Turn Back the Clock


Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            After seeing Aliens, I imagined scenarios for a sequel.  Perhaps Ripley, Hicks and Newt head back to Earth to live as a family, happily ever after.  Or perhaps, Ripley and Hicks drop Newt off, revolt against the company and hunt down all of the possible locations of the alien species that the company wanted so badly to get its hands upon.  When a third Alien movie was announced, I couldn't wait to see it.  My brother and I headed off to the theater the moment Alien3 was released.

            In this film, Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Hicks, Newt and Bishop (Lance Henriksen) find themselves ejected from the Sulaco.  Their escape shuttle crashes on a remote planet featuring a foundry run by male inmates who have committed horrendous crimes but have found religion on Fiorina "Fury" 161.  Ripley is the only survivor and, upon visiting the crashed escape shuttle, is immediately taken by the notion that an alien somehow made it onboard the Sulaco.  Her theory is backed up when prisoners begin to die in mysteriously hideous ways.  The facility's superintendant Harold Andrews (Brian Glover) harkens the deaths to the presence of a woman at the womanless facility and is quite happy when Weyland-Yutani (The Company) informs him that they are on their way to pick Ripley up.

            Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), leader of the inmates, is more inclined to believe her after listening to the half-mad babblings of Golic (Paul McGann), a serial killer who witnessed the death of his fellow inmates at the hands of an incredible monster - a dragon, as he claims.  After the death of the warden at the hands of this monster, the inmates turn to Ripley for help in surviving the beast in time to be rescued by Weyland-Yutani.  But Ripley warns them that The Company will only want to keep the monster for study.  Wholly unprepared to do so, The Company would cause the deaths of millions of innocents. 

            Much more pessimistic than the superintendent's assistant Aaron (Ralph Brown), the inmates decide to aide Ripley in the destruction of the alien.  But when Ripley discovers that this alien is not the only one on Fury 116, will she have the nerve to do what she must to save millions?

            When I left the theaters after the film, I was hyped by the adrenaline rush brought on by the action in the movie, but I was also disappointed.  This was certainly not the film I was expecting.  The chosen setting was fine, but they had killed off favorite characters in Hicks and Newt.  I felt cheated with their deaths...especially since we never actually see what happened to them, we are just told that they died.  And what they did to Ripley!  Inexcusable!  I didn't like the whole feel of the movie.  It felt ingenuous.  It also felt unfinished.  With the exception of the usual stellar performance from Sigourney Weaver, no other actor really stood out in this film.  Even the alien wasn't anything like we had ever seen before and no one could quite explain why.  The movie was a box office disaster - critics hated it, fans were angered by it.  Alien3 was, to put it in simple terms, an utter disaster that never should have been aired.  I tried watching it again, renting it on VHS some time afterwards, only to find that I felt this to be one of the worst science fiction films I had ever ventured to the theaters to see.

            It wasn't until I purchased the Alien Quadrilogy box set of the film and watched the Alien3 Assembly Cut (or Special Edition) that I realized just how good the movie could have been.  This particular version of the film features thirty minutes of scenes cut before the film hit the theaters and an alternate ending that was changed for the theatrical release.  Watching this version of the film, I now understood why I had always felt that the movie was unfinished.  There were scenes that would have explained so much of the storyline had they remained in the film.  I couldn't understand why anyone would ever decide to cut them.  And the original ending was soooo much better than the Hollywood hero ending of the theatrical release.

            Then I watched the extras and finally understood why Alien3 was such a colossal failure.  The movie had three different directors.  The first director's ideas would have caused the film to be far over budget, so he dropped out.  The second director's visions for the film were interesting, but the producers and 20th Century Fox were not entirely happy with his vision of the film.  After numerous clashes, he was fired. 

            The last director to work on the film was David Fincher.  At the time, Fincher was involved in making music videos and the like.  This would be his feature film directorial debut.  He came onto the project with no set script and no real direction and yet, somehow, he knew just what he wanted to do and how he wanted it done.  He knew exactly how to get what he wanted from his actors and his special effects people.  Unfortunately, although his vision for the film was exciting and doable, he, too, was plagued by the powers that be and their meddling.  When he finally walked away from the project, it wasn't quite finished.  He has since disowned the film and has refused to take part in any of the various DVD version's extras.

            After learning exactly the direction that Fincher was trying to take with this film.  Watching the extras and the special edition of the film, we realize that the alien in this film is different from all of the others in the franchise for a reason.  After all, it was hatching out of something decidedly not human.  Thus, it takes on some of the characteristics of the animal it has hatched from.  We learn that there were so many things cut from the film that were important to its continuity.  Things like the autopsy of Newt.  While important to the film's story, it was rejected as being too graphic.  As was the ox chestburster scene. 

            Hello!  This is a movie featuring aliens that infect their host by hugging their faces, wrapping their tails around their necks and sticking a proboscis down their throats.  After incubation, the alien baby bursts out of the host's chest.  It has acid for blood and an inner jaw that lashes out.  A long spear-like tale.  Too graphic?!  That's what the franchise is all about!  Seems to me that they should have left out the implied sex scene and added more of the crash landing, the autopsy, the birth of the alien, important dialogue and more.  Forget about graphic - the Alien franchise was always about graphic science fiction horror.  No one dies nicely in the Alien franchise for crying out loud!

            While Alien3 will always be my least favorite film in the Sigourney Weaver series of films in the franchise, I no longer hate the film.  Well, that's not entirely true - I still hate the theatrical version, but, now that I have seen the Special Edition, I discovered that the film makes more sense than it did in the theaters.  I actually have grown to like this edition of the film and wish it would have been made as David Fincher had intended it to be.


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