Original 1992 release poster
|Directed by||David Fincher|
|Produced by||Gordon Carroll
|Screenplay by||David Giler
|Story by||Vincent Ward|
|Based on||Characters created
by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Charles S. Dutton
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Edited by||Terry Rawlings|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||114 minutes
145 minutes (2003 Assembly Cut)
Alien 3 (stylized as Alien³) is a 1992 American science-fiction horror film and the debut feature film of director David Fincher. The film is the third installment of the Alien film series. The film takes place right after the events of Aliens (1986). An escape pod from the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco crash-lands on a prison-run refinery planet, killing everyone aboard except Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). Unknown to Ripley, an Alien organism was also aboard the escape pod, which then begins a killing spree in the prison.
The film had a difficult production, with various screenwriters and directors getting involved in the project, and shooting began without a finished script. The film was the big-budget debut of a young David Fincher, who was brought into the project after a proposed version with Vincent Ward at the helm was cancelled well into pre-production. Fincher had little time to prepare, and the experience of making the film proved agonizing for him. Besides the need to shoot and rewrite the script simultaneously while fitting in sets that had already been built, filming was also plagued by incessant creative interference from studio executives, who overruled many of Fincher's decisions and dictated a large part of production. Another complication arose when Jordan Cronenweth had to be replaced by Alex Thomson as he was suffering from Parkinson's disease more acutely than he had ever experienced since his diagnosis in 1978. Adding to Fincher's burdens was the pressure to create a film worthy of the previous two and their revered directors. Upon completion, the studio dismantled and reworked the film without Fincher's consent, including a teaser trailer that suggested the film would take place on Earth. Fincher has since disowned the film, citing the aforementioned reasons. In 2003, a heavily revised version of the film, known as the Assembly Cut, was released without Fincher's involvement.
The film received mixed reviews upon release, and was regarded as inferior to the previous installments. While under-performing at the United States box office, it earned over $100 million outside of North America and was considered a financial success. Over the years however, the film has received a cult following among critics and Alien fans, especially with the release of the 2003 assembly cut. 
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Development
- 4 Production
- 5 Reception
- 6 Adaptations
- 7 Home media
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco experiences an onboard fire and launches an escape pod containing Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) along with Newt, Hicks and the damaged android Bishop. Two hatched Alien eggs somewhere on the Sulaco can be seen in the opening credits. All four are in cryonic stasis. During the launch, the ship's medical scans of the crew's cryotubes show an Alien facehugger attached to one of the crewmembers. The pod then crashes on Fiorina 'Fury' 161, a foundry facility and penal colony inhabited by all-male inmates with "double-Y" chromosome patterns, and histories of physical and sexual violence. After some inmates recover the pod and its passengers, an Alien facehugger is seen approaching the prison dog. Ripley is taken in and awakened by Clemens (Charles Dance), the prison doctor, and is told she is the only survivor of the crash. Many of the ex-inmates, led by Dillon (Charles S. Dutton), have embraced an apocalyptic, millenarian version of Christianity. Ripley is warned by the prison warden, Harold Andrews (Brian Glover), that her presence among them may have extremely disruptive effects.
Suspicious of what caused the escape pod to jettison and what killed her companions, Ripley requests that Clemens perform an autopsy on Newt. She fears that Newt may be carrying an Alien embryo in her body, though she does not share this information. Despite protests from the warden and his assistant, Aaron (Ralph Brown), the autopsy is conducted. No embryo is found in Newt's body, and Clemens proclaims she simply died in the crash. Meanwhile, Ripley's unusual behavior begins to frustrate the warden and is agitating the prisoners.
