Alien (1979) was so perfect it didn't need fixing, and Ridley Scott's 2003 director's cut is fiddling for the sake of fiddling. Watch it once, then return to the majestic, perfectly paced original. Conversely, the special edition of James Cameron's Aliens (1986) is the definitive version, though it's nice to finally have the theatrical cut on DVD for comparison. Most interesting is the alternative Alien 3 (1992). This isn't a "director's cut"--David Fincher refused to have any involvement with this release--but a 1991 work-print that runs 29 minutes longer than the theatrical version, and has now been restored, remastered, and finished off with (unfortunately) cheap new CGI. Still, it's truly fascinating, offering a different insight into a flawed masterpiece. The expanded opening is visually breathtaking, the central firestorm is much longer, and a subplot involving Paul McGann's character adds considerable depth to story. The ending is also subtly but significantly different. Alien: Resurrection (1997) always was a mess with a handful of brilliant scenes, and the special edition just makes it eight minutes longer.
The Alien Quadrilogy offers the first and fourth films with DTS soundtracks, the others having still fine Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. All four films sound fantastic, with much low-level detail revealed for the first time. Each is anamorphically enhanced at the correct original aspect ratio, and the prints and transfers are superlative. Every film offers a commentary track that lends insight into the creative process--though the Scott-only commentary and isolated music score from the first Alien DVD release are missing here.
Each movie is complemented by a separate disc packed with hours of seriously detailed documentaries (all presented in full-screen with clips letterboxed), thousands of photos, production stills, and storyboards, giving a level of inside information for the dedicated buff only surpassed by the Lord of the Rings extended DVD sets. A ninth DVD compiles miscellaneous material, including an hourlong documentary and even all the extras from the old Alien laserdisc. "Exhaustive" hardly beings to describe the Alien Quadrilogy, a set that establishes the new DVD benchmark for retrospective releases and looks unlikely to be surpassed for some time. --Gary S. Dalkin
Ellen Ripley, who is now in cryogenic suspension on board the spaceship that she got on to escape the colonized planet after saving Newt from the alien that hitched a ride on board. Unaware of it though, the alien that she defeated was in fact a queen and laid a small egg in a hidden compartment onboard the ship. The alien on board causes an acid spill which causes an electrical fire and the resulting fire causes the escape pod where the survivors of the previous movie to be separated from the mother ship. After crashing into the ocean on a desolate planet, Ripley finds herself once again the only survivor on a totally unknown world. After being revived in a high-security prison called Fury 161, Ripley finds herself being the only woman in a prison with a religious cult comprised of convicted criminals. Now being imprisoned on the planet, she learns her greatest nightmare of all and how much of a big sacrifice must be made in order to destroy the aliens once and for all. However, Ripley has no idea that the alien isn't her only enemy anymore.
While this is a great movie, this tends to suffer from some problems which likely has caused a lot of fans of the previous two to really shun this movie. While I can't blame them for killing off two important characters from the previous movie, my biggest problems are different. The greatest flaw with this movie is not it's storyline but it's excessive used of dropping F-Bombs right and left. Swearing doesn't bother me necessarily but the F-Bomb is WAY overused here and it really tends to detract from the films enjoyability. I also wasn't too thrilled at the whole prospect of the prisoners being nothing more than just 'live bait' for the alien to kill off one by one.
The "Collector's Edition" is fantastic in many ways. The deeply flawed theatrical release is much better in its remastered form but the "Special Edition" is light years ahead of it's old counterpart. With the film being extended to two hours and thirty-five minutes, with some old footage replaced with previously unreleased footage, along with extended and previously unreleased scenes, "The Special Edition" of "Alien 3" really helps to mend a lot of the problems that plagued the original version and the result is a movie that is almost as great as the first two movies. The only problem I had was the ending which where the ending of the climax scene looked a lot more fake than it did in the original version. Despite this minor quibble, the "Special Edition" of this movie is light years better than the original and the result is a flawed movie that really is lifted much higher in rankings to rank up there with the 1979 original. It'll never top "Aliens" for me but "Alien 3" really benefits from it's revamping. To all of the people who strongly detested this movie to begin with, I would strongly recommend that if you have the time, watch the "Special Edition" because it really helps to correct a lot of the mistakes of the original and it makes the characters a lot more three-dimensional. I have come to appreciate this movie a lot more since seeing it on it's newest form.
The second disc is a real treat. The extras on disc two are really good and along with the first disc, warrant purchasing "Alien 3". I at first found that this was a movie that was not easy to digest especially due to its troubling loss of two of the main characters from the previous movie "Aliens" from 1986. However I have since over time have come to really enjoy this movie and have felt more sorry for the crew after seeing a deep insight into how troubled the movies making really was. You can also see the mixed reactions towards the finished film from the crew members who were involved in it's production. Perhaps the most memorable thing I learned even if it's not from the DVD itself was how much agony David Fincher went through when directing this movie. He was pushed into this movie's directing late into it's production and the result was enormous tension between him and other producers which resulted in agonizing almost non-stop work in directing this movie. Perhaps it's why he hasn't embraced it since it's release but I have to credit him that his work on this is fantastic and the result was worth it to me.
To me while it isn't the best of the series by any means, "Alien 3" is a really excellent and satisfying conclusion to the storyline of Ellen Ripley and her war against the predatory alien creatures. Like someone else said about it, I strongly agree that "Alien Resurrection" felt more like some wacky spin-off that had almost nothing to do with the previous three movies and I agree. While I'm not saying that it was terrible, it wouldn't have been a bad idea of they had simply closed the series on the third one.
In a nutshell, ALIEN3 more or less negates everything Jim Cameron had established in ALIENS, and if you view this movie as a sequel you're gearing yourself up for disappointment. However, if you view this film as a science fiction piece with none-too-subtle religious undertones then you might be surprised to find yourself in for quite a ride.
The look of the film, the trademarked beautiful Aliens grunge, in pulled off quite well. The characters (mostly bald White guys with Brit accents) are a little hard to decipher to the passive viewer, but are quite earnest in their acting. Charles Dance and Charles S. Dutton provide some pretty cool roles (if a little heavy-handed in the latter case).
The religious undertones are there; and they may offend some ardent Bible-thumpers (I'm talking about the Christ-like death sequence)--but it's a nice change of pace for the ALIEN films. The first was horror. Second, war. Why not have the third be 'bout religion?
I think it works; but, hey, different squids for different kids (thanks, Steve, for that phrase). All in all: great cinematography, passable performances with a few gems, laughable story, 'bout two hours of late night or Sunday afternoon stoner entertainment.