We’ve been talking a lot lately about how Marvel is struggling to find a new direction for its cinematic universe after hitting the Infinity Saga grand finale.
When something is particularly good for you, it’s really hard to get over it. Fox realized this the hard way when, in the mid-80s, they started a sequel to Aliens – Final Clash .
Maybe it goes without saying, but James Cameron ‘s Aliens is one of the greatest sequels ever made.
It probably doesn’t reach the heights of Alien , in terms of originality, and it certainly doesn’t play in the same league of “fine art cinema mixed with genre”, but there is no doubt that Aliens did what all sequels should at least attempt.
to do: find a fresh and original direction so as not to repeat what has already been done, avoiding confronting the first film and finding its own voice. Result? Rather than being compared to Alien , Aliens is remembered as one of the greatest action films ever made. So what can we do to carry the story forward?
A big problem. Especially if we consider that, for once, the Italian subtitle ( Final Clash ) was more than ever apt: Aliens really had the flavor of a conclusion to the saga, complete with a happy ending: Ripley had defeated her demons, those who did not they let her sleep at night, finding a family in the midst of chaos. It is no coincidence that, in recent years, Neill Blomkamp has included Newt and Hicks in the pitch of his “true sequel” , which would have ignored Alien 3 and Alien – Cloning . Those two characters were truly loved and the chemistry with Ripley was palpable.
But let’s go back to the Fox headquarters, circa 1987. The imperative is clear: the Alien saga must continue. The “how” is less clear and, in the following years, several avenues would have been tried without success. The first idea is far-sighted: to make a sequel in two parts (today it is normal, at the time less), to be turned back-to-back , centered on a Cold War metaphor and possibly directed by Ridley Scott. Scott is tempted, but his busy schedule doesn’t allow it. In the film, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, the hateful “Company” that always tries to grab Xenomorphs for its “biological weapons” division, would be at loggerheads with a sort of aggressive and militaristic socialist utopia in space (the Union of Progressive Peoples). William Gibson, one of the fathers of literary Cyberpunk, is commissioned to write the script. The first part centers on Hicks, who awakens from cryosleep in the Anchorpoint space station / mall, where Weyland-Yutani experiments with Xenomorphs. Ripley is in a coma right now. By the end of the film, Anchorpoint and the nearby Union of Progressive Peoples station are overrun by pesky alien parasites, and Hicks must lead an army of survivors to stop them. In the second film Ripley would return for the grand finale.
But the producers aren’t thrilled with Gibson’s script. David Giler calls it “a perfectly executed but not that interesting script” in the sense that it fails to convincingly differentiate itself from previous chapters. Also thanks to the fact that the script does not even like the director chosen by Fox, Renny Harlin , the project changes face. The Cold War is now over and the metaphor at the center of Gibson’s version doesn’t matter much anymore. Other avenues are tried, with drafts of Eric Red ( The Hitcher, The dark is approaching ), David Twohy ( Pitch Black ) and Vincent Ward ( Navigator – An odyssey in time). The latter invents an artificial planet made of wood and inhabited by a group of monks who, after the crash of Ripley’s spacecraft, find themselves facing the Xenomorph. Does it remind you of anything? That’s right: this is the basis of the next script by Walter Hill, David Giler and Larry Ferguson , in which the monks are replaced with prisoners and the wooden planet with an industrial-looking prison planet (idea taken from the writing of Twohy, which, meanwhile, he was gone, slamming the door). The plot remains more or less the same, but Ward, who refused to make the required changes, is fired. At this point Fox called David Fincher , at the time a newcomer to the cinema, to direct. Fincher reworks the script withRex Pickett and everything is ready. About.
In fact, Fincher arrives on set after $ 7 million has already been spent, due to all this uncertainty. The script is not even complete, but you have to shoot: the sets have been built (one would think that, at this point, it was the script that had to be adapted to the sets and not vice versa), the studios booked. The car cannot be stopped. Fincher does what he can with what he has. It is shot in England, at the famous Pinewood Studios. The father of the Xenomorph, HR Giger provided some designs for the new monster, a quadrupedal creature and more agile as it was born of a dog. Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis replace Stan Winstonspecial effects, and they do a great job. But, ironically, if the idea was to find something truly original to change the saga’s course once again, the mission can only be said to have failed.
Alien 3 was released in the USA on May 22, 1992, respecting the six-year interval between one film and another. It soon becomes clear that it is not a film worthy of its predecessors. Where Aliens had found a way to say something new and unexpected, Alien 3 makes exactly the mistake that Cameron had avoided: back to basics, proposing again the “slasher” formula of the single alien that kills a crew one man at a time , with Ripley leading the hunt for the Xenomorph. What saves the film is mainly the setting – not as original as the one imagined by Vincent Ward, but enough to be faithful to the feeling of the saga without echoing the previous ones – Ripley’s look, the idea of the feral Xenomorph and a cast of excellent character actors. (Charles S. Dutton, Peter Postlethwaite, Brian Glover, and a pre – Game of Thrones Charles Dance ), as well as the perfect gimmick of ending Ripley’s arc with a sacrifice to prevent her brood queen from falling into the hands of the Fellowship ( represented by Lance Henriksen as the creator of Bishop, another nice gimmick). True, the ending looks a bit too much like Terminator 2 , but it must be said that it was a coincidence.
The thing that has bothered the fans of the saga the most is having started the film with Hicks and Newt already dead in their cryotubes. Revised today, it’s a punk choice for how it pops up in the face of the audience’s comfort zone , reminding everyone that the Alien saga is about how space is “disease and danger, in darkness and silence”, to put it to McCoy’s Star Trek . An inhospitable and hostile place, full of monsters and dark things. Ripley has always been alone and has always had to rely only on herself to survive, and Alien 3 is no exception in that. Sigourney Weavershe knew it well, and in fact it was she who forced herself to have Ripley die at the end of the film, even though the studio was considering an alternate ending in which the protagonist would survive.
After all, Alien 3it’s not bad. It is a good film, which only had the misfortune to come out after two masterpieces. And that certainly was penalized by the lack of a finished script and the interference of an understandably nervous studio. This is more evident than ever when you see the so-called “Assembly Cut”, first released in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set and then completed for the Blu-Ray box. With 37 minutes of unreleased scenes, this is to be considered the definitive version of the film, even if not edited by Fincher (who gave his blessing anyway). The Assembly Cut is a very different film: the Xenomorph is born from a calf instead of a dog (the only idea that perhaps is inferior to the film version, even if the scene of the birth of the alien is very beautiful), but, above all,Paul McGann ), who has become something of his possessed disciple. A richer and more full-bodied film, full of intimate moments between the characters and much more satisfying. If this version was released in theaters, perhaps Alien 3 would have a better reputation today.
The film version, on the other hand, had a less happy fate, even if not bankrupt: in the USA it was considered a flop, having grossed 55.5 million dollars (practically its budget). He was saved by the foreign performance, which allowed him to reach a total of 159.8 million. Enough to push Fox to plan yet another sequel, Alien – Cloning , whose somersaults to bring back the late Ripley have gone down in history. But we’ll talk about this in five years.