Ripley is the sole survivor after her escape pad crash-lands on Fiorina 161, a bleak planet inhabited by former inmates of a maximum-security facility. When she realizes an alien was also aboard her craft, she is shocked to learn the inmates possess no advanced technology or modern weapons. Yet no weapon can help Ripley after she learns that the alien terror has taken on a frightening and new personal dimension.
eyelights: no sickly dog. more development. more intensity.
eyesores: no sickly dog. slightly less coherent.
Longer isn’t always better. While it can work wonders for such dense material as the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, added footage has been known to dilute the impact of the original version of a film, such as is the case of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’.
But, as it happens, ‘Alien³‘ had more going for it than the theatrical cut suggested.
This ‘Assembly Cut’ (as it’s called, because director Fincher was uninvolved in its creation, and which was assembled for the 2003 special edition DVD release) is not a world-shaking improvement over the much-maligned original, but it does manage to offer a few nice surprises along the way – and, bizarrely, a few completely unnecessary or nonsensical additions that should have been left out.
What appears to have happened here is that the people involved took a bunch of outtakes from the picture and inserted them into the film, sometimes making complete substitutions to scenes that were in the original film. While some of these changes are improvements, some are poor choices and some are mixed-bags.
The not-so-bad: During the accidental fire, the original film has one man burn to death. In the ‘Assembly Cut’, the sequence is different and much longer, leading to the trapping of the alien – with one of the prisoners, who has sacrificed himself. I thought that it added action and tension to an otherwise slow-moving film at just the right time, punching it up a notch. It was also nice to see them make more than one attempt (and a temporarily successful one at that!) at catching the xenomorph. In the theatrical version, they only really try at the end – and it was a disappointing attempt, really.
The not-so-good: The opening scene that finds Ripley on the beach after her escape pod crashed in the water (instead of being rescued from the pod), is a poor addition. Let’s face it: given Ripley’s attachment to the other two passengers, there is no way that she would have left them behind of her own free will. And she sure as heck wasn’t ejected. So what gives? I’m also surprised that she didn’t drown while swimming to shore, given the shape that she’s in. How is that possible? And how did she regain consciousness in the first place? She should have been in stasis, just as she was in the beginning of ‘Aliens‘. Hmmm.
The not-so-good, but not-so-bad: Changing the alien host from a live dog to a dead cow is better because the dog became super sick -and sickly-looking- and yet no one noticed. Or found its cadaver. That was annoying. Sure, the dead cow begs the question “How could it host the alien, if it wasn’t alive?”, but perhaps there’s something that we don’t know about the xenomorphs. The main problem comes when the dog’s owner, in a scene kept from the original film, later thinks that he’s seeing his dog when it’s really the xenomorph. In this version, the scene makes no sense whatsoever: since the dog doesn’t exist here, what is he calling out to? His imaginary friend?
There’s a LOT of new material and so many small changes that it would be virtually impossible to comment on it all. At the very least, it would try my -and your- patience. For a relatively detailed analysis of this version (I say “relatively” because they analyzed a shorter cut somehow), please visit Movie-Censorship.com’s ‘Alien³’ page. It’s translated from German, so it’s not always entirely clear what is meant, but it gives a decent comparative overview of the changes.
The bottom line is that, in a departure from ‘Alien: The Director’s Cut‘ and ‘Aliens: The Director’s Cut‘, the ‘Assembly Cut’ is neither a clear downgrade nor a massive improvement over the theatrical version: in this case, it’s both at once. It leaves one wishing that there were a perfect cut of the film, but this would likely only have happened if David Fincher had been given free reign in the first place.
No such luck.
Post scriptum: Please note that this “Assembly cut” is approximately 30 minutes longer than the original was and clocking in at well over 2h20n. I had no idea when I sat down to watch it and it really took me by surprise. Keep this in mind, if ever you decide to tackle it yourself. It’s a commitment.
Date of viewing: March 2, 2013