Alien 3 represents the big screen directing debut of music video and commercial director David Fincher. It also represents the return to the roots of the Alien films, sending the Alien itself back into the shadows, and making the horror more psychological
Directors: David Fincher
Producers: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, & Walter Hill
Writers: Larry Ferguson, David Giler, Walter Hill, & Vincent Ward
Features: Interactive Menus, Scene Selection, Original Theatrical Trailer, Widescreen 2.35:1, ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC], ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Surround [CC], FRENCH: Dolby Digital Surround, SUBTITLES English, Spanish
Ellen Ripley - Sigourney Weaver
Dillon - Charles Dutton
Clemens - Charles Dance
Golic - Paul McGann
Alien 3 represents the big screen directing debut of music video and commercial director David Fincher. It also represents the return to the roots of the Alien films, sending the Alien itself back into the shadows, and making the horror more psychological and character based than Aliens did.
Alien 3 starts out by killing off everyone who survived the second movie except Ripley. This is understandably done for a few reasons. One would be budget (Michael Biehn probably became a lot more expensive after Aliens, and Sigourney Weaver wouldn't be cheap), and the other would be the age of the young actress who played Newt in Aliens (after all, she couldn't have aged in the hyper-chamber, right?). This effectively sets a dark tone for the third film in the series right from the get-go. Not only do we have Ripley as the sole survivor (again), but she's stuck on a prison planet with a bunch of violent criminals and only a few unarmed guards (and, of course, an Alien).
The film itself suffers from a few problems which distract from the very well written story.
One problem would be the audio. There are several scenes in the film where the dialogue is simply unintelligible. There's too much background noise and echo. It sounds like production audio was used in some instances where dubbing would've been more appropriate. It is worth noting, however, that the DVD does sound better (and clearer) than the theatrical, laserdisc or VHS copies of the movie, and I suspect is the best it's going to get without having actors actually go back and re-dub dialogue at this point.
Another problem would be some of the effects shots. It's obvious Fincher had never worked with the level of special effects required for a film of this stature, as several of the shots of the Alien are incredibly poorly matted. Other shots where an Alien "suit" was used look fantastic, it's just the mattes that suck.
The last problem with the film itself would be with the editing. David Fincher made it very clear that this was not his cut of the film (and from what I've heard, his cut makes a lot of the characters significantly deeper), and has distanced himself from the theatrical print. Sadly (and probably due to remaining internal conflicts at Fox), the release of Alien 3 on DVD is the original theatrical cut. Maybe one day we'll all get to see Fincher's cut, but not today.
One problem which is purely DVD related is the screwed up aspect ratio. The film was original shot at 2.35:1, and the DVD is supposed to represent that aspect ratio. It doesn't. The image is very clearly cropped on the sides in some shots, and seems to be more of a 2.15:1 aspect ratio. This is even more apparent when going through the supplements, as the included making-of documentary has some of the same shots, and they're framed correctly there. This is a big gaff on Fox's part, and is quite distracting during several scenes in the movie.
Extras on the disc are light compared to the other discs in the Alien Legacy box set. There's theatrical trailers and a behind the scenes documentary which is studio-friendly, and conspicuously contains no comments from director David Fincher. Fincher has gone on to do some great films (Seven, The Game) since this one, but it would still be interesting to see him revisit this material at some point. Maybe when cooler heads prevail on both parts (generally time will do that).
All in all, the DVD of Alien 3 represents the best that's available at this point. Sadly, the screwed up aspect ratio is distracting, and the audio still isn't perfect, but given the alternatives (the muddled audio of the VHS and laserdisc copies) this is as good as it gets. A lackluster effort on Fox's part for a film which really deserves better treatment.
Contributing Editor: www.dvdfuture.com