A funeral is performed for Newt and Hicks, during which their bodies are cremated in the facility's enormous furnace. In another section of the facility, the prison dog enters convulsions, and a larger than normal Alien bursts from its body. The Alien soon begins to attack members of the colony, killing several and returning outcast prisoner Golic (Paul McGann) to his former deranged state. To get answers, Ripley recovers and reactivates the damaged android Bishop, who confirms that there was an Alien on the Sulaco and it came with them to Fiorina in the escape pod. She then informs Andrews of her previous encounters with the Aliens and suggests everyone work together to hunt it down and kill it. Andrews does not believe her story and explains that the facility has no weapons. Their only hope of protection is the rescue ship being sent for Ripley by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
Back in the prison infirmary, while talking to Ripley about the situation, Clemens is killed by the Alien, but when it is about to attack Ripley, it suddenly pauses, then retreats, mysteriously sparing her life. She runs to the mess hall to warn the others, Andrews orders Aaron to take her back to the infirmary, but the alien suddenly ambushes and kills Andrews. Ripley rallies the inmates and proposes they pour highly flammable toxic waste, which is stored at the facility, into the ventilation system and ignite it to flush out the creature. An explosion is caused by the creature's premature intervention, resulting in several deaths. Using the medical equipment aboard the Sulaco escape pod, Ripley scans herself with Aaron's help, and discovers the embryo of an Alien Queen growing inside her. She also finds out that the Corporation truly wants the Queen embryo and the adult Alien, hoping to turn them into biological weapons. Deducing that the mature alien will not kill her because of the embryo she carries, Ripley begs Dillon to kill her; he agrees to do so only if she helps the inmates kill the adult creature first, and he then rallies his men into action. They form a plan to lure it into the foundry's molding facility and drown it in molten lead by trapping it by closing a series of doors. The bait-and-chase style plan results in the death of all the remaining prisoners except Morse (Danny Webb) and Dillon. Dillon is the last victim; he fearlessly remains in the mold to distract the Alien, allowing it to tear him apart, as Morse pours the molten lead onto both of them. The Alien, covered in molten metal, escapes the mold but is quickly killed by Ripley when she turns on fire sprinklers and sprays the beast with water, causing its exoskeleton to cool rapidly and shatter via thermal shock.
While Ripley battles the Alien, the Weyland-Yutani team arrives, including a man who looks identical to the Bishop android, claiming to be its creator. He tries to persuade Ripley to undergo surgery to remove the Queen embryo, which he claims will be destroyed. Ripley refuses and steps back onto a mobile platform, which Morse positions over the furnace. The company men shoot Morse in the leg, prompting Aaron to pick up a large wrench and strike Bishop II over the head with it. This reveals that Bishop II is human as his blood is red, not white like an androids. Aaron is shot dead, and Bishop II and his men show their true intentions, begging Ripley to let them have the "magnificent specimen". Ripley defies them by throwing herself into the gigantic furnace. Sensing danger the alien Queen erupts from Ripley's chest. Ripley holds on to the alien so it cannot escape the inferno, and they both fall into the fire to their deaths.
The facility is closed down and the last surviving inmate, Morse, is led away. A sound recording of Ripley (her final lines from the original Alien) is heard from the Sulaco escape pod, "This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo...signing off."
- Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, reprising her role from the previous two Alien films. Ripley crash-lands on Fiorina 161 and is once again burdened with the task of destroying another of the alien creatures.
- Charles S. Dutton as Dillon, one of Fiorina's inmates who functions as the spiritual and de facto leader amongst the prisoners and attempts to keep the peace in the facility.
- Charles Dance as Jonathan Clemens, a former inmate who now serves as the facility's doctor. He treats Ripley after her escape pod crashes at the start of the film and forms a special bond with her. Before he is killed, Clemens laments to Ripley why he was originally sent to Fiorina, describing it as "more than a little melodramatic." Fincher initially offered the role to Richard E. Grant, hoping to reunite him with Withnail and I co-stars Ralph Brown and Paul McGann.
- Brian Glover as Harold Andrews, the prison warden. He believes Ripley's presence will cause disruption amongst the inmates and attempts to control the rumors surrounding her and the creature. He rejects her claims about the existence of such a creature, only to be killed by it.
- Ralph Brown as Aaron, the assistant of Superintendent Andrews. The prisoners refer to him by the nickname "85", after his IQ score, which annoys him. He opposes Ripley's insistence that the prisoners must try to fight the alien, and repudiates her claim that Weyland-Yutani will collect the alien instead of them.
- Paul McGann as Golic. A mass-murderer and outcast amongst the prison population, Golic becomes very disturbed after being assaulted by the alien in the prison's underground network of tunnels, gradually becoming more and more obsessed with the alien. In the Assembly Cut of the film, his obsession with and defense of the creature lead to murder, and his actions jeopardize the entire plan.
- Danny Webb as Morse, an acerbic, self-centered, and cynical prisoner. Although he is wounded by a company guard, Morse is the only survivor of the entire incident.
- Lance Henriksen playing an unnamed character but credited as Bishop II, he appears in the film's final scenes, claiming to be the human designer of the Bishop android. He wants the alien Queen that is growing inside Ripley for use in Weyland-Yutani's bioweapons division. He also reprises the role of Bishop from the previous movie, albeit in animatronic form.
