads. That’s the beauty of personal opinion, we all have one and it is our right to share it.
I’ve never been a person who bows to popular consensus, if someone I respect has an opinion on a film, I will never let it sway me. Free choice is a most wondrous gift and too many allow their own voice to become compromised just so that they don’t enter into debate. Why the hell not? Healthy discussion can only ever be a positive pursuit.
Another of my darling sisters of grue recently requested I tackle Fincher’s Alien 3 for my Keeper Cuts sequence. Each time I play God, mainly for your light relief, but also because in my mind things often play out very differently to how the Director chooses to conclude. The Shining, Aliens, The Omen and Friday the 13th have all gone under the knife this far and, truth be known, Its nothing more than fun fantasy with all four features. None of them were broke, my intention was never to fix them. There was just endless scope for light-hearted tampering. Not the case with Alien 3 however, when requested I rubbed my hands together like a hobo with a scratch card as I know that it played out very differently to how I had hoped.
Straight off the bat I must iterate that it is a solid piece of work and, in no way, anything other than competent. However, when coming on the back of Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s strapping successes, poor David really had his work cut out. His task was made so much more thorny by the fact that Aliens was the ultimate boy’s own adventure. Memorable characters, up close and personal set pieces and a bouquet of big sexy weapons to fantasize over. What’s not to like?
My chief gripe with Fincher’s foray was the fact that, through no fault of his own, everything was stripped unapologetically back for Alien 3. The screenplay was a triple-pronged labor of love by such behemoths as Walter Hill so it was in safe hands; but their visions of grandeur converted awkwardly to the silver screen. I recognize that studio involvement denied Fincher from making the film he really wanted to make but he was hamstrung from the start by some key factors.
Firstly, the Smart Guns and Pulse Rifles were consigned to their lockers, no balls-to-the-wall blasting here, just a whole lot of yelping and sprinting. I understand the intention and it would be unfair to chastise for trying something different as Aliens set not so much as a toe wrong and, to attempt to compete with that would be foolish, even for a director of Fincher’s standing. Being such a closed-in affair didn’t harm Alien, Ridley Scott used dense characterization to ensure we felt just as helpless as the crew of the Nostromo.
This brings me to my second gripe; the protagonists. From Hudson, Vasquez and Drake we are offered Bald Guys #1, 2 and 3 and that just doesn’t cut the mustard here. A bloated cast of hateful Appalachia-suffering convicts left me colder than a freezer full of ice pops. Faceless the lot of them, hardly a character to root for in sight.
This again was the clear intention as Alien 3 strayed from the trodden path for a purpose and, while its writers must be applauded for taking a wholly individual approach to the source material, it still wound up to a secretion of shaven-headed swines all pressing door buttons frantically, with no more than a loaf of bread to throw at the slick Xenomorphs. Brian Glover, the late Peter Postlethwaite and one of the largest band of brothers ever pro-created Paul McGann headed up the largely British cast alongside Ripley. All distinguished auteurs in their own right.
Veteran Charles Dance added the slightly implausible love interest and that seemed like a bad call all the way as he exhibited little-to-no feeling and we didn’t so much as flinch when he was punched through post-coitus. That should’ve been fucking Dwayne Hicks man! Of the entire supporting cast only Charles S. Dutton’s Dillon got the furnace fired-up, everyone else just tripped over each other’s heels.
I mentioned Hicks and, while the whole revelation of him and Newt perishing before the start credits hurt badly; Newt’s demise was probably for the best. An innocent child would have been as welcome on this colony as the Cosbys at a KKK march (although it would admittedly have lent a unique dynamic to proceedings). Hicks, on the other hand, deserved more than the watery grave supplied him. Little did he know that he was being fitted for his space casket as he took a chest full of Xenomorph bile to the chest armor. In the words of Switch from The Matrix… “Not like this!” Could have been worse, Bishop really took one for the team.
Depending which cut you view, certain key elements are changed. Fincher’s planned conclusion did away with the Terminator 2-esque sentimental ending. I was half expecting Ellen’s thumb to slowly sink into the lava erected in one final hurrah. The introduction of the alien via a dog was originally intended to be an ox but this was changed due to seeming incongruous in the environment. Much of these alterations were restored by Fincher in his Assembly Cut but it was evidently a troubled shoot. Consequently he walked before the editing process was underway, citing interference from the studio for the film’s lack of standout brilliance. I’m sure this was the case but the fact remains that the final piece lacked focus and the crimes committed were just too great to stand this alongside its forebears.
I am quick to point out that Alien 3 is still a distinguished work and much deserving of a certain level of praise, not least because of its troublesome production. It’s still a better film than Alien Resurrection and, if approached without unrealistic expectation, still does more than enough well. It’s tight sets draw the oxygen from your lungs and it is well filmed without exception. But it’s one hard damned film to love. Full of faceless fecks with all the charisma of a Clive Owen lookalike brigade, it gets by on being ‘good’ when the series had never ventured from fucking fantastic beforehand. If only it had been a colony of Dillon-clones it would have been so different. Where the fuck are Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein when ya need ’em?
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: Plenty of quick-fire splatter but the brown-ish coloration and fleetingly fast violence detracts from the overall impact somewhat.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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