The story opens as a pod from the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco carrying Lt Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the other survivors from the events of Aliens crash lands on a refinery/prison planet, killing everyone aboard except Ripley. Although they die in this movie, there are several alternate scenarios where Hicks and Newt survived.
Unknown to her, an Alien egg was aboard the ship. It is born in the prison and begins a killing spree.
Alien 3 had a difficult production; various screenwriters and directors were involved, and shooting began without a finished script. The film was the big-budget debut of a young David Fincher, who was brought into the project very late in its development, after a proposed version with Vincent Ward directing fell through. Fincher had little time to prepare, and the experience making the film proved agonizing for him, as he had to endure incessant creative interference from the studio and had to shoot the film without having a definite script. The added weight was also to create a film worthy of the work of the two revered directors that had gone before him, Cameron and Ridley Scott. Upon completion, the studio dismantled and reworked it without Fincher's consent, including releasing a teaser trailer that suggested the film would take place on Earth.
The film was released to mixed reviews, but was a commercial success. While not very successful at the United States box office, it earned over $100 million outside of North America.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Special Edition DVD & Blu-ray
- 4 Development
- 5 Music
- 6 Reception
- 7 Interpretation and analysis
- 8 Adaptations
Following the events on LV-426, the Sulaco experiences an onboard fire and ejects Ripley, Newt, Corporal Hicks and the damaged android Bishop, who are all in cryonic stasis, in an escape pod. During the launch, the ship's medical scans of the crew's cryotubes show a Facehugger attached to one of the crewmembers. The pod crash-lands on Fiorina "Fury" 161, a foundry facility and penal colony inhabited by all-male inmates with "double-Y" chromosome patterns. After some inmates recover the pod and its passengers, a Facehugger is seen approaching Spike, the prison's guard dog. Ripley is taken in and awakened by Clemens, the prison's doctor and is told she is the only survivor of the crash. Many of the ex-inmates have embraced an apocalyptic, millenarian religion which forbids sexual relations, and Ripley is warned by the prison warden, Superintendent Andrews, that her presence among them may have extremely disruptive effects.
Ripley begins to suspect a Xenomorph may have played a part in her arrival on Fiorina 161 and requests that Clemens perform an autopsy on Newt, but conceals the true nature of her concerns from him, claiming she is infected with a contagious strain of cholera. Despite protests from the warden and his assistant, Aaron, the autopsy is conducted and Ripley's fears that Newt may be carrying a Xenomorph embryo in her body turn out to be unfounded. Clemens also proclaims she simply drowned in the crash. Meanwhile, Ripley's casual mingling with the prisoners begins to frustrate the warden and agitate the inmates.
A funeral is performed for Newt and Hicks in which their bodies are cremated in the facility's furnace. Meanwhile, Spike suffers convulsions and a new species of Xenomorph known as the Dragon erupts from the dog's body. The Dragon soon begins a killing spree, slaying several members and returning an outcast prisoner Golic to his former psychopathic state. Ripley finds the damaged Bishop in the prison's garbage dump, but just as she is leaving the area, she is cornered by four inmates and attacked, but inmate leader Dillon intervenes and beats the others with a crowbar and Ripley punches the last man in the face. Seeking answers, Ripley returns and reactivates Bishop, who confirms that there was indeed a Xenomorph lifeform on the Sulaco and that it came with them to Fiorina in the escape pod. She informs Andrews of her previous encounters with the Xenomorphs and suggests they will work together to hunt it down and kill it. Andrews rejects her story, blaming the deaths instead on the unrest amongst the inmates, and explains that the facility has no weapons. He also reveals that a rescue ship has been sent for Ripley by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
Back in the prison infirmary, Clemens is killed by the Dragon and it intends to kill Ripley, but mysteriously spares her. She runs to the mess hall to warn the others, only to see the Dragon murder Andrews. Ripley rallies the inmates and proposes they pour highly flammable toxic waste, which is stored at the facility, into the ventilation system and ignite it to flush out the creature. The prisoners reluctantly agree to the plan, but the mixture is ignited prematurely by the creature's intervention, resulting in the deaths of many humans.