- Tom Woodruff, Jr. as the Alien. This Alien is different from the ones in previous installments due to its host being quadrupedal (a dog in the theatrical cut, an ox in the assembly cut). Initially a visual effects supervisor, Woodruff decided to take the role of the creature after his company, Amalgamated Dynamics, was hired by Fox. Woodruff said that, following Sigourney Weaver's advice, he approaches the role as an actor instead of a stuntman, trying to make his performance more than "just a guy in a suit." He considered the acting process "as much physical as it is mental."
- Pete Postlethwaite as David, an inmate smarter than most who is killed by the creature in the bait-and-chase sequence.
- Holt McCallany as Junior, the leader of the group of inmates who attempt to rape Ripley. He has a tattoo of a tear drop underneath his left eye. In the Assembly Cut, he sacrifices himself to trap the alien as redemption.
- Peter Guinness as Gregor, one of the inmates who attempts to rape Ripley, he is bitten in the neck and killed by the Alien during the bait-and-chase sequence.
- Danielle Edmond as Rebecca "Newt" Jorden, the child Ripley forms a maternal bond with in the previous film who briefly returns as a corpse being autopsied. Carrie Henn was unable to reprise her role as Newt as she was too old for the part so Danielle Edmond took over the role in this installment for the brief autopsy scene with Newt's corpse.
- Christopher Fairbank as Murphy
- Phil Davis as Kevin
- Vincenzo Nicoli as Jude
- Leon Herbert as Boggs
- Christopher John Fields as Rains
- Niall Buggy as Eric
- Hi Ching as Company Man
- Carl Chase as Frank
- Clive Mantle as William
- DeObia Oparei as Arthur
- Paul Brennen as Troy
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008)|
|This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (March 2009)|
Originally Brandywine Productions was approached by 20th Century Fox to create two more sequels. After going through several ideas, David Giler and Walter Hill, the film series producers, "settled upon a complex two-part story that offered the underhanded Weyland-Yutani Corporation facing off with a militarily aggressive culture of humans whose rigid socialist ideology has caused them to separate from Earth's society." Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) would only make a cameo appearance in the third film, with the lead role going to Michael Biehn's Corporal Hicks from Aliens. Aliens 4 would see the return of Ripley "in an epic battle with alien warriors mass produced by the expatriated Earthlings." Weaver in particular liked the Cold War metaphor and agreed to the smaller role.
Weaver also agreed on being removed because she did not like the studio changes to Aliens, which removed scenes of Ripley's backstory that she considered crucial. Although 20th Century Fox were skeptical about the idea, they agreed to finance the development of the story, but asked that Hill and Giler attempt to get Ridley Scott to direct Alien 3. They also asked that the two films be shot back to back to lessen the production costs. However this proved to be difficult as Ridley Scott, though interested, was busy working on three films at the time. In September 1987, Giler and Hill approached cyberpunk author, William Gibson, to write the script for the third film. Gibson, who was influenced by Alien, agreed to write the script.
However, when a final screenplay (by David Twohy) was delivered to Fox president Joe Roth, he did not like the idea of Ripley being removed, declaring that "Sigourney Weaver is the centerpiece of the series" and Ripley was "really the only female warrior we have in our movie mythology." Weaver was then called, with a reported $5 million salary, plus a share of the box office receipts.
A very early script treatment was written by science fiction author William Gibson. At the time of his involvement, Sigourney Weaver "seemed doggedly unwilling to participate", so the main narrative focused on Hicks and Bishop. A version of this script is available on the Internet; however the circulated version is, according to Gibson, "about thirty pages shorter than the version I turned in. It became the first of some thirty drafts, by a great many screenwriters, and none of mine was used (except for the idea, perhaps, of a bar-code tattoo)."
In copies of Gibson's treatment, "chestbursters" erupt out of human hosts as in previous installments, and turn into "bigger, meaner, faster" Alien Warriors. Due to initial genetic modification experiments undertaken by the Biological Warfare division on the Company-run space station/mall Anchorpoint, the Aliens also exhibit an airborne virulent contagion. When exposed at close range the victim, after a variable amount of time, goes through "the Change," as Gibson calls it, and becomes a form of alien warrior, the suspense being that the team does not discover who is infected until it is least expected. The process imagined by Gibson can be summarized as an involuntary change in the human's skeletal and muscular makeup below the skin, concluding with the newly formed Alien graphically tearing the flesh husk off of its body.
