Adaptive Organism

Having brought life to an Alien army and their 14-foot tall matriarch in Aliens, Stan Winston was initially sought out by Twentieth Century Fox to resume a role as Alien 3‘s creature designer due to his previous Oscar-winning work. Unfortunately for the production, the effects maestro was unavailable, with 1990-91 seeing him directing his second feature, A Gnome Named Gnorm, which he then followed with more Oscar-winning work, crafting the physical effects for the T-1000 on James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Instead of leaving the new Alien project hanging, Winston recommended two of his former protégés for the job, Tom Woodruff Jnr and Alec Gillis. The two had previously cut their teeth with Winston on The Terminator and Aliens and had recently left his employ to form their own monster shop, Amalgamated Dynamics Inc., or ADI. 

In their foreword to The Making of AVP, Woodruff and Gillis explained how they were approached: “In 1990, Gordon Carroll, one of the producers on the first two [Alien] pictures, called us to ask if we were interested in creating the effects for Alien 3. The plan was to return to Pinewood Studios outside of London and he wanted someone who knew the drill. By now, we had formed our own company, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc.”

Of their split from Winston and their company’s formation, Gillis explained: “Tom and I had worked well together at Stan’s and both had similar interests in where we wanted to go as filmmakers, so it just seemed logical [to found an effects company together.]” Gillis added elsewhere: “It was good timing for us to leave, and we parted with Stan’s blessings. He’ll always be our mentor, and he sometimes recommends us for jobs.”

The Alien 3 creature design story didn’t begin with either Winston or ADI. In the early (and varied) scripting days, artists Stephen Ellis and Mike Worrall sketched the creature in a series of poses and contexts; from the Alien coiled in a foetal position, to the creature lurking under floorboards, crouching upon lintels, and snatching monks from the latrine. Their concepts, taking off from Vincent Ward’s script, were almost hypnagogic in style (Worrall’s website describes his art as being “dreamlike … often inspired by historical themes,” perfect for Ward’s vision) with the Alien taking on a variety of forms, including a centaur-Alien and an Alien-sheep with the impression of an anthropomorphic moon on its backside; all presumably born from the wooden world’s livestock.

Ward’s Alien was also chameleonic, able to blend into the wooden makeup of the film’s medieval orbiter. It also took on a Morphean quality, invading Ripley’s dreams to haunt her with visions of her deceased daughter, whose face was to protrude from its jaws. The creature became a psychic as well as physical stalker. “It’s almost like he’s playing with me,” Ripley says to her confidant, Brother John (a proto-Clemens character). “Maybe they have some sort of race memory. Maybe he knows what I did to his ‘mother’. That’s why he didn’t just kill me … He has to torment me.” These metaphysical leanings were discarded upon Ward’s eventual departure and the script’s many subsequent rewrites.

“Hypnos” themed Alien.

The Alien itself, in some of the early concept art, seems to have a mollusc-like exoskeleton, its thighs sporting flues and its tail curled spirally coiled like a gastropod shell, and it’s not hard to imagine that the dome may be nacre-lined and iridescent. In other pieces, the creature is more generic.

There is some brief musing on the nature of the Alien in the script that isn’t present in the films. Locked in a cell with an android named Andrew, Ripley and the machine conclude that the Alien may have been bred for interstellar warfare.

“Maybe they are from some sort of aggressive soldier race,” muses Andrew. “Warring parties drop the eggs on opposing planets-” “-and the Alien takes on the form of the creature that finds it,” interjects Ripley. Andrew’s speculation regarding the origin of the Alien was not explored within the films themselves, though the issue was later (somewhat) addressed in Prometheus.

A more bestial design. Note the elongated insectile arms and crowning dome.

During the Vincent Ward period co-producer Gordon Carroll extended an invitation to Giger to work on the film. Allegedly, Giger was not available at this time. Later, when newcomer David Fincher took over directorial duties, the production re-established contact and Fincher travelled to meet Giger at his home.

“While I was working on my idea for The Mystery of San Gottardo, Gordon Carroll contacted me about Alien 3,” Giger told International Tattoo Art magazine in 1995. “I told him that I was working on a new creature and could probably combine it.” However, the producers weren’t interested in Giger’s side projects and designs. “Gordon Carroll asked if I was interested. ‘Yes, why not?’ Then it was, ‘Do this, do that and that!’ Just like when I started Alien.”