Suffering from pain in her chest and fearing internal injuries, Ripley scans herself with the medical equipment on board the Sulaco's escape pod and discovers the embryo of a Xenomorph Queen growing inside her. She also discovers that Weyland-Yutani intend to capture the Queen embryo and the Dragon, hoping to use them as biological weapons. Deducing that the mature Dragon will not kill her because of the embryo she carries, Ripley begs Dillon to kill her, who agrees to do so only if she helps the inmates kill the adult creature first. They form a plan to lure it into the foundry's lead works facility using themselves as bait, where the monster can be drowned in molten lead. The bait-and-chase plan results in the deaths of all the remaining prisoners except Dillon and Morse. Dillon remains in the mold and allows himself to be killed by the alien as Morse pours the molten lead onto them. However, the Dragon, covered in molten metal, survives and escapes the mold, but Ripley finally kills it by turning on the fire sprinklers and sprays the beast with water, causing it to explode.
Suddenly, the Weyland-Yutani team arrive and are met by Aaron. They go to the lead works and the team's unnamed leader, who looks identical to the Bishop android, introduces himself to Ripley and claims to be the android's creator, sent to show Ripley a familiar face. He tries to persuade Ripley to undergo surgery to remove the Queen embryo, which he claims will be destroyed. Ripley refuses and steps back onto a mobile platform, which Morse positions over the furnace. The company soldiers shoot Morse in the leg, while Aaron clubs the team's leader over the head with a large wrench, believing him to be an android. The soldiers shoot Aaron dead, while their leader reveals his true intentions — to recover the Xenomorph specimen inside Ripley. Ripley defies them by hurling herself into the gigantic furnace, just as the Queen erupts from her chest. As she dies, Ripley grabs the creature and holds it to her to ensure it enters the fire with her.
Following the failure of Weyland-Yutani's mission and the death of all but one of the prison's inhabitants, the facility is closed down and the sole surviving inmate, Morse, is led away. On board the Sulaco's escape pod, Ripley's closing distress call plays one final time.
- Ellen Ripley .... Sigourney Weaver
- Dillon .... Charles S. Dutton
- Clemens .... Charles Dance
- Andrews .... Brian Glover
- Aaron .... Ralph Brown
- Golic .... Paul McGann
- Morse .... Danny Webb
- David .... Pete Postlethwaite
- Bishop .... Lance Henriksen
- The Dragon .... Tom Woodruff, Jr.
- Gregor .... Peter Guinness
- Junior .... Holt McCallany
- William .... Clive Mantle
- Boggs .... Leon Herbert
- Murphy .... Christopher Fairbank
- Kevin .... Phil Davis
Special Edition DVD & Blu-ray
An alternate version of Alien 3 (officially titled the "Assembly Cut") with over 30 minutes of additional footage was released on the 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy box-set in 2003, and later in the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set in 2010. The film's extended footage includes alternate key plot elements, extended footage and deleted scenes. Director David Fincher was the only director from the franchise who declined to participate in the box-set releases.
The Assembly Cut has several key plot elements that differ from the theatrical release. The alien gestates in an ox rather than a dog, and one of the inmates discovers a dead facehugger. Ripley's body washes up on the shore of the planet in the special edition instead of being found in the ship's wreckage as in the theatrical cut. Some scenes are extended to focus more on the religious views of the inmates. The inmates succeed in their attempt to trap the alien, but it is later released by the disturbed inmate Golic. In this version, the alien Queen does not burst from Ripley's chest as she falls into the furnace. There is also a scene in the prison's assembly hall where one of the inmates suggests to Dillon that they lead the creature to the furnace so that they can incinerate it in the fire. One notable scene that was not restored for the DVD or Blu-Ray extended versions was the full autopsy scene. Greg Cannom, who worked on the Special Make-Up Effects, said in the Alien Quadrilogy special features that, "I saw the rough cut of the film, uncut, and there were some scenes in there that were pretty gross. There was an autopsy scene on the girl [Newt] and I like certain gore in the films. I do it [professionally], and it made me sick. It really grossed me out and I remember people got up and left, walked out of the theatre and I was just thinking, 'This will never be in the film. They can't show this stuff.' It was just too much I thought. And when the film came out, it wasn't in the film."