The storyline for the film picked up after Aliens, as the Sulaco drifts into an area of space claimed by the "Union of Progressive Peoples", due to a navigational error. The ship is boarded by people from the U.P.P, who are attacked by a facehugger hiding in the entrails of Bishop's mangled body. The soldiers blast the facehugger into space and take Bishop with them for further study. The Sulaco then arrives at Anchorpoint. A fire on the ship caused by remaining Aliens puts Ripley into a coma, and Hicks is left to investigate if the rumors are true that Weyland-Yutani are developing alien warriors (which they are). The U.P.P. is also doing their own research, due to custody of Bishop. After they have finished with Bishop, they repair him (albeit with cheap parts) and return him to Anchorpoint in a show of good faith. Eventually Anchorpoint and the U.P.P stations are overrun with the parasite and Hicks must team up with the survivors to destroy the aliens. The film ends with a teaser for Alien 4 as Bishop suggests to Hicks that humans are united against a common enemy, and they must track the aliens to their source and destroy them. The screenplay was very action oriented, containing eight marine vs alien battle scenes (whereas its predecessor Aliens contained only two). It also featured an extended cast, with new characters. This script is considered in some circles as superior to the final film and has a considerable following on the Internet. The producers, while liking certain parts, were on the whole unsatisfied with the screenplay. Gibson was asked to make rewrites with newly hired director Renny Harlin, but declined, citing various other commitments and "foot dragging on the producers' part."
Eric Red re-write
The next draft was done by Eric Red, writer of the cult horror films The Hitcher and Near Dark, and opened with a team of Special Forces marines boarding the Sulaco unarmed and finding that all the survivors of the LV-426 mission had fallen victim to the aliens. The only reference to the first two films is a torn spacesuit name tag that is found bearing the name "Ripley". The screenplay in a sense was even bolder than the Gibson script, in that it took place entirely in a small-town USA city in a type of bio-dome in space. Red's screenplay resurrected the idea of aliens transforming humans into cocoons that was deleted from the original film. The screenplay's brash storyline culminates in an all-out battle with the townsfolk facing hordes of Alien warriors, yet it also contains an arguably higher level of horror than the previous films and screenplays. It is also the first screenplay in the Aliens genre to feature a genetically mixed Alien-Human creature in antibiosis (foreshadowing the "newborn" in Alien Resurrection). The screenplay also reuses the "alien virus" idea from Gibson's draft, which this time gives rise to Alien mosquitoes, cattle, dogs and chickens and has even gained the ability to infect matter and technology as well, resulting in the space station itself being transformed into a giant alien-like creature. After being shown Red's screenplay, then-director Renny Harlin walked out on the project to direct Die Hard 2, and Red was fired shortly afterward. It was at this point that Giler and Hill abandoned their plans for the two Alien sequels. When asked about his screenplay draft in a 2010 interview, Red replied "That’s the one script I completely disown because it was not 'my script'. It was the rushed product of too many story conferences and interference with no time to write, and turned out utter crap."
David Twohy's "Prison Planet"
Writer (and future director) David Twohy was next to work on the project. His version featured a prison planet, which was being used for illegal experiments on the aliens for a Biological Warfare division. The screenplay details how inmates on death row were "mock executed" in a gas chamber, while actually being kept alive and being used as bait in experiments with the Alien. Examples included breach testing, where the Alien would be videotaped using scientific high speed cameras as it searched for – and found – the weakest part of a structure with a human bait inside, broke through and attacked the victim. This screenplay was also the first to propose a failed clones scenario, describing large jars of Alien test clones, some fused together as Siamese twins, possibly as a forerunner to the "clones of Ripley" scene in Alien Resurrection.
It was also the first script to feature a high number of different Alien types (Rogue Alien, Spike Alien, Alien chameleon, etc.), and was the first screenplay to flesh out the idea of the "newborn" (used later in Alien Resurrection), called the "newbreed" here.
Finally, the script also had numerous scenes where victims are piecemeal sucked into space through a small rupture in the hull (or through bars) causing very gruesome deaths, possibly functioning as a precursor to the death of the "newborn" in Alien: Resurrection.
When new director Vincent Ward told the studio he was not interested in filming Twohy's script and wanted to pursue his own idea of the film, Twohy's draft was scrapped. Twohy's script did not feature Ripley, similar to the earliest draft.