Though no script for the new film was presented, he knew what he was to create: an aquatic facehugger, a new chestburster, and a four-legged interpretation of the Alien being. “I worked like crazy on it,” Giger told ImagiMovies magazine in 1994. The artist relished the chance to revisit and revise his Alien monster. “I had special ideas to make it more interesting,” he said. “I designed a new creature which was much more elegant and beastly compared to my original. It was a four-legged Alien, more like a feline – a panther or something. It had a kind of skin which was built up from other creatures, like a symbiosis … I made a very long tongue like a sword and the Alien’s mouth should look beautiful. With the monks this time there’s an erotic fascination, and when it kisses them, you only see the mouth close-up. Then the tongue comes and you only see blood running …”

Giger quickly set to work, re-drawing his original Alien design and ruthlessly cutting out and changing what he didn’t like about it: including the “stiff, useless hands,” a tail that is “too much [like a] crocodile’s,” the Alien’s “useless pipes … only given to give help to the long head,” and the “too short ribcage.” Giger also discussed the shortcomings of the original creature with Cinephage in 1992: “Nothing in Alien worked so we did not show much [of the creature]. And that’s the highlight of the film. The tail of the monster never worked Ridley wanted it to beat the air. It never worked. It was horrible (laughs). Nothing was what we wanted from the start. We wanted the monster to be translucent. Ultimately, it was a man dressed in a suit.”

In Giger’s redesign, the Alien’s back tubes are removed, the face features erotic lips, and the ribcage is extended, “like twisted steel”. The tail has also gained a sword-like protrusion, rather than a stinger. The words “sphinx” and “spider” are thrown in, suggesting the creature’s dual nature as something cunning but primal, elegant but frightening, regal but beastly. Transparency also seems to have made the list of improvements. “This time around it had to be more animal-like, more elegant,” explained Giger. “You shouldn’t get the feeling that it was a man wearing a suit. Basically, the head had to remain unaltered but the body had to change. David Fincher, the director, told me I would have total freedom.”

With Fincher tackling the production in England and Giger designing and sculpting the new Alien from his home with assistant sculptor Cornelius de Fries, Fincher and Giger communicated solely by fax. “I think the fax machine is a great invention,” Giger said of the communications between Fincher and himself. Giger had made himself “a prisoner” during the production of Alien, and suffered a great deal of anxiety due to the pressure. Being able to communicate via fax from the comfort of home apparently relieved him of a great deal of needless stress. “I hardly have to leave my house anymore! So after I go to bed at 6AM after having worked all night, I can transmit that night’s work from my bedroom.”

Working through July and August 1990, Giger had his redesigned Alien worked out within a few weeks, from paper sketch to a seven-foot-long bust, which he had sculpted with De Fries and had financed from his own pocket. He likewise sketched the aquatic facehugger, an image of an impregnated Ripley, the Bambi-burster, and provided drawings demonstrating his new Alien’s deadly athleticism.

“This looks great!” Fincher said in response to Giger’s work, their correspondence shared with ImagiMovies magazine. “Finally, we are all excited again. We want you to feel free to give your all … I am doing everything in my power to ensure you have control over your creation.”

Fincher also provided some creative feedback, his major contribution being the Alien’s new, thick lips: “We did give it Michelle Pfeiffer’s lips,” he said, “That’s what they’re based on. It always had these little thin lips, and I said to Giger, ‘let’s make it a woman when it comes right up to Ripley.’ So it has these big, luscious collagen lips.” This erotic moment was already conveyed in Ward’s script: “The Alien wraps his arms around Ripley,” it reads, “Thin lips pull back for a kiss.” The thickness of the lips were pared back for the film, but were still fuller than those of the original Alien.

Giger’s blueprints for his new Alien. The creature’s arms were to be adorned with small flues that would emit an unsettling hum that would signal the creature’s temperament. The detail on the head he called a “finger-brain” that would ripple like wheatstalk in the wind.

During their initial meeting, Fincher showed Giger some preliminary sketches of the Alien provided by ADI. “[Fincher showed me] some sketches made by people who would be responsible for the execution of the work,” Giger told ImagiMovies Magazine. “These looked rather like a bird. There was no similarity to the Alien, and they were far from my ideas.”

