I watched this movie for the first time in 1993. I was 14, maybe 15. It was a summerday and we decided to go to the videorentalstore. Not having seen any of the previous entries I thought it wouldn’t matter because it looked like a fairly standalone movie and most of the time you get recaps anyway. So I got home from the videorentalstore, popped in the tape and started watching together with my little brother. Turns out the clerk had put a wrong movie in the videobox and we were watching some soft pornomovie instead. Now normally that would’ve been a real treat but it was kinda boring and as we couldn’t watch it anyway (my brother was 10, and my mother was in the room next to us) so I decided to mention it and so we went back and finally got this movie that was so heavily hyped at the time.
I thought it sucked. The movie’s length clocks in well over two hours but in that time there was hardly any Alien visible on screen. You expect from a part 3 in a series that the critters are now wellknown so they won’t have to hide them all the time. Unfortunately that was what happened and as a 15 year old I really wanted to see a critter fest. I was really disappointed and after a couple of years I got to see the first two installments. I thought they rocked and still do as you can read here and here. Now since I own the Alien Quadrilogy Boxset it was only a matter of time before I gave this installment a reviewing, and that time is now. Only this time I watched the so-called Assembly Cut, made in 2003 which added material that was never used in the theatrical version or to quote wikipedia: “An alternate version of Alien³ (officially titled the “Assembly Cut”) with over 30 minutes of additional footage was released on the 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy box-set in 2003. Nearly 3/4 of the scenes in this version contain footage not included in the 1992 theatrical release.”
So there you have it, a completely new version of Alien 3. A version so familiar and yet so different. Entire scenes have changed, important plotpoints differ, and stuff has been added. This needs me to make a Public Service Announcement:
The following review is about the Assembly cut and that version only. The views and opinions expressed are not nesecerily applicable on the theatrical version. In other words: don’t come whining to me if the review doesn’t make sense just because you saw a totally different version.
In Alien 3 the spaceship with Bishop, Hicks, Newt and Ripley, survivors from the previous installment crashes on a prison planet. Ripley is the only one that survives. On board of the ship were some Alien eggs which all contained a facehugger. One of those ’facehuggers’ implants an Alien embryo into an Ox after the crash. Now Ripley finds herself between a prison full of rapists and murderers and an Alien on the loose.
This version is very different from the version I saw a long time ago so it constantly felt like I was watching an entirely different movie. The comment about the Alien having too little screentime can be scrapped. He’s a lot more active and is shown much more now. Which is good, because we know what these creatures look like, there is no tension about what actually is stalking the victims. The theatrical film was flawed, seeing as they both drain from the same sourcematerial even this version isn’t perfect, it’s better but not up to par with the previous two installments. Especially the cast feels like a cheat as only Ripley is the returning character (plus a small scene for Bishop). I always hate it when characters survive one movie only to be killed within the first section of the sequel. They did that in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Halloween 5. It just feels like a cheat. Whole movies are about these characters’ survival and they get offed in the next without the blink of an eye. In Alien 3 their deaths are even offscreen. That’s just sad.
Well there’s an entirely new cast here then, consisting of a few Personel, but mostly inmates. It’s a weird prisonfacility as it isn’t actually a facility. It’s more of company one is forced to work at. Warden, doctor and guard walk between the prisoners who don’t even have a cel. The planet is their cel. In a way, being a Warden or doctor here is a prisonsentence also even if you at least have the future of one day going home after your shift is over.
The men on this planet haven’t seen a woman in years, have vowed celibacy amd all. Then a feisty female in the form of Ripley shows up. At first she stirs things up a little bit with her presence which leads to a near-raping. But when the Alien starts picking of inmates one by one the balls-for-brains-attitude quickly disappears and these men even see her as the leader now. She becomes one of the men. Of course it does help that Charles S. Dutton, preacher and former rapist and murderer of women, beats the living shit out of her attackers with a lead pipe.
What I liked about this movie is that it has gotten a second chance in an alternative version now that feels bigger and more complete. Like I said, the absence of the Alien in the original version was a letdown and he’s more prominently featured (scenes have been finished using CGI). The effects in these scene aren’t always convincing to todays standards but far better than anything featured in those Sci-fi-channel movies. In this version there are some outdoor scenes in the beginning which sets up the feeling you’re really on a planet. With these scenes originally missing and only the prisonscenes there it all just feels so confined and small. Like you’re watching a movie purely made on a soundstage (which of course is the case when only prison scenes remain). Also added are scenes in a sort of abbatoir where a dead Ox is moved to. The abbatoir also adds to the a larger scope of the facility.
Because the Alien is now featured more prominently the tension is actually higher than before. That might sound weird when considering the lack of shark in Jaws was what made it so scary, but somehow seeing the monster actually move from time to time constantly remindes of that there really is a threat out there.
Movies like this require only one or two survivors at the end. With 25+ characters in the film and one Alien they did make the beast a simplified killing machine. In Alien he was killing because of a casual encounter or because he was under attack, in Aliens there were tons of humans who not only posed a threat to their Queen but also were needed to serve as a host to the embryos. In this movie he just hunts every human he gets in his sight. He isn’t finished killing one or he already goes after another. That really dumbs this beast down especially considering he is aware of a new Queen being born within a few days. She needs food and hosts for her embryos. Killing of the entire population the planet before she’s even born eliminates those facilities. Dumb beast.
What was an annoying factor in this version is that at one point they capture the Alien halfway through the movie. But then a disturbed inmate decodes to release it again. That is such a cheat-moment.
But other than that this version of the movie was better than the theatrical version. It feels grander, more complete. Sure it’s still a basic rehash of part 1 (one alien, confined area) but the viewing pleasure of the Assembly Cut is notably higher. Now I must add that it has been quite a while since I saw the theatrical version so I’m comparing the new version to the bad taste that has been here all these years. Luckily this version took that away, not completely but as much as it could do.
For those interested, here are some of the differences between this version and the theatrial:
The Assembly Cut edition has several key plot elements that differ from the theatrical release. The alien gestates in an ox rather than a dog, and one of the inmates discovers a dead facehugger which is visually different from those seen in the previous films. Some scenes are extended to focus more on the religious views of the inmates. Most notably, in the Assembly Cut the inmates succeed in their attempt to trap the alien, but it is later released by the disturbed inmate Golic. Some differences in the final scene include the alien queen not bursting from Ripley’s chest as she falls into the furnace.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)