Vincent Ward's "Wooden Monastery"
The story by Vincent Ward and the screenplay with co-writer John Fasano had Ripley's escape pod crash landing on a monastery-like satellite, which had parts of its interior both wooden and archaic in design. The Alien 3 special features disc set, Alien Quadrilogy explains how Ward came about creating the story for this partially wooden satellite also as a place of refuge for Luddite-like monks.
The story begins with a monk who sees a "star in the East” (Ripley's escape pod) and at first believes this to be a good omen. Upon arrival of Ripley, and with increasing suggestions of the Alien presence, the monk inhabitants believe it to be some sort of religious trial for their misdemeanors, punishable by the creature that haunts them. By having a woman in their monastery, they wonder if their trial is partially caused by sexual temptation, as Ripley is the only woman to be amongst the all-male community in ten years. To avoid this belief and (hopefully) the much grimmer reality of what she has brought with her, the Monks of the "wooden satellite" lock Ripley into a dungeon-like sewer and ignore her advice on the true nature of the beast. The monks believe that the Alien is in fact the Devil.
Primarily though, this story was about Ripley's own soul-searching complicated by the seeding of the Alien within her and further hampered by her largely solo attempts to defeat it. The Alien Quadrilogy DVD set features scenes and illustrations that show this 'Wooden Planet'. Aspects of the monastery and monks of these drafts were later utilised in the final production of the film by having the male inmates participating in an apocalyptic religion that forbade sexual relations. Primarily it was the plot of Alien 3 that was borrowed from this story but little of this world remained in the film. Despite his credit, Ward noted that the things he liked best about the story and those that he believed would have made it work were not used. The screenplay featured scenes set in different locations on the one-mile (1.6 km) wide wooden planetoid, ranging from wheat fields, through a grisly but darkly comic scene in the monks’ communal toilets, to furnaces and a glass works (a concept used the finished film but changed to a lead works).
Empire magazine described Ward's 'Wooden Planet' concept as 'undeniably attractive – it would have been visually arresting and at the very least, could have made for some astonishing action sequences.' In the same article, Norman Reynolds – Production Designer originally hired by Ward – remembers an early design idea for "a wooden library shaft. You looked at the books on this wooden platform that went up and down". 'Imagine the kind of vertical jeopardy sequence that could have been staged here – the Alien clambering up these impossibly high bookshelves as desperate monks work the platform'.:156 Sigourney Weaver described Ward’s overall concept as "very original and arresting.":153 Former Times journalist David Hughes included Ward's version of Alien 3 amongst "The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made" in his book of this title. Ward’s proposed version of Alien 3 has gained a certain following with the 2009 article in Empire Magazine and an extensive section dedicated to Ward’s vision in the Alien Quadrilogy box set.
Walter Hill and David Giler's script
Short on time before filming was due to commence, producers Walter Hill and David Giler took control of the screenplay themselves, melding aspects of the Ward/Fasano script with Twohy's earlier prison planet screenplay to create the basis of the final film. Sigourney Weaver had also had a clause written into her contract stating the final draft should be written by Hill and Giler, believing that they were the only writers (besides James Cameron) to write the character of Ripley effectively. David Fincher did further work on the screenplay with author Rex Pickett, and despite Pickett being fired and Hill and Giler writing the final draft of the screenplay, he revised most of the work done by the previous authors.
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Filming began on January 14, 1991 at Pinewood Studios without a finished script and with $7 million already having been spent. While a majority of the film was shot at Pinewood, some scenes were shot at Blyth Power Station in Northumberland, UK. The purpose of these shots were to show the exterior of the planet.
H.R. Giger redesign
David Fincher wanted the alien to be, “more of a puma, or a beast” as opposed to the upright, humanoid posture of the previous films, so the designer of the original alien, H. R. Giger, was contacted to generate new sketch ideas. His revisions included longer, thinner legs, the removal of “pipes” around the spine, and an idea for a sharp alien “tongue” in place of the secondary jaws. Working from his studio in Zurich, Giger produced these new sketches which he faxed to Cornelius de Fries who then created their model counterparts out of plasticine.
Stan Winston, responsible for creature effects in Aliens, was approached but was not available. Winston instead recommended Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gills, two former workers of his studio who had just started their own company, Amalgamated Dynamics.