Giger himself telephoned ADI at the studio and the two entities found that they shared some similar plans for the Alien’s design, such as the removal of the pipes which adorn the Alien’s back. “[Giger] called to say that he hoped we’d get rid of the tailpipes,” said Gillis. “He’d just put them there to break up the human form of the suit and had never liked them. It was a very welcome coincidence.” However, it is clear that ADI considered themselves as the wardens of the creature’s design for the third film: “The Alien is Giger’s baby, and he was calling to find out what we planned. After that we stayed in contact and he faxed drawings and ideas that proved very helpful when we were deciding how the Alien was going to develop.” Clearly, ADI were under the impression that Giger was an accessory to the film’s creature design, rather than, as Giger himself had been led to believe, the hub on which it turned. Giger himself would later blame Fincher’s lack of transparency for the confusion. “When Woodruff and Gillis said they had their own ideas I was very upset. They said that they liked my work and might use some of my sketches, but they would make their own interpretation.”

When Giger offered his Alien bust to Twentieth Century Fox for the price of the mold and not for the actual time spent designing and constructing the creature, Fox rebuffed him, and they also declined film footage of the creature that Giger had shot and provided for reference. The production then severed all contact from Giger as Alien 3 went into shooting for a tumultuous year and ADI began work on crafting the Alien as intended for the film. “I invited all of them to visit me in Switzerland,” said Giger, “but I heard they didn’t want my input.” ADI themselves cited the infamously hectic production as being the reason for their declination.

Of the situation, Giger said, “David Fincher neglected to inform me that Woodruff and Gillis were also contracted to take care of the redesign of the Alien – I found out much later. I thought I had the job and that Woodruff and Gillis would work from my plans. On their side, they were convinced that it was their job and accepted my ‘suggestions’ with pleasure. They believed that all my effort was based on a huge love for the matter, because I worked hard even after my contract was over. Today, I am convinced that it was a game by Fincher to keep both sides happy and obtain the maximum for his movie … In the contract it states exactly how I should be credited … They break the contract because they’re saying in the movie that it’s only ‘original design by Giger’ and not Alien 3, so it looks like I didn’t work on it … Mr. Fincher never gave me any credit. That did not just happen; it was made to happen. I never heard from the man responsible, and I don’t know why he did it.”

Fincher himself explained, “We worked with [Giger] and used as much of his input and ideas as we could.” From there, Fincher goes on to describe his mission statement for the Alien and does not address Giger’s involvement: “More importantly, we thought: How can we make this thing scary again? On the second film they compromised on the actual mechanics of each of the creatures and made it more like a bunch of pissed off Jacques Cousteaus’. It worked because of the sheer scale and how little you saw of these fleeting glimpses in the strobes of the machine guns firing. We really wanted to do something that was more elegant and simple.”

Giger summarised the situation: “I wish Ridley Scott had come back. He had said to me, ‘If we ever do another, you’ll create a new monster.’ Working with him would have been wonderful – not a man with no experience. They told me that the Alien this time would be intelligent; it would be special. But, in the end, it was just a slimy creature.” To International Tattoo Art magazine, he said, “In the end they used many of my ideas, but what was finally in the movie was very much different from what I imagined Alien 3 to be.”

Though Giger and Fincher had set out to create a whole new Alien breed, the artist found the monster, bipedalism aside, to be far too familiar to the original film’s creature: “In a way, they went back to my designs for the original Alien, and that was disappointing.” Giger also said of the film, pre-release: “Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the finished film. And don’t get me wrong, I do hope it will be a success.”

When it came to portraying the actual Alien, ADI already had a solution in mind. Tom Woodruff had watched the stuntmen on Aliens don and perform in the Alien suits, and recalled that he wasn’t impressed: “I remember … putting on one of the Alien suits and doing different body poses and positions for still shots, and looking at them later and thinking was an improvement over what I’d seen on set.” Post-Aliens, Woodruff got his first monster jobs playing Gillman in The Monster Squad, as well as playing the eponymous creature in Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead.

Alec Gillis: “Tom had a small list of credits for playing monsters we designed, and we went to the producers with the notion that it made the most sense for him to play the Alien. Tom had experience inside suits and we had a complete set of body molds that would allow us to start work immediately. The producers as well as the director, David Fincher, supported our notion.”