Some of the audio in the original Alien Quadrilogy DVD version of the Assembly Cut is of noticeably poorer quality during footage that was not included in the theatrical release. This was because ADR by the original actors was not recorded for this footage, since it had been cut from the film by the time the film was being dubbed. For the 2010 Alien Anthology release this dialogue was re-recorded by the original cast, making it on par with the original theatrical footage.
Originally Brandywine Productions was approached by 20th Century Fox to create two more sequels. After going through several ideas, David Giler and Walter Hill, the film series producers, "settled upon a complex two-part story that offered the underhanded Weyland-Yutani Corporation facing off with a militarily aggressive culture of humans whose rigid socialist ideology has caused them to separate from Earth's society." Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) would only make a cameo appearance in the third film, with the lead role going to Michael Biehn's Corporal Hicks from Aliens. Aliens 4 would see the return of Ripley "in an epic battle with alien warriors mass produced by the expatriated Earthlings." Weaver in particular liked the Cold War metaphor and agreed to the smaller role:
- "I felt that Ripley was going to become a burden to the story." she concluded. "There are only so many aspects to that character you can do."
Weaver also agreed on being removed because she did not like the studio changes to Aliens, which removed scenes of Ripley's backstory that she considered crucial. Although 20th Century Fox were skeptical about the idea, they agreed to finance the development of the story, but asked that Hill and Giler attempt to get Ridley Scott to direct Alien 3. They also asked that the two films be shot back to back to lessen the production costs. However this proved to be difficult as Ridley Scott, though interested, was busy working on three films at the time. In September 1987, Giler and Hill approached cyberpunk author, William Gibson, to write the script for the third film. Gibson, who was influenced by Alien, agreed to write the script.
However, when a final screenplay (by David Twohy) was delivered to Fox president Joe Roth, he did not like the idea of Ripley being removed, declaring that "Sigourney Weaver is the centerpiece of the series" and Ripley was "really the only female warrior we have in our movie mythology." Weaver was then called, with a reported $5 million salary, plus a share of the box office receipts.
A very early script treatment was written by science fiction author William Gibson. At the time of his involvement, Sigourney Weaver "seemed doggedly unwilling to participate", so the main narrative focus became Hicks and Bishop. The version available on the Internet is, according to Gibson, "about thirty pages shorter than the version I turned in. It became the first of some thirty drafts, by a great many screenwriters, and none of mine was used (except for the idea, perhaps, of a bar-code tattoo)."
In copies of Gibson's treatment, "chestbursters" erupt out of human hosts as in previous installments, and turn into "bigger, meaner, faster" Alien Warriors. However due to initial genetic modification experiments undertaken by the Biological Warfare division on the space station (Anchorpoint), the Aliens additionally exhibit a close proximity airborne virulent contagion. When exposed at close range, the victim, after a variable amount of time goes through "the Change" as Gibson calls it, and becomes a form of alien warrior, the suspense being that the team does not know if anyone is infected until they find out when it is least expected. The process imagined by Gibson can be summarized as an involuntary change in the human's skeletal and muscular makeup below the skin, concluding with the newly formed Alien graphically tearing the flesh husk off of its body. The storyline for the film picked up after Aliens, as the Sulaco drifts into an area of space claimed by the "Union of Progressive People", due to a navigational error. The ship is boarded by people from the U.P.P, who are attacked by a facehugger, hiding in the entrails of Bishop's mangled body. The soldiers blast the facehugger into space and take Bishop with them for further study. The Sulaco then arrives at Anchorpoint, which is a Company run space station/mall. A fire on the ship caused by remaining Aliens puts Ripley into a coma and Hicks is left to investigate if the rumors are true that Weyland-Yutani are developing alien warriors (which they are). The U.P.P. is also doing their own research, due to custody of Bishop. After they have finished with Bishop, they repair him (albeit with cheap parts) and return him to Anchorpoint in a show of good will. Eventually Anchorpoint and the U.P.P stations are overrun with the parasite and Hicks must team up with the survivors to destroy the aliens. The film ends with a teaser for Alien 4 in which Bishop suggest to Hicks that humans are united against a common enemy and they must track the aliens to their source and destroy them. The screenplay was very action oriented, containing 8 marine vs alien battle scenes whereas its predecessor James Cameron's contained only 2 such scenes. It also featured an extended cast with new characters and has a considerable following on the Internet. The producers, while liking certain parts, were unhappy with the screenplay. Gibson was asked to make rewrites with their newly hired director, Renny Harlin, but declined citing various other commitments and "foot dragging on the producers' part."
