On the redemptive nature of Jesus H. Ripley

I made it about an hour into the 2003 “Assembly Cut” of Alien 3 last night during my evening exercise, and now I’m angry at you. I’m angry at you because you never told me that this reworking of the movie transforms it from something interesting but troubled into a genuinely good movie. I expect better from you, Internet!

I have a strange relationship with Alien 3, actually. It arrived in theaters right around the time that I started venturing out to see movies on my own (which is to say, shortly after my friends and I were old enough to drive), and right around the time I was allowed in to see R-rated movies on my own recognizance. So I saw Alien 3 with only a vague, general familiarity of the previous films — the basic concept of the xenomorph and whatever random edited-for-television clips I’d caught in passing — so I didn’t have a lot of expectations for it. So, I enjoyed the movie, although my friends and I had a good laugh about the obviousness of the part where Ripley puts her arms out and all but says, “Crucify me in an act of, like, way deep symbolism!” Later, though, I watched the other films in their entirety and came to realize what a slap in the face Alien 3 was to everyone involved in the first two movies. I don’t even really like Aliens all that much, but the survivors of that film surely deserved better than dying off-screen.

Of course, the new cut of Alien 3 doesn’t change the fact that the script basically flips the middle finger to anyone who loved Aliens, but so far what I’ve seen of the Assembly Cut has been a smarter film, one with much better pacing and a generally better-developed story. I guess it’s kind of like Chrono Cross, now: Offensive as a sequel to a classic, but a commendable work in its own right.

I can see why people still hate it, though. But that’s OK. In my heart, too, the real sequel to Aliens is Mark Verheiden’s two-volume graphic novel set (Aliens Book One and Two) published by Dark Horse back before Alien 3 came along. If you read them, be sure to track down the original printings (which don’t command any sort of premium), since they’re far more powerful and interesting when the main characters are properly called “Hicks” and “Newt” rather than whatever Fox mandated they be renamed in more recent printings.

Come to think of it, before I saw Alien 3, a friend’s original pamphlet-comic printings of Verheiden’s story were how I knew this franchise. They were the reason I was interested in the movie to begin with — they were moody and fascinating, depicting the xenomorphs having a sort of psychic presence in humanity’s collective conscious that, combined with the black-and-white art, felt oppressive and eerie. I wish the subsequent film sequels were half as interesting as what Verheiden had concocted for a comic series that was negated by the first 30 seconds of Alien 3‘s script.

Oh well. At least Alien 3 for Super NES was great.

12 thoughts on “On the redemptive nature of Jesus H. Ripley

  1. I didn’t like Alien 3 because it was a prison film rather than an Aliens film.

  2. “I guess it’s kind of like Chrono Cross, now: Offensive as a sequel to a classic, but a commendable work in its own right.”

    I’m playing through Chrono Trigger for the first time and am really enjoying the characters and world. Does Chrono Cross kill everyone between games or something along those lines? Because if it does I would be pretty peeved.

  3. I always liked Fincher’s comment: “We gave them a china cup and they turned it into a beer stein.”

  4. I have a soft spot for Alien 3, as it was released on my birthday and my late father took me to see it at the local theatre that day, while I was home from college on summer break. I remember learning everything I knew about the movie before seeing it from reading reviews of the Genesis game in GamePro and EGM. I remember reading about the aliens bursting from yaks, or bulls, or whatever they were, and that they were more doglike than bipedal humanoid. I was somewhat disappointed in the movie, as it had so few aliens, and I thought the ending was stilted, but yes, the director’s cut is head and shoulders above the original. And yet, the old Probe game for the Genesis brings back good memories, and the SNES game was certainly more scary and cerebral, less run-and-gun, but the ending, like that of the movie, was a letdown. No boss fight, just cinematic.

  5. The Alien has never been handled better than in the first script by Dan O’Bannon.

    O’Bannon very deliberately created the an unknowable, H.P. Lovecraft style entit

  6. The Alien has never been handled better than in the first script by Dan O’Bannon.

    O’Bannon very deliberately created an unknowable, H.P. Lovecraft style entity (he even said Alien took place in Lovecraft’s universe).

    The original xenomorph view was that of a creature whose origins, goals, even manner of existing were beyond the realm of human understanding. It was an intelligent, tough, walking nightmare.

    Cameron made a fine action film, but his retcon of the xenomorphs into space cockroaches, and making them significantly less intelligent and tough, really robbed them of their Lovecraftian inspiration. They became just another entry in the long line cannon fodder bug eyed aliens.

  7. OH and don’t bother with the “alternate” version of Alien Resurrection, the only big difference is the opening titles, which is a pretty cool effects shot I admit. Start it, see it, STOP IT AND BURN IT.

  8. As much as I genuinely love Aliens, Alien 3, even in its original theatrical cut, still feels like the only genuine sequel to Alien. If anything, it’s even more cynical and dark than the original.

    Now, if Alien: Resurrection had just been made without the Alien franchise attached, it would be a half-good piece of crap like the Silent Hill film. Which makes me hopeful for the non-Alien branded sequel/prequel that Ridley Scott may be working on.

  9. I always liked the progression of the movies. Alien was horror, Aliens was action, Alien 3 was a psychological thriller, and Alien Resurrection was space comedy with pesky aliens in the backround and Ron Perlman saying great one-liners like:

    “I am not the man with whom to f***.” That’s just silly.

    Alien 3 was definitely a let down though.

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