The Alien suits were made from foam latex and crafted to be skintight to hide wrinkles in the costuming. They were also absent zippers, which required Woodruff to spend up to ten hours inside the suit. Design-wise, the Alien’s domed carapace was restored, rather than the ridged head of the second movie. ADI also stripped the creature of its purely biomechanical texture. Giger’s original Alien was man-shaped but replete with metallic joints and muscles in a strange and frightening alchemy of teeth, claws and steel. ADI’s Alien is a sepia-toned mesh of bone and flesh. Though ADI’s original mold of the suit retained some biomechanic textures, most if not all of this detail was lost because of the film’s ruddy, muddy lighting.

Tom Woodruff explained ADI’s approach to the Alien design, and their interpretation of Giger’s aesthetic: “The Alien was so well known that there wasn’t a lot we could do with it except try to make it look even more alien than in the first two films. Most of our changes were stylistic, because we really wanted to go back to the original paintings and designs for Giger, which hadn’t been fully realized.” Elsewhere, Woodruff explained to Cinefex magazine: “We tried to give it an organic, sculptural feel and remain truer to his [Giger’s] concepts than even he had been. Some of the things he had done in the first film were completely serendipitous.”

Alec Gillis adds: “Even Alien wasn’t completely true to Giger’s vision. I don’t mean to be pompous, but his own suit wasn’t accurate to his paintings. Our goal was to sculpt Giger’s designs into repeating organic textures, almost like dear antlers. We also put more colour into the Alien, which was originally just black and sepia. Since the effects of Alien 3 wouldn’t have the spectacle of the last film, we wanted to make this creature into a believable organism.” Making the Alien “a believable organism” saw the creature being stripped of any overt biomechanical details, with knots of muscle, papulae and blistered skin making up the details between the creature’s bones.

Visual trickery, such as shooting from a low angle or having Woodruff stand on boxes, gave the illusion that the suited performer was in the range of seven-eight feet tall, in line with the previous creatures in the series.

Originally, the Alien was to be born from the body of an ox, but this idea had to be scrapped and re-shot when the filmed footage was deemed subpar. “The scene was written that there was a group of oxen towing the EEV on the shore of Fury 161,” explained visual effects producer Richard Edlund, “and a facehugger was going to impregnate one of the oxen. In the end however, David didn’t like the sequence we shot with the chestburster coming out of the Ox, and for a reason I’m not sure of, they changed the host to a rottweiler.”

Fincher explained, “It looked stupid. We put masonite filters on the lens and we still couldn’t shoot the thing so that it looked right. The ox stuff just never played. I wanted something faster and more predatory than an ox. As a result, the final Alien is not as elegant a creature as it was before, but it’s more vicious. The change to a dog broke everyone’s heart, because it had already been done before in The Thing, but it helped when we got to the big chase sequences at the end, because it gave us exciting POVs and explained the ravenous attack mode this thing was in … we wanted it to be fast and big and powerful and dumb.”

Though the new Alien was born from a non-human host, portraying the creature as a non-anthropomorphic being wouldn’t be possible with Woodruff alone, and so a rod puppet was devised to fill in for the more beastly long shots of the Alien’s attacks.

“From a practical standpoint,” said Woodruff, “the idea of putting a man in a rubber suit works because you get the coverage you need and you have something to work with on set; the actors have something to work with. We’re hoping that most of the time when you see the creature it’s gonna be the puppet, because it’s got things to it you can’t do with a man in a suit.”

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The rod puppet Alien and its compositing was handled by Boss Film in conjunction with ADI, who provided a mold for the 40inch puppet. Boss also handled the CG elements in the film, which included the creature’s shadows and a brief shot of its dome cracking. Laine Liska, an experienced stop motion animator, oversaw the puppetry of the Alien. With David Fincher overseeing the filming, the Alien’s actions were filmed in front of a blue screen in LA with a special motion control camera in a process called ‘mo-motion’, and later composited over existing footage shot back in England.

“We initially tried it with the body of the Alien on motion control, but it moved more like a bunny rabbit than an Alien,” explained Liska. “It really started working when we started doing everything by hand, including running the puppet along a ramp so it covered distance as it moved. Most of the time there were four of us working the puppet – one person on the front legs, another on the back legs, another operating the tail and me on the head and the torso. For the upside down shots of the Alien on the ceiling we had to have a person for each limb, so there were six of us clustered around this little puppet, all moving as fast as we could … He [Fincher] suggested a lot of different animals for us to copy. He wanted it to be very predatory, very cougar-like and at other times he wanted it to move more spidery, almost like an insect.”