Eric Red re-write
The next draft was done by Eric Red, writer of the cult horror films The Hitcher and Near Dark, and opened with a team of Special Forces marines boarding the Sulaco unarmed and finding that all the survivors of the LV-426 mission had fallen victim to the aliens. The only reference to the first two films being a torn spacesuit nametag that is found bearing the name "Ripley". The screenplay in a sense was even bolder than the Gibson script, in that it took place in an entire small-town USA city in a type of bio-dome in space. Red's screenplay resurrected the idea of aliens transforming humans into cocoons that was deleted from the original film. The screenplay's brash storyline culminates in an all out battle with the townsfolk facing hordes of Alien Warriors, yet it also contains an arguably higher level of horror than the previous films and screenplays. It is also the first screenplay in the Aliens genre to feature a genetically mixed Alien-Human creature in antibiosis (foreshadowing the "newborn" in Alien Resurrection). The screenplay also re-uses the "alien virus" idea from Gibson's draft, which this time gives rise to Alien mosquitoes, cattle, dogs and chickens and has even gained the ability to infect matter and technology as well, resulting in the space station itself being transformed into a giant alien-like creature. After being shown Red's screenplay, then-director Renny Harlin walked out on the project to direct Die Hard 2, and Red was fired shortly afterward. It was at this point that Giler and Hill abandoned their plans for the two Alien sequels.
David Twohy's "Prison Planet"
Writer (and future director) David Twohy was next to work on the project. His version featured a prison planet, which was being used for illegal experiments on the aliens for a Biological Warfare division. The screenplay details how inmates on death row were mock executed in a gas chamber, while actually being kept alive and being used as bait in experiments with the Alien. Examples included breach testing, where the Alien would be videotaped using scientific high speed cameras as it searched for - and found - the weakest part of a structure with a human bait inside, broke through and attacked the victim. This screenplay was also the first to propose a failed clones scenario, describing large jars of Alien test clones, some fused together as Siamese twins, possibly as a forerunner to the "clones of Ripley" scene in Alien Resurrection.
It was also the first script to feature a high number of different Alien types (Rogue Alien, Spike Alien, Alien chameleon, etc.), and was the first screenplay to flesh out the idea of the "newborn" (used later in Alien Resurrection), called the "newbreed" here.
Finally, the script also had numerous scenes where victims are piecemeal sucked into space through a small rupture in the hull (or through bars) causing very gruesome deaths, possibly functioning as a precursor to the death of the "newborn" in Alien: Resurrection.
When new director Vincent Ward told the studio he was not interested in filming Twohy's script and wanted to pursue his own idea of the film, Twohy's draft was scrapped.
Vincent Ward's "Wooden Monastery"
The story by Vincent Ward and the screenplay with co-writer John Fasano had Ripley's escape pod crash landing on a monastery-like satellite, which had parts of its interior, both, wooden and archaic in design. The Alien 3 special features disc set, Alien Quadrilogy explains how Ward came about creating the story for this partially wooden satellite also as a place of refuge for Luddite-like monks.