The Alien is portrayed by both Woodruff, Jr. in a suit and a rod puppet filmed against bluescreen and optically composited into the live-action footage, with the rods removed by rotoscoping. A mechanical alien head was also used for close-ups. The suit adapted the design used in Aliens so Woodruff could walk on all fours. Woodruff's head was contained in the neck of the suit, because the head was filled with animatronics to move the mouth of the Alien.
The rod-puppet approach was chosen for the production rather than stop-motion animation which did not provide the required smoothness to appear realistic. As a result, the rod-puppet allowed for a fast alien that could move across surfaces of any orientation and be shot from any angle. This was particularly effective as it was able to accomplish movements not feasible by an actor in a suit. The 1/3 scale puppet was 40 inches long and cast in foam rubber over a bicycle chain armature for flexibility.
Laine Liska was hired to lead a team of puppeteers in a new process dubbed “Mo-Motion” where the rod puppet would be simultaneously manipulated and filmed with a moving motion control camera. Depending on the complexity of the shot, the puppet was operated by 4-6 people. Sparse sets were created as they provided freedom of motion for the puppeteers as well as large, solid surfaces for the puppet to act within a three dimensional space.
The crew were pushed to make the movements of the alien as quick as possible to the point where they were barely in control, and this led to, according to Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, “the occasional serendipitous action that made the alien have a character.” The ease of this setup allowed the crew to film 60-70 takes of a single scene.
ADI also built a full-scale Bunraku-style puppet of the newborn alien (nicknamed the “Bambi Burster”) which was operated on-set as an in-camera effect. Scenes using this approach were cut from the final release but can be seen in “Assembly Cut” of the film. Due to the limitations of chemical compositing techniques -making it exceedingly difficult to remove the puppeteers from the background plate- additional shots using this method were abandoned.
Fincher suggested that a whippet be dressed in an alien costume for on-set coverage of the quadrupedal alien, but the visual effects team was dissatisfied with the comical result and the idea was dropped in favor of the puppet.
For moving camera shots, the on-set cameras were equipped with digital recorders to track, pan, tilt, and dolly values. The data output was then taken back to the studio and fed into the motion control cameras with the linear dimensions scaled down to match the puppet.
To make syncing the puppet's actions with the live-action shots easier, the effects team developed an instant compositing system using LaserDisc. This allowed takes to be quickly overlaid on the background plate so the crew could observe whether any spatial adjustments were required.
Scenes of the Emergency Escape Vehicle were shot with a 3.5-foot miniature against a blue-screen and composited onto large scale traditional matte paintings of the planet's surface. To make the clouds glow from within as the EEV entered the atmosphere, the painting's values were digitally reversed and animated frame-by-frame. The scene in which the EEV is moved by a crane-arm (also a miniature) was created by projecting a video of actors onto pieces of cardboard and then compositing them into the scene as silhouettes against the matte painted background.
Computer generated imagery
The film's composer, Elliot Goldenthal, spent a year composing the score by working closely with Fincher to create music based primarily on the surroundings and atmosphere of the film itself. The score was recorded during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which Goldenthal later claimed contributed to the score's disturbing nature.
The film was released in the United States on May 22, 1992. The film debuted at number two of the box office, behind Lethal Weapon 3, with a Memorial Day weekend gross of $23.1 million. It screened in 2,227 theaters, for an average gross of $8,733 per theater. The film was considered a flop in North America with a total of $55.4 million, although it grossed $104.3 million internationally for a total of $159.7 million. It is the second highest earning Alien film, excluding the effect of inflation, and had the 28th highest domestic gross in 1992.
The film initially received mixed reviews from critics, generally being unfavorably compared to the preceding two films in the franchise. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 42% "Rotten" based on 41 reviews.
A number of cast and crew associated with the series, including actor Michael Biehn, previous director James Cameron, and novelist Alan Dean Foster, expressed their frustration and disappointment with the film's story. Cameron, in particular, regarded the decision to kill off the characters of Bishop, Newt, and Hicks as "a Temple of Doom slap in the face" to him and to fans of the previous film. Biehn, upon learning of Hicks' demise, demanded and received almost as much money for the use of his likeness in one scene as he had been paid for his role in Aliens.
However, in recent years, Alien 3 has built up a reputation as a cult classic among certain critics and audiences. The Assembly Cut was released as part of the Alien Quadriloqy in 2003. This version received generally positive reviews and is widely considered to be an improvement over the theatrical version.