Fincher said of the process: “We wanted the creature to walk on the ceilings and really sell the idea that this thing is a bug from outer space.”

“That was one of the challenges of the production: to come up with a technique of shooting the Alien. How would we shoot the Alien? How would we create the Alien in this movie? Nobody had ever seen the Alien running in the way he was running. He runs on the ceiling, on the side, all over the place. We had to develop a look. How does an Alien look when it runs? … It was a very difficult project to get the Alien to look menacing and terrifying in motion.”
~ Robert Edlund.

Despite the expert crafting of the model and convincing puppeteering, the compositing of the Alien was a disaster, and one of the most maligned special effects in the series. Appearing with a green outline and blurred details, the rod puppet fails to stand out as an impressive, living creature and instead serves as a distraction; a reminder that the creature is not real.

“I like the Alien head very much,” Giger said of the final design, “that was nicely done, but not the neck … The thing I don’t like really is when [the Alien] opened its mouth and the silly tongue comes out. I never liked this tongue. I always wanted to eliminate it, but Ridley Scott wanted it. It was okay in [Alien] because it [shot out]. But in the third it comes out slowly like false teeth.”

After a private screening of the film, Giger was aghast to see that he was not credited for having worked on the new design, and when the effects work and design were nominated for an Oscar award his name was likewise omitted. After some legal wrangling, Giger’s name was restored to the credits on home release.

In 2010, Tom Woodruff claimed that the third film represented his favourite experience working on the series: “I think my favourite was Alien 3 for a combination of reasons. That was an early film that Alec and I did on our own. On Aliens, the Cameron movie, we were part of Stan Winston’s team. Stan was amazing and inspiring to work with but with Alien 3 it was our own show. It was also the first time I wore the Alien costume. We really had a chance to work on screen a lot and work quite a bit with Sigourney in the scenes. Just being around David Fincher was a huge experience just to see that level of filmmaking from a guy that young. It was also a bit intimidating because David was way ahead of the curve and if anyone was going to find something that wasn’t working it would be him.”

Fincher himself made it clear that his experience making the film was hellish. In one of his milder quotes, he says, “We did what we had time to do, and we had a lot more interesting ideas that we would have liked to do … and we ran out of money. Unfortunately, when you have no prep time you spend a lot of money on stuff that never gets shot or does get shot and isn’t properly thought out. It [the production] never moved quite as quickly as I wanted it to.”

Finally, Fincher also claimed that Fox had tampered with his film’s colour and light scheme. “I could not get the screen to be black,” he recalled. “I couldn’t get the creature to come out of the shadows unseen.”

A “jaguar crossed with a freight train.”

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16 Comments

Filed under Alien 3

16 responses to “Adaptive Organism

  1. S@ti

    At one point Fincher states that he wanted to do something elegant. Later, he says: “we wanted it to be fast and big and powerful and dumb.”

    The inconsistency that lurked in the creator’s head was one serious problem I think Alien 3 has. There are other problems, plot problems, setting problems, character problems, but this one is a crucial one.

    • john

      Alien 3 should have taken place entirely on the sulaco on its voyage back to earth, hibernation is interrupted , one of the 3 crew members is infected with a queen but there’s no way to know who because they are hunted by a fourth passenger a new deadlier breed of warrior alien who snuck onboard, the suspense builds as they arrive closer to their destination and must rid the sulaco of the alien and seek help for their impregnated crew member before earth is infected

  2. Morse88

    I agree S@ti, it sounds like Fincher’s mind was all over the place on the creature design. The way he and Fox treated Giger is despicable. I understand that guy is a bit out there, and wouldn’t leave the confines of his home. But show him the respect he deserves and don’t string him with falsehoods while you have a completely different plan.

  3. S@ti

    Almost everything around the development of Alien 3 is wrong. You are hard pressed to find something that is OK with the making of the film. Fincher could not be blamed. I think the deadly combination of Fox’s useless and utterly idiotic executive meddling and Fincher’s lack of added value created this mess of a movie. It’s surprising that it’s even watchable (and I rated it 6/10, which in my book means “pretty watchable but nothing special”).

