Sure the special edition taken from Fincher’s workprint wasn’t unveiled until 2003, but it’s the only way I’ll watch the movie now, and makes the film a little stronger than its original theatrical cut.
This corner of the Alien universe is my next stop on my journey with the Sci-Fi Chronicles, as it seems I’ve covered the rest of the Alien films on the blog except for this one.
Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley in this the third instalment, which in the first 5 minutes of the film screws the audience over with the revelation that both Newt and Hicks are dead. Ripley finds herself marooned on a prison planet with a xenomorph incubating inside her.
Fincher has created a brooding, darkly beautiful film, that is unique in the Alien-verse while playing with the haunted house format of the first film. He has also made sure to stack the cast with top-notch actors like Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Pete Postlethwaite and Lance Henriksen.
The prison planet, Fury 161, is completely populated by men, who seemed to have found god at the ass end of the universe. There is a monk-like, if violent quality, to a number of the denizens. Their faith, however, will not keep them safe once the xenomorph is born, and wreaks havoc within the prison confines.
Add to this the fact that the Company is on their way to Fury so that they can claim Ripley, and the alien growing within her.
In the end, Ripley is left no choice in the actions she must take.
It’s a pretty solid film, but coming on the tails of the second, arguably one of the best action movies ever, there was no way this film was going to meet audience expectations.
The fact that the film went in a completely different direction to what the public wanted only added to the grief this film gets.
Now does the workprint make it a better movie? Yes. Is it a great movie? Still no, but the extra half hour, which is given completely to character development (Dutton has so much more to do in this cut, as does Dance and both characters are the better for it), makes for a solid experience, and Fincher’s style is very much on display.
It’s too bad that Fox wouldn’t let the creators and the film-makers tell the story the way they wanted, but it does expand the Alien universe, adding layers to it, and also showing how evil the Company (Weyland-Yutani) is.
The film ends up being a slow burn, setting things up for the first hour, before things really go to hell for Ripley and the prisoners in the second half. The workprint cut takes its time, and Fincher creates a foreboding atmosphere, but it still suffers from studio meddling, and you have to wonder what Fincher would have come up with if he’d been given free reign.