Prior to viewing the DVD, I had never seen ALIEN 3. I guess the negative reviews the film received kept me out of the theaters. Then, the reportedly atrocious Technidisc pressing kept me away from the original Laserdisc release of the film. Well, after seeing ALIEN 3 I can understand why many people didn't like the movie. However, I don't think ALIEN 3 is as bad as its many detractors made it out to be. First time motion picture director David Fincher imbues the film with an almost gothic-like quality that makes the film visually interesting. Yes, there are problems with the story, but from what I understand there is a longer director's cut of ALIEN 3 that is reported to be a much better film, than the studio sanctioned theatrical cut. Perhaps some day a director's cut of ALIEN 3 will appear on DVD and put the issue to rest.
Coming off the adrenaline pumping thrill ride