Hello and Hallo-welcome to our first Sunday review, where we’ve decided to give second chances to second (and third and fourth) films in franchises–it’s Sequel Sundays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who have lived to see themselves through to the third installation in the Hallowfest series, but who knows if this year will be their last?
Today’s film offering: Alien 3 (Assembly Cut)
Lilly: I want to go on record here that I will never stop calling this film Alien Cubed. Ever. Just getting that out right away. Proceed.
Andy: Probably sporting the most troubled production, well, ever, and a director who has officially disowned it, this film is not likely to be on too many people’s radars. Which is a shame, because the Assembly Cut is really rather good.
After the end of Aliens, where it seemed the threat had been ended through a big explosion and fisticuffs with a walking forklift, it seemed that our intrepid survivors were headed home. Alas, it was not to be, and after a pretty brutal crash landing we are left with two dead, a smashed up android and Ripley, who’s getting pretty tired of this shit. Oh, and a facehugger, which attaches itself to the nearest ox.
Lilly: Quick note: since we’ll be looking at sequels of films on Sundays, there will be no apologies made for spoilers of the films that came before–I, for one, will not take responsibility for what order you watch the films in, but if you don’t want to be spoiled for the films that came before, don’t read a review of the film that came after!
Andy: Right. Unfortunately for Ripley, she’s crashed onto a prison planet filled with dangerous criminals, but it’s OK, because they’ve found God and have taken an oath of celibacy and quiet reflection, one that must be pretty easy to maintain on a planet where your choices for a good time are crazy Paul McGann or the nearest ox.
Lilly: Yeah, I’m pretty sure an oath of celibacy on a prison planet where there is no chance of sex for all the hereosexual menfolk isn’t an oath so much as a “shrug, guess we aren’t getting any” sort of movement. But I guess fine, whatever, pat on the back all ‘round, guys, for not having sex. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to go and fetch my eyes as they rolled clean out of my head there.
Andy: Still, things could be worse. I mean there could be an alien running aro… bugger. And Ripley now has to convince a skeptical superintendent, a kindly doctor and an apocalyptic religious leader that it’s going to start knocking off the brothers.
(As a side note, the scene where she tries to convince the super is one of my favourite scenes in any of the Alien movies, mainly for his incredulous description: “Let me see if I have this correct, Lieutenant – it’s an 8-foot creature of some kind with acid for blood, and it arrived on your spaceship. It kills on sight, and is generally unpleasant.”)
So why do I like this one so much? At the risk of getting all literary on a fairly lighthearted review blog, this one has such awesome themes. Alien has had entire books written on the psychosexual smorgasboard it presents–
Lilly: Ugh, ew.
Andy: –but one of the weaknesses of Aliens is a slightly overdone ‘Vietnam was a bad idea’ motif and ultimately a reaffirmation of the Reagan-era idea of the nuclear family. Blech.
Lilly: But at least there were less genitals worked into the set design. Ew, I say again.
Andy: Alien 3 though takes things in a very different direction. Most of the sexual themes and militarism are gone, and instead we are placed in a lead foundry apocalyptic nightmare with a doomsday cult who discover that the Devil isn’t merely a metaphysical threat to the soul, but an active threat that will grab you, eviscerate you, burn you. The Beast is Out There indeed. How cool is that?
Lilly: Well, there is still sexual themes–what with Ripley nearly getting raped and the celibacy oath being a plot point. Maybe, for the sake of my own sanity, I can accept that these elements were put in to really drive home the base nature of human beings–eat and screw–versus the instinct of kill, kill, kill the alien had. While the men were busy eyeing Ripley up, the alien was merrily carrying on with its menacing tasks of procreating via parasitic acts and killing stuff.
Meanwhile, can we talk about the design of the prison system in the future? Rehabilitation is clearly out the window, as they are obviously just removing all ability to commit crime and that’s it. Then it is labour for you! How is it that we have AI like Bishop walking around, but the criminal justice system seems to have gone backwards? It’s like they thought ‘Hey, a prison colony worked for Australia, sooo…’ So many questions. But you were talking about how cool it was?
Andy: It helps that so many of the cast are so charismatic. I’ve expressed my love for the Superintendent Andrews already – add to that a cheerfully foul mouthed Morse, brooding cult leader Dillon and a calm doctor played by Charles Dance of all people, and this is a wonderfully memorable group – and this is before we mention the poor crazy bastard whose response to the alien is to start worshipping it.
Lilly: I did enjoy the characters of this film far more than Aliens (save Bishop, who is my Alien franchise MVP, honestly)…
Andy: (And one of the very, very small number of reasons to watch Alien vs Predator.)
Lilly: …but that might come down to the fact that they weren’t all soldiers or a child. That, and one, as mentioned, was played by Charles Dance. And then there was the guy from Wayne’s World. I mean, it was a cast of ‘oh that guy!’s which I can get behind. On top of that, they also seemed to have stuff going on besides either the alien attack or being a soldier, like actual plot you could sink your teeth into, which I enjoyed.
However. Can we talk about the climax scene? The last attempt at ridding themselves of that turbulent alien down in the foundry? It lasted two days, or so it felt, and it was basically running, screaming, and everything was brown. I have a real problem in horror films (or action films, for that matter) when the attempt to make the energy the characters are feeling translate into the camera work, which leads to blurry nonsense and loud noises. We were already down to a few brothers (it’s not a spoiler to say some died, this is an Alien film, deal with it) that were harder to tell apart, and so it lead to not a few moments where I had to work out which one just survived that near miss, and if everything was going according to plan or not. And then, when it was finally over…it wasn’t over. There was another climax with a surprise guest to the prison colony. Just. Stop. Stop film. I’m done. I’d like to get off now, please.
Andy: Even if Hicks and Newt will always hold a special place in your heart, you need to watch or rewatch this movie in it’s Assembly Cut form. You may not love it as much as I do, but I’m sure you’ll like it a lot more than you expect.
Lilly: As much as I like to pick holes in it, I actually really enjoyed this film, too. Moreso, even, than Alien. Gasp, I know! From the strangely adorable/hilarious xenomorph that is featured in it to the budding friendship/romance/whatever between Ripley and Charles Dance, I found myself happy to be horrified by this one. So even if it is going to be retconned the heck out of come the next film in the Alien series, give it a shot. You might be surprised.