The story begins with a monk who sees a "star in the East” (Ripley's escape pod) and at first believes this to be a good sign. Upon arrival of Ripley, and with increasing suggestions of the Alien presence, the monk inhabitants believe it to be some sort of religious trial for their misdemeanors, punishable by the creature that haunts them. By having a woman in their monastery, they wonder if their trial is partially caused by sexual temptation, as Ripley is the only woman to be amongst an all male community in ten years. To avoid this and (hopefully) the much grimmer reality of what she has brought with her, the Monks of the "wooden satellite" lock Ripley into a dungeon-like sewer and ignore her advice on the true nature of the beast. The monks believe that the Alien is in fact the Devil.
Primarily though, this story was about Ripley's own soul searching complicated by the seeding of the Alien within her and further hampered her largely solo attempts to defeat it. The Alien Quadrilogy DVD set features scenes and illustrations that show this ‘Wooden Planet’. Aspects of the monastery and monks of these drafts were later utilised in the final production of the film by having the male inmates participating in an apocalyptic religion that forbade sexual relations. Primarily it was the plot of Alien 3 that was borrowed from this story but little of this world remained in the film. Despite his credit, Ward noted that the things he liked best about the story and those that he believed would have made it work were not used. The screenplay featured scenes set in different locations on the one-mile (1.6 km) wide wooden planetoid, ranging from wheat fields, through a grisly but darkly comic scene in the monks’ communal toilets, to furnaces and a glass works (also used in the finished film).
Empire magazine described Ward’s ‘Wooden Planet’ concept as ‘undeniably attractive – it would have been visually arresting and at the very least, could have made for some astonishing action sequences. In the same article, Norman Reynolds - Production Designer originally hired by Ward - remembers an early design idea for “a wooden library shaft. You looked at the books on this wooden platform that went up and down”. ‘Imagine the kind of vertical jeopardy sequence that could have been staged here – the Alien clambering up these impossibly high bookshelves as desperate monks work the platform’.:156 Sigourney Weaver described Ward’s overall concept as “very original and arresting.”:153 Former Times journalist David Hughes included Ward’s version of Alien III amongst ‘The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made’ in his book of this title. Since Ward’s vision for the film was never borne out into the arena of public scrutiny, this is obviously reserved for those who have taken a particular interest in the Alien project. However, Ward’s proposed version of Alien III has gained a certain following with the 2009 article in Empire Magazine and an extensive section dedicated to Ward’s vision in the Alien Quadrilogy box set.
Walter Hill and David Giler's Shooting Script
Short on time before filming was due to commence, producers Walter Hill and David Giler took control of the screenplay themselves, melding aspects of the Ward/Fasano script with Twohy's earlier prison planet screenplay to create the basis of the final film. David Fincher did further work on the screenplay with author Rex Pickett, and despite Pickett being fired and Hill and Giler writing the final draft of the screenplay, he revised most of the work done by the previous authors.
The film was shot at Pinewood Studios, starting on January 14, 1991, without a finished script and with $7 million already having been spent.
Stan Winston, responsible for creature effects in Aliens, was approached but was not available. Winston instead recommended Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gills, two former workers of his studio who had just started their own company, Amalgamated Dynamics.
The Alien is portrayed by both Woodruff, Jr. in a suit and a rod puppet filmed against bluescreen and optically composited into the live-action footage. A mechanical alien head was also used for close-ups. The suit adapted the design used in Aliens so Woodruff could walk on all fours. Woodruff's head was contained in the neck of the suit, because the head was filled with animatronics to move the mouth of the Alien.
Director David Fincher suggested that a whippet be dressed in an alien costume for on-set coverage of the quadrupedal alien, but the visual effects team was dissatisfied with the comical result and the idea was dropped in favor of the puppet.
A small number of shots contain CGI elements, most notably the cracking alien head. Other CGI elements include shadows cast by the (rod puppet) alien, and airborne debris in outdoor scenes.
