In my initial review of ALIEN3, I admitted that I had never seen the film prior to its arrival on DVD as part of the ALIEN LEGACY COLLECTION. Back then; I stated that I didnít think that ALIEN3 was as bad as its detractors made it out to be, which had me very much interested in seeing a never released, but often mentioned, longer cut of the film, which was supposed to be much better than the studio sanctioned version. With the release of ALIEN QUADRILOGY- we finally get that much longer version of the film, although is not a directorís cut of the movie. Since the entire ALIEN3 experience left a bad taste in director David Fincherís mouth, he declined the opportunity to create a definitive version of the film for this DVD release. However, this longer special edition version of ALIEN3 recreates Fincherís initial assembly cut, which restores all of the subplots and interesting bits of the movie that were hacked away by studio interference in the project.
After viewing the special edition of ALIEN3, I can honestly say I appreciate the movie a whole lot more, even if it is still far from perfect. The gothic quality that Fincher brought to ALIEN3 is even more pronounced in this version, although the overriding bleakness of the story canít be overcome by the directorís intended vision. The biggest problem with ALIEN3 is the fact that negates everything that happened to the characters that survived the ordeal of ALIENS. During the filmís first few minutes, the ship transporting the afore mentioned survivors back to Earth crashes on a barren world- with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as the only survivor.
Waking up to discover that her friends and comrades are dead, Ripley finds herself in a penal colony surrounded by the few remaining prisoners- now members of a "religious sect" serving as custodians to the defunct facility. Although these men have supposedly found religion, the inmates are all serving life sentences for the worst possible crimes, and the presence of a woman, namely Ripley, becomes an ever-increasing distraction to the sexual predators. However, the possibility of rape becomes secondary concern to Ripley, when she figures out that she wasnít the only survivor of the crash, and that there is something far more deadly than the prisoners lurking in the dark passageways of the prison. The cast of ALIEN3 also includes Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Daniel Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Pete Postlethwaite and Lance Henriksen.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made ALIEN3 available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The DVD menus offer the option of watching either the original theatrical cut of ALIEN3 or the newly reassembled half hour longer special edition version of the film. Both versions look terrific, with Fox going the extra mile to get all the additional restored sequences up to snuff by completing the special effects, as well as visually polishing the picture to make sure the special edition footage seamlessly integrates back into the body of the film. The image itself is very crisp and rather nicely defined. Colors are strongly rendered, without noise or smearing to mar the quality of the hues. Blacks are dead on accurate and the whites appear clean. Contrast is very good, as is the level of shadow detail. The film element used for the transfer has a very clean appearance, with virtually no blemishes or scratches becoming noticeable. A mild grain structure is present in places, thus creating a very film like presentation. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack sports a rather solid sound mix, which in most instances, bests the first two films to some degree. Of course, with the reassembled special edition version of ALIEN3 not all of the sound elements survived totally intact, and there are some instances where the dialogue becomes a bit unintelligible and has to be supported with subtitles. Fortunately, these instances are fairly brief and not particularly distracting. As for the mix itself, there is very good channel separation across the forward sound stage, plus the surround channels are pretty active- providing plenty of ambient sound and musical fill, not to mention a number of nice active effects. The bass channel is very solid and has some instances where it can be felt, in addition to being heard. A Spanish language track is also provided, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a solid array of supporting materials. Supplements specific to ALIEN3 are spread across the third two discs of the nine-disc ALIEN QUADRILOGY set. Disc five, the movie disc, contains a running audio commentary track with cinematographer Alex Thomson, editor Terry Rawlings, effects gurus Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Richard Edlund, and actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen. While it is very interesting, this track primarily covers the technical bases, without detailing the dirt on what went wrong with this project and why. Other disc five supplements include the ability to watch the special edition of ALIEN3 with the newly restored material identified, as well as checking out said footage independently of the film.
On disc six of the set, one will find the bulk of the supplemental programming related to ALIEN3. There are thirteen separate featurettes contained on the disc, which when combined together through the play all option, make for another three plus hour documentary entitled The Making of Alien≥. Sorely absent from this documentary are new interviews with director David Fincher, who was put through the ringer on the ill-fated production. While there is plenty of excellent material and interviews provided during the course of The Making of Alien≥, the programs really could have gone into further detail as to what derailed the production, and how ALIEN3 ultimately became the bastard child of the movie franchise. Other materials on disc six include extensive still galleries of production photos, designs and other conceptual artwork.
In its theatrical form, I never thought ALIEN3 was as bad as the film was reputed to be. With the special edition cut, I have found a much greater appreciation for this flawed motion picture and think the movie finally becomes a fairly worthwhile entry in the ALIEN franchise. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a truly marvelous job with the filmís presentation on DVD, especially in regards to newly created special edition cut of the film- it really looks terrific. The supplemental materials are solid enough, but they certainly could have dredged up more of the dirt on what went wrong with ALIEN3. With the inclusion of the special edition cut of ALIEN3, the ALIEN QUADRILOGY remains a DVD collection that is absolutely recommended.
The nine-disc ALIEN QUADRILOGY featuring ALIEN, ALIENS, ALIEN3 & ALIEN RESURRECTION, plus all the supplemental material is available for an SRP of $99.98.
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