October 22, 2007

Alien 3 (Director's Cut)

Being the last person in the Western world not to have seen the Alien films, watching and reviewing them has been a fascinating project. Last January, I gave Alien only 2 stars, to the chagrin of many Ripley fans. Then, in June, I was somewhat redeemed when I gave Aliens a full four stars. When I sat down to watch Alien 3, I was expecting to see Ripley come full circle, with a character combining the determination and methodical thinking of the first Ripley and the badassness of the second one (minus the mommy stuff).

It would not be an overstatement to say that I was horribly disappointed. Though her bald head may make her look hardcore, Alien 3's Ripley is a pale shadow of her former characters.

In the first two movies, whether she worked for you as a heroine or not, Ripley was clearly the strong, major character. She made the decisions, she got the action. In Alien 3, this role was, for the most part, subsumed by Charles S. Dutton's Dillon, the spiritual leader of the prison planet on which Ripley is shipwrecked. Don't get me wrong--Dutton does a fantastic job with the Malcolm X-like character, but he does take the film away from Sigourney Weaver in a way that didn't happen in the previous films.

Alien 3's Ripley is also much more a victim and a martyr than her previous characters were. One of my favorite things (in fact one of the only things I liked) about Ripley in the first Alien film was her absolute insistence on her own survival. So how disappointing is it to watch her sacrifice herself at the end of Alien 3? Particularly after seeing her nearly be raped in the first part of the film and be rescued by a man. (Side note: One thing that is interesting about the attempted rape scene is that Ripley, a white woman, is rescued from being raped by a gang of white men by a black man. I don't think this is something I've ever seen in a movie before.)

Another troublesome aspect of Ripley's character in Alien 3 is her sexual encounter with Clemens (Charles Dance, who I thought was great in the film) and subsequent alien "pregnancy." Although the two episodes ostensibly have nothing to do with one another, I recognized the disturbing trend of women have sex (particularly sex they initiate) --> women get pregnant with alien spawn from Angel, and I didn't like it anymore here than I did there. Especially since I was otherwise really happy with the way the film gave Ripley a self-initiated sexuality she hadn't had before (and I really liked the exchange between her and Clemens when she tells him that she can be bold because she's been out here a long time--it was a great play on the "these men haven't seen a woman in years" prison vibe the film has). The film seemed, albeit subtly, to punish Ripley's character for having a non-passive sexuality, and I really hate that.

Alien 3 does a better job with race than with gender. Though there is a single character of color (much like the single female character), I think he comes off as the movie's hero, rather than Ripley. Even though he is supposed to be a hardened murderer and rapist who has just found God while imprisoned, he gives the impression of being the film's sole caring and compassionate character much of the time, as well as the guy with the most level head. An argument could be made (and was, by my partner, who watched the film with me) that he is effectively neutered as a character by his role as "spiritual guide," but I didn't find him to be that way at all. At the end of the film, when he tells Ripley he won't kill her until she helps him save his fellow inmates, you get the first true comradeship I've seen in any of these movies, all of which were ostensibly based on situations that are in some way a brotherhood (a ship's crew, a Marine force, and a prison population). That's worth quite a lot.

Alien 3
is a pretty all-around terrible movie. I was mad at the time I wasted watching it. Though director David Fincher did a good job with a lot of the shots and definitely gave it a post-apocalyptic prison feel that I enjoyed, his video-honed style didn't work nearly so well here as in Fight Club. Mostly, it just felt fragmented. The special effects were also poor, taking a giant step backward from the second Alien film. I still give it two stars, one each for the Dillon character, who I really thought was well done, and for the striking image of a shaved headed Sigourney Weaver and the big deal that was at the time. Honestly, though, I'm being pretty generous.

11 Comments

Doh!

Sorry you didn't like it. I saw it so long ago (when it first appeared in the movies) I wonder if I liked it as is, or if I liked it in comparison to what was out there.

While I did remember that she is almost raped after I suggested it, and that would be a definitely detractor, it only happens once, despite being where she was. I thought in the end it was the combination of fear and respect that allowed them to work with her. And I loved that she just coldly looks at the guy before punching him, and blithely going about her business. While she was attacked, she never seemed like a victim proper. And the fact that she even came into the mess hall when she was encouraged not to, when she went to go search for Bishop? (I think the andriod's name was that), alone despite the danger because of the necessary information he probably had, made me think of her as more aggressive, and less passive.