- Main article: Alien 3 soundtrack
The film's composer, Elliot Goldenthal, spent a year composing the score by working closely with Fincher to create music based primarily on the surroundings and atmosphere of the film itself. The score was recorded during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, which Goldenthal later claimed contributed to the score's disturbing nature. The choral segment featured in the opening titles, performed by boy soprano, is "Agnus Dei" ("Lamb of God"), from the Catholic Mass, and was included as a reference to the prisoners as lambs being led to the slaughter.
Alien 3 was released in the United States on May 22, 1992. The film debuted at number two of the box office, behind Lethal Weapon 3, with a Memorial Day weekend gross of $23.1 million. It screened in 2,227 theaters, for an average gross of $8,733 per theater. The film was considered a flop in North America with a total of $55.4 million, although it grossed $104.3 million internationally for a total of $159.7 million. It is the second highest earning Alien film, excluding the effect of inflation, and had the 28th highest domestic gross in 1992.
From its initial release to the present day the film has incurred mixed reviews by critics, generally being unfavorably compared to the preceding two films in the franchise. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 39% "Rotten" based on 41 reviews, with a 57% "Cream of the Crop" score.
A number of cast and crew associated with the series, including actor Michael Biehn, previous director James Cameron, and novelist Alan Dean Foster expressed their frustration and disappointment with the film's story. Cameron, in particular, regarded the decision to kill off the characters of Bishop, Newt, and Hicks as "a slap in the face" to him and to fans of the previous film. Biehn, upon learning of Corporal Dwayne Hicks' demise, demanded and received almost as much money for the use of his likeness in one scene as he had been paid for his role in Aliens. Alan Dean Foster, the writer of the novelizations of the first two Alien films, called the death of Newt and Hicks "an obscenity".
The bonus disc for Alien 3, in the 2003 Quadrilogy set, includes a documentary on the film's production but lacks Fincher's participation. Despite giving the Quadrilogy set high marks, TheDigitalbits.com directed criticism at the bonus disc, pointing out that the studio had cut the documentary to delete a handful of behind-the-scenes clips in which Fincher openly expresses his anger and frustration with the studio. These clips were restored for the 2010 Blu-ray release of the Quadrilogy.
The Visual Effects were nominated for an Academy Award, losing to Death Becomes Her. The film was also nominated for seven Saturn Awards and a Hugo Award.
The film was also nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Action Sequence.
Interpretation and analysis
Academics analyzing the role of the Ripley character remark on the symbolism of the Sulaco's cryo chamber. Ripley is compared with an incorrupt Catholic saint preserved in a glass coffin (akin to Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, both in her lying in state in the cryotube as well as her incorrupt body, which has twice survived being almost "impregnated" by the Alien). Accompanied by the Agnus Dei of the Ordinary Mass playing in the background of the opening scene, these scholars argue that the Sulaco is transformed "into a holy site where the iconic bodies of a fetishistic religion lie in state," setting the scene for a lone facehugger attacking its victim (corrupting it) and also causing the emergency system to eject the cryotubes into space and to plunge to Fiorina "Fury" 161 (representing the Fall of Man).
A novelization of the film was authored by Alan Dean Foster. His adaptation includes many scenes that were cut from the final film, some of which later reappeared in the Assembly Cut. Foster wanted his adaptation to differ from the film's script, which he disliked, but Walter Hill declared he should not alter the storyline. Foster later commented: "So out went my carefully constructed motivations for all the principal prisoners, my preserving the life of Newt (her killing in the film is an obscenity) and much else. Embittered by this experience, that's why I turned down Resurrection."
Dark Horse Comics also released a three-issue comic book adaptation of the film.
The official licensed video game was developed by Probe Entertainment, and released for multiple formats by Acclaim, LJN and Virgin Interactive, including Amiga, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Mega Drive/Genesis, and Sega Master System. Rather than being a faithful adaptation of the film, it took the form of a basic platform action game where the player controlled Ripley using the weapons from the film Aliens in a green-dark ambient environment. The Game Boy version, developed by Bits Studios, was different from the console game, being a top-down adventure game. Sega also developed a rail shooter loosely based on the film's events, Alien 3: The Gun.