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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alien≥, January 5, 2012
This review is from: Alien 3 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Vincent Ward was the fourth screenwriter/director to grace the Alien≥ screenplay with his presence. All previous drafts of the screenplay had been scrapped due to producers or studio execs not being happy with the concepts. Ward's screenplay found Aliens' Sulaco spaceship crashing on an archaic wooden planetoid occupied by refugee monks. Once the creature stowed away on the Sulaco begins to make his presence known the monks believe that the titular alien is Satan itself, and Ripley is a test of their faith and purity. As a result they lock Ripley up in a sewer and ignore her warnings and advice on how to deal with the alien.

The thing that seems to stand out for most people who have read the screenplay and who have seen the concept art is just how astonishing it would have been once it had been pulled off. Sigourney Weaver called Ward's concept, "...very original and arresting." Empire magazine said of the concept that it was "...undeniably attractive - it would have been visually arresting and at the very least, could have made for some astonishing action sequences." David Hughes, a former journalist for Time, included Ward's version of Alien≥ in his book The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. Ward ended up leaving the project over disagreements with the producers.

After leaving LV-426, Sulaco's emergency sensors detect a fire on board the Sulaco and jettison an escape pod occupied by Ellen Ripley, Corporal Hicks, Newt, and the remains of Bishop. The escape pod lands on Fiorina 161, a prison planet occupied by all male inmates imprisoned for histories of sexual and physical violence. When Ripley is awakened by prison doctor Clemens (Charles Dance) she finds out that both Hicks and Newt have been found dead. Worried she asks Clemens to help with an autopsy on Newt to determine her cause of death despite prison warden Harold Andrews' (Brian Glover) protests. It is determined that Newt died of natural causes, but that doesn't mean that the alien hasn't found a different way to invade the planet.

Alien≥ is a master-class in how not to make a film. After Ward walked away from the project, producers Walter Hill (who was one of the first choices to direct Alien, but gave it to Ridley Scott instead) and David Giler began the uneasy task of tidying up the script. They were given final say on the script by Weaver's contract, as Weaver felt that Ripley was a hard character to write and apart from James Cameron they were the only ones who could her correctly. With Fox ready to begin production with or without a finished script, they couldn't waste time hiring a new screenwriter or even coming up with an original concept. Instead they incorporated elements from each of the screenplays that had been turned down.

The end result is a hackneyed mess that suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen. A further egregious error in the development stage was made in killing off Hicks and Newt. The lack of an emotional core that could have easily been dealt with through the bond of Ripley and those to characters can be felt throughout the flick, what's left is a cold emotionless shell. While I would argue that this film isn't the utter and complete disaster than many have made it to be, the lack of anything with which the audience can connect to makes it seem much worse than it is. In the end, though, you can see flourishes of the director that David Fincher would become, even if the studio did try to suppress his vision by editing the film without his approval.

I can't say that I really recommend this film. If you haven't seen it the only real reason to watch it is because you're a huge fan of the franchise and have to watch all of the films in the franchise, you're a cinephile who must see it to fulfill your cinematic urges, or you're a huge David Fincher fan who wants to see where his cinematic journey started. I don't think this movie is as bad as it could have been, but it still could have been much better. Coming after the brilliance that was Alien and Aliens I would say it needed to be much better.


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