I loved that they had her-initiated intercourse, and I actually liked that he suddenly died in the process. While I see what you are saying, if you look at it directly, he seems to be the one that suffers because of it, in an interesting role reversal. It also leaves her alone, and the film doesn't use him as a crutch when things get tough.

Again, it's been a while since I saw it, but I thought it was Ripley more who led the charge, and while Charles did seem larger than life, I still felt they took all their cues and direction from Ripley, since she had experience with the alien.

I think I liked the pacing too. I felt like the first Alien was a bit slow, and the second one was all action. But this one, for me, hit this nice peak vs. valley rythm.

I dunno, I saw this one as being more emotional than the previous two, yet more detached. It seemed to be about about loss: its pain and its seeming inevitability. I saw the prison planet as a metaphor for her own life and loss of freedom, because of the alien. Just like they were trapped, she was trapped. Just like they probably couldn't imagine a time before prison, so could she not imagine a time before the alien. Everytime she tried to reach out to someone, they were either going to die, or already dead. And in some ways, I thought it was her having to deal with her own mortality, and in essence her own death. I guess I don't mind the martyr role as long as the female character is in total control, and it means something (ala Neo in Matrix of Braveheart in...well, Braveheart). Even her death seemed aggressive to me, because as she was leaping, the alien could have escaped, had she not had the fortitude to grab the baby on her way down - seemed to be a direct contrast to the first Alien film where the guy was helplessly flailing as the alien burst from his stomach.

Or I could have just been ok with it, since this was the film where Sigourney had the most creative control, and she actually wanted the character to die because she didn't want a fouth film. She wanted a final- a definitive conclusion to the trilogy....that is, I guess until the 4th one came along! I remember reading articles where she was emphatically saying she wasn't going to do another one. Inflation higher than she thought, perhaps? :p

But this is just my take. Just wanted to share so you wouldn't think I was a total psycho for liking it. :)

thanks for the review!
d

Interesting take, definitely.

I sort of liked the martyr element, just because it's so often the heroic male who gets the death scene... or rather, women get it when they die for love, but men die in movies to save the world. So, that she was the agent of her own death, and the Christ analogy set up in the way they filmed it, I liked.

I was so sad when I lent it to you, because I knew you would hate it. *Sigh*.

I've never seen the Director's Cut of Alien3, but, according to the IMDb (see the Alternate versions section), there were a *lot* of changes made, and it seems these put more emphasis on Charles S. Dutton's character, Clements.

ETA: damn, those Charles names are confusing...

Thanks for the info Cyan! Now I'm going to have to rent the director's cut to compare and contrast the two.

I found an illustrated comparison here. Also, it seems that it's not a Director's Cut, because David Fincher refused to have anything to do with the movie for the DVD release, but an "Assembly Cut" re-created by someone else.

One key change is that the alien *doesn't* burst from Ripley's chest as she falls into the lava.

And, since comments disallow HTML, by "here", I mean at: http://www.avpgalaxy.net/alienfilms.php?section=alien3deletedp1

I think the degeneration of Ripley's character was due to the amount of mental trauma she must have sustained in the first two. (Seeing people being gored, having alien embryos burst from their chests.) I did kinda hate the fact that Newt died, though.

the alternate directors cut version was interesting, a lot of changes made. where a lot of directors cuts are basically the same film but with a few added (some pointless) sequences, this was more a case of actually cutting some scenes from the one we know and actually replacing them. such as the abituoir and the bulls, yet no sign of any dogs, like in the origional. in some ways i found this version better, because the origional seemed to concentrate on four or five main characters and the other twenty or so were just there in the background with no more than a few centences between them, simply waiting to be torn apart. the other version seemed to elaborate more on the characters (mostly golum, who turns out to be completely mad!). even the simplest of things such as a conversation had another centence or so added, elaborating more on what was happening (not that in some parts it really needed to). I do wonder though if this version was not used due to the poor special effects, because in this directors cut some of it looked pretty bad, especially when ripley dies at the end, the one were the alien bursts out in the other was much better any way. Also when the dead face hugger is found next to the dead bull, the prisoners reaction wasnt nearly real enough, it was more as though he had come accross an insect he had never seen before other than the gruesome thing it actually is. But like i said other than that it seemed to add a lot of nessassary and quite entertaing detail the origional dosnt have.

One point you didn't address is that Alien 3 is a relentlessly pro-choice movie. Throughout the movie she is pregnant with a pregnancy she doesn't want, and at the end the authorities are trying to force her to carry the pregnancy to term -- and she chooses to die rather than let herself be used as an incubator in that way. If that's not a feminist message, what is?

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