    And this “nothing special” is the most crucial flaw of the movie. It’s not bad, it’s just not doing anything new with the established iconic imagery/world building. Fincher couldn’t put anything really innovative on the table. And this is what hurts Alien 3 the most. He did not take any risks, just re-did Alien 1 with really minor modifications.

    • Morse88

      S@ti –
      I’m going to have to disagree with you my friend. Alien 3 may have it’s blemishes, but when rating the movie as a whole, especially with the additional scenes that were originally cut by Fox, it’s a fantastic work of art. The lighting is amazing, the camera angles and style of director is indescribable, the score fits perfectly, and the story is a great ending to the series. I find that the majority of people whom I speak to have very similar complaints: “It wasn’t like Aliens”, “They killed off everyone from Aliens”, “There was so much potential after Aliens that they didn’t explore” etc.

      I think it’s about time that people accept that not everything follows a straight line, life isn’t about grasping the full potential because that rarely happens. In life, more often than not, potential is seen and recognized, but tragedy strikes and potential is lost. That’s what makes great storytelling, that’s what makes great Art. The fact that Ripley, Newt, and Hicks didn’t ride off into the sunset and start a new beautiful family is the main underlying reason why people despise this movie and I feel that is unfair. (If you want to speak about a bad movie look no further than Alien:Resurrection……..)

      In addition, this movie is uncomfortable. As Fincher states:”“If we failed to do one thing in this film, and we failed to do many things, it was to take people out of their everyday lives. It’s not a scary scare movie but a queasy scare movie and I think people resent that. Actually, my dentist, as he was drilling my teeth, was giving me his thesis on the things wrong with this film and he said, ‘When you go out of this movie you haven’t gotten away from Aids, you haven’t gotten away from race riots, you haven’t gotten away from fear of other cultures.’ We tried to make a movie about now and I just think in terms of the world box office we may have chosen wrong”.

      I feel that is a perfect assesment of the criticism this movie received.
      Also, the replacement of the Ox with the dog is a big issue to people as well, though it’s on a subconscious level and they probably aren’t aware of it. It’s hard to find anyone who can sit and watch the dogburster scene without shifting uneasily in their seat. It makes people uncomfortable and that wasn’t what they were expecting. The same goes for the scenes between Dr Clemens and Ripley when he is injecting her. No one likes to watch a needle go into someone’s veins, it makes them uncomfortable and queasy. In other words, “it failed to take people out of their lives”………..

      To form an opinion on a film based on it’s production issues is also kind of ridiculous. I need only provide one example: the Sistine Chapel. Widely considered to be the apex of artistic production it’s beginnings, creation and conclusion were dogged with some of the worst “production issues” imaginable. Michelangelo did not enjoy painting. The Pope wanted artistic control, it was taking too long, it was going over budget. Sounds oddly familiar doesn’t it 🙂

      Yet no one speaks of the production when they stand underneath that ceiling, no one talks about how long it took or the creative differences. They just stand without preconceived notions, view and absorb the “blemished” output of one of the greatest artists of his time. Now don’t assume I’m comparing a film with the Sistine Chapel, but the points are as clear as day. There’s no question Fincher is one of the greatest directors of his age, it’s time that we leave beside all of the foot notes and back stories and just appreciate the art of Alien 3 for what it is.

  4. S@ti

    I did not want Hicks and Newt riding off into the sunset. I would have been completely comfortable with something that does not feature Hicks and Newt. I wouldn’t have missed Ripley’s character. They could have taken things so many directions after Aliens. The series had potential.

    Re-doing Alien 1 and calling it Alien 3 was not something exciting. And not in the escapism sense of word. I love watching the Wire for instance, which is brutally realistic, yet, it’s entertaining too. I did not have a problem with the needle scene and the overall bleak tone of the movie. Bleak does not necessarily equal blank, but in the case of Alien 3, it did. And it hurts the movie, very much.

    Even if you are making a realistic film, you have to have standout characters. And in Alien 3, I found no one I cared about. Even Ripley was washed-out, and yes, it’s partly understandable, after what she’s been through – still, the execution of this idea was somehow bland and boring.

    I was bored, while watching an Alien film. It’s subjective, yes. Setting production problems aside, what’s left is a really bland and boring movie. It has inspiring moments (the full body scan Ripley performs for example), but hey, Prometheus had some too… and Prometheus was also a huge disappointment.