The bonus disc for Alien 3 in the 2003 Quadrilogy set includes a documentary of the film's production but lacks Fincher's participation. Despite giving the Quadrilogy high marks, TheDigitalbits.com directed criticism at 20th Century Fox, pointing out that the studio removed clips from the documentary in which Fincher openly expresses anger and frustration with the studio. These clips were restored for the 2010 Blu-ray release of the Anthology, and received good feed back when seen.
The film was also nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Action Sequence.
A novelization of the film was authored by Alan Dean Foster. His adaptation includes many scenes that were cut from the final film, some of which later reappeared in the Assembly Cut. Foster wanted his adaptation to differ from the film's script, which he disliked, but Walter Hill declared he should not alter the storyline. Foster later commented: "So out went my carefully constructed motivations for all the principal prisoners, my preserving the life of Newt (her killing in the film is an obscenity) and much else. Embittered by this experience, that's why I turned down Resurrection."
The official licensed video game was developed by Probe Entertainment, and released for multiple formats by Acclaim, LJN and Virgin Interactive, including Amiga, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo/Super Famicom, Mega Drive/Genesis, and Sega Master System. Rather than being a faithful adaptation of the film, it took the form of a basic platform action game where the player controlled Ripley using the weapons from the film Aliens in a green-dark ambient environment. The Game Boy version, developed by Bits Studios, was different from the console game, being a top-down adventure game. Sega also developed a rail shooter loosely based on the film's events, Alien 3: The Gun.
Alien 3 has been released in various home video formats and packages over the years. The first of these were on VHS and Laserdisc, and several subsequent VHS releases were sold both singly and as boxed sets throughout the 1990s. A VHS boxed set titled The Alien Trilogy containing Alien 3 along with Alien and Aliens was released in facehugger-shaped carrying cases, and included some of the deleted scenes from the Laserdisc editions. When Alien Resurrection premiered in theaters in 1997, another boxed set of the first three films was released titled The Alien Saga, which included a Making of Alien Resurrection tape. A few months later this set was re-released with the Alien Resurrection film taking the place of the making-of video. In 1999, Alien 3 was released on DVD, both singly and packaged with the other three Alien films as The Alien Legacy boxed set. This set was also released in a VHS version and would be the last VHS release of the film. In 2003, Alien 3 would be included in the 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy DVD set which contained two versions of the film (see below). The first three films were also later packaged as the Alien Triple Pack DVD set (this release was identical to the 1999 Alien Legacy set but excluding Alien Resurrection). Alien 3 was first released on Blu-ray in 2010, as part of the 6-disc Alien Anthology boxed set which included all of the features from the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set and more. The film was also released as a single Blu-ray disc in 2011.
2003 Assembly Cut
An alternate version of Alien 3 (officially titled the "Assembly Cut") with over 30 minutes of additional footage was released on the 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy box-set in 2003, and later in the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set in 2010. The film's extended footage includes alternate key plot elements, extended footage and deleted scenes. Director David Fincher was the only director from the franchise who declined to participate in the box-set releases.
The "Assembly Cut" 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. Ripley's unconscious body washes up on the shore of the planet in the Assembly Cut instead of being found in the ship's wreckage as in the theatrical cut. Some scenes are extended to focus more on the religious views of the inmates. The inmates succeed in their attempt to trap the alien, but it is later released by the disturbed inmate Golic. In this version, the alien Queen does not burst from Ripley's chest as she falls into the furnace. There is also a scene in the prison's assembly hall in which one of the inmates suggests to Dillon that they lead the creature to the furnace so that they can incinerate it. One notable scene that was not restored for the DVD or Blu-ray extended versions was the full autopsy scene. Greg Cannom, who worked on the special make-up effects, said in the Alien Quadrilogy special features that, "I saw the rough cut of the film, uncut, and there were some scenes in there that were pretty gross. There was an autopsy scene on the girl [Newt] and I like certain gore in the films. I do it [professionally], and it made me sick. It really grossed me out and I remember people got up and left, walked out of the theatre and I was just thinking, 'This will never be in the film. They can't show this stuff.' It was just too much I thought. And when the film came out, it wasn't in the film."
Some of the audio in the additional footage included in the original Alien Quadrilogy DVD version of the "Assembly Cut" is of noticeably poorer quality. This was because ADR by the original actors was not recorded for this footage, since it had been cut from the film by the time the film was being dubbed. For the 2010 Alien Anthology release, this dialogue was re-recorded by the original castmembers, making it on par with the original theatrical footage.
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