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New Escapist Column! On the Bleak Nihilism at the Heart of Alien³…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With “Alien Day” arriving tomorrow, I thought this was as good a time as any to celebrate the most under-appreciated film in the series.

Alien³ has a somewhat tarnished legacy. It was subject to a lot of criticism when it came out, some of which was justified and some was not. While director David Fincher’s original vision is lost to history, there have been welcome efforts to reclaim the film. The Assembly Cut is well worth any film fan’s time, and deserves consideration as a worthy entry within the larger franchise. Even allowing for this minor rehabilitation, the film is still undervalued.

Alien³ will never be as good or as iconic as Alien or Aliens. However, it is a worthy successor. The film’s unrelenting commitment to – and loud endorsement of – nihilism is very much in keeping with the spirit of the franchise. Alien³ is a massive and expensive studio blockbuster that argues for the horror of existence and the cruelty of a vicious universe. It is a $50m argument for self-negation in the face of such cosmic terror. These ideas simmered through Alien, but Alien³ allows them to come to a boil. It’s breathtaking.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

On Second Thought: Alien Resurrection (Special Edition)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

So this is Earth, huh?

This is Earth.

– Call and Ripley try not to sound too disappointed…

I am not the biggest fan of Alien: Resurrection. I think it is, to be frank, a mess of a film – the result of a director and a writer who seem a very poor fit for one another, with Jeunet’s macabre design aesthetic at odds with Whedon’s sardonic irony. It would take a fairly radical reworking of the film to solve that fair fundamental tonal dissonance… and the Special Edition is not that much of a reworking. Indeed, Jeunet himself has gone of record stating that his own definitive version the film was the original theatrical cut. He introduces the Special Edition on the superb anthology collection with that confession, “The special edition version you are about to watch is not the director’s cut, because the director’s cut is the version you watched in theatres in 1997.”

So it’s no surprise that while the Special Edition does add a bit more shading, nuance and complexity to the film, it doesn’t salvage it.

Not quite what the doctor ordered…

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On Second Thought: Alien³ (The Assembly Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien and Aliens are, quite rightly, considered classics of the science-fiction horror subgenre, superbly constructed examinations of the monsters lurking in the darkness. Unfortunately, the two sequels, Alien³ and Alien Resurrection are not so highly regarded. One would imagine that producing a film about a monster in the future really wouldn’t be that difficult, but the films were both dogged by their own pre-production turmoil. In particular, this third film went through several painful iterations before reaching the big screen – and, even then, there was a sense that nobody was especially happy with the result.

However, this series of films has also benefited from a great deal of affection, attention and examination from both creators and fans. As such, it isn’t really a surprise that even the creators have returned to help patch them up from time to time, lovingly repairing and restoring and updating the installments in this landmark franchise. While Alien³: The Assembly Cut is not a literal Director’s Cut, it does afford the viewer a rare insight into what David Fincher’s version of the film might have looked like.

Back against the wall…

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Non-Review Review: The Game

The Game is perhaps something of a black sheep on David Fincher’s filmography. It wasn’t quite an early work like Alien 3, but it falls between two of his larger and better received works, Se7en and Fight Club. While it contains the same thematic depth which would define Fincher’s work (and continues to), exploring ideas like the nature of social interactions and the hostile world, it isn’t quite as readily accessible as most of his other work. From the outset, it’s almost as though The Game wants you to believe that it is just a set-up, that it’s rigged, that it will have a ridiculous and illogical conclusion, which makes it a difficult movie for the audience to engage with or trust. The Game hinges on the audience (and the central character) being unable to distinguish between the set-up and reality – effectively letting the audience know that they are going to be toyed with, and potentially alienating them. Which is a shame, because it’s a cleverly constructed little film which would be a lot more charming if it didn’t spend so much of its time informing you of how smart it is.

Quit clowning around...

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Non-Review Review: Alien³

Alien³ is generally regarded as an inferior Alien film, and the start of a slippery slope that would lead us through Alien: Resurrection into Aliens vs. Predator and even Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. It’s also regarded as something of a hiccup in the career of David Fincher, and an example of how meddling from greedy corporate executives can potential derail the rise of a young talent. That’s a lot of pressure for a single film to carry – particularly one which has enough trouble standing on its own two feet. However, I am quite fond of this particular incarnation of the franchise. Not enough to call it a “classic” or even “great”, but enough to argue that it was a relatively brave and ultimately valid experiment for the franchise – much more so, arguably, than the fourth film.

It’s an emotional reunion, to say the least…

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