    And when I say Alien 3 was a disappointment, I’m not holding it agains some hidden standard panel of a movie, I really went into the movie with a clear mind and without expectations. I just wanted to be amazed. It would have been OK for the movie to deal with an entirely different set of characters. I did not need Hicks and Newt. I did not need Ripley. I needed a good third movie I never got.

    • Morse88

      My friend, it seems like you took my previous comment very personally and that was not my intention. Please notice that I did not direct my comments at you: ” I find that the majority of people whom I speak to have very similar complaints”. I hope that clears up any confusion

      If you find the movie to be boring than that is your opinion and you are completely entitled to it. To be honest that is not a complaint that I have heard before, so consider yourself unique in that regard. I do get a little annoyed with the characterization criticisms however. I feel that Alien 3 had the same amount of characterization as Aliens if not more so. Before Dr Clemens death (much to quick into the movie for my tastes) we learn an entire back story about him. We know that he had a career in medicine that he threw away over an addiction, that his personal weakness cost the lives of countless innocent people, and you can feel the pain in his voice as he retells the story. That he is loyal to the group of inmates despite having the chance to leave Fury 161. Another smaller example is Andrews: he has a wife and a kid, he’s a company many with a low IQ but “smart enough not to have a life sentence on this rock”. Those two examples alone are more than anything that we learned about any one character in Aliens. If you disagree I challenge you to provide one personal tidbit about any marine. Yes, everyone knows the names of the marines from Aliens, but they’ve also watched the movie countless times. I wonder how many marines a normal person could name after their initial viewing of the film. I recently watched the film with my girlfriend for her first time and the only person she was able to refer to was Hicks, who we know absolutely nothing about…….

      With all that being said, I do agree with you on Prometheus being a disappointment. Perhaps we’ll have to continue that discussion in one of the Prometheus blogs at a later time

      • Just butting in somewhat…

        Another smaller example is Andrews … he’s a company man with a low IQ but “smart enough not to have a life sentence on this rock”.

        I think that’s Aaron “85”, not Andrews! 🙂

        Val.

  5. S@ti

    Ah, sorry about that, I was just very heated as always when it comes to Alien movies. My apologies 🙂 I now try to react to some of your points about characterization.

    You see, the first rule of filmmaking is “show, don’t tell”. We may not know many “personal tidbits” about marines, but boy, there are well thought out character establishing shots and small details. The customised armors and other equipment. The first thing they do when getting out the freezer. Their routine aboard the Sulaco. Their wisecracks. All pieced together brilliantly by Cameron to add character by showing actions, and also to build an overall atmosphere for the movie.

    When it comes to Alien 3 and the various backstories of characters, they were presented in a much more straightforward way. They are more detailed, yes, but somehow did not touch me as much as the way Aliens presented the marines. The characters in Alien 3 still remained characters for me, even after learning their backstories. The marines in Aliens were actual human beings.

    This is again, subjective, but Aliens proved to me that top-notch characterization can be done without providing backstories for every single character in the traditional sense. Cameron understood this much better than Fincher – or maybe Fincher wanted to do some things differently but got screwed by Fox? This is why I can’t put the blame 100% on Fincher in the case of Alien 3, whereas I maintain that Ridley Scott and Ridley Scott alone has to take all the blame for how Prometheus turned out.

    NOTE: I love Fight Club by Fincher, although his later movies were unremarkable, FC is such a stroke of genius which shows what Fincher is capable of. Alien 3 is just not such an example in my book.

    I don’t have a problem if we disagree, and you cited understandable and relatable reasons so far. So rare to find such an excellent partner for conversation! Also, disagreement is much more exciting in my mind than agreement, I always like to see movies with a different eye, and it’s always interesting for me to reveal what others see in a movie I don’t like and what others hate about a movie I like. So let’s continue this wonderful and civil discourse! 🙂

    • Morse88

      Thanks for your response S@ti, you have brought up some great points. I understand your passion for the Alien movies, I share the same trait. I’ve been a part of many an Alien discussion over the years and more often than not they devolve into pure insults and abuse. So I truly appreciate finding a person like yourself who has different opinions but presents them in a way that I can totally understand.

      Your points about the characterization of the Aliens characters are excellent and I can’t really argue with them. Though the marines do not have much of a back story you do care for them as human beings, and that is a result of the “show don’t tell” characterization which you described. So I can’t really argue that, nor do I really want to. Aliens is one of my all time favorite movies and writing the earlier critiques of the characters was very uncomfortable for me. I do feel that there are characters in Alien 3 that you care for, and that could have truly had an impact on the viewer. But the majority of them were killed off in the first quarter of the movie (Dr Clemens, Superintendent Andrews. Andrews may have been a prick, but I think he had potential). For whatever reason the changes were made to the original script to kill off the majority of the characters with the most depth. With that being said it does still affect me every time I watch Dillion sacrifice himself with the classic line “God will take care of you now sister”, even if he was a murderer and rapist of women……

      In response to your note: Fight Club is fantastic, no arguments there. But I don’t want you to think that I’m a Fincher groupie. True, I do enjoy the majority of his films (Seven, Panic Room) but Benjamin Button was just awful…….

      As for Prometheus, I really don’t know what the hell happened there. It actually sounds like the original script wasn’t bad. I have yet to read it, but I’ve watched all of the extras and special features on the blu ray and there was some really cool stuff in there that they took out. I just remember walking out of that movie on opening night and wondering what the hell I had just seen. The creatures in the movie were isolated to a deformed worm, a deformed man, and an engineer who is mad for no apparent reason. Everything I heard about the movie was “epic” this and “epic” that. But I left the theater completely confused, and disappointed. That’s as far from epic as you can get……

      Eventually I’ll make my way over to the Prometheus section of this awesome website, so that way we can discuss a subject that we both seem to agree upon.

  6. S@ti

    The Dillon angle of your post is very interesting. It reminds me of potential in the prison setting, but I feel Alien 3 in its finished form failed to capitalize on that. I never once thought while watching the film that “How interesting that these bunch of criminals can work and cooperate together to get rid of a common enemy”, since the characterization and the overall tone and execution of the movie did not allow me to. Thanks for the reminder, it’s indeed interesting to have a rapist/murderer sacrifice himself and saying those lines.

    About Fincher: the only other Fincher movie I like is Seven, although I don’t find it as briliant as FC.

    I feel we will have a discussion about Prometheus all right. I tried to discuss some points on the IMDb message board for Prometheus, but sadly that place turned to a troll hive in which it’s virtually impossible to have a sensible conversation, just as this one… 😦 The description of your feelings after you left the theater is spot on, I felt exactly the same! Couldn’t believe what I just witnessed. A while later I watched the movie again, and it wasn’t as bad as first, but still was not good… Looking forward to have a discussion about it, I might comment on some of the posts dealing with Prometheus and we can go from there.

  7. MrTdawg

    I thought this Alien design was magnificent. The rod puppet version is very creepy in movement and appearance but I believe they were wrong to have Tom don the suit for the close ups. His frame was completely wrong, they needed a much taller skinnier man in order to stay truer to the rod puppets silhouette. It was inconsistencies like this that were rife throughout this movie. A little common sense would’ve sufficed!

  8. Beautiful looking film which ultimately has huge flaws thanks to too many Chiefs. I applaud Fincher on the overall look of the film. What I don’t like is the treatment of Giger. Giger’s redesign of his creature is beautiful and horrific all at once, and it doesn’t escape me that the same original producers of Alien actually didn’t want Giger involved as they found his great works Pornographic and disturbing, precisely why Alien works so well. ADI’s design lacks to beautiful detail and subtlety that only Giger can visualise. I fear the same thing happened in Prometheus. The Xeno has become an animal, not an Alien.
    The other major flaw is the puppet effects or at least the rendering, which could actually be fixed now with modern tech. George Lucas did this on the re release of the original Star Wars films.
    One day maybe we will see a perfected Blueray of this film.

    • taffysaur

      Here’s hoping.
      Good point about the Star Wars SEs. Surely the market exists to justify just fixing those horriby distracting opticals..? Maybe they could even re-release the Alien movies theatrically too. I’d pay to see them.

  9. turdmuppet

    Alien 3 should have taken place entirely on the sulaco on its voyage back to earth, hibernation is interrupted , one of the 3 crew members is infected with a queen but there’s no way to know who because they are hunted by a fourth passenger a new deadlier breed of warrior alien who snuck onboard, the suspense builds as they arrive closer to their destination and must rid the sulaco of the alien and seek help for their impregnated crew member before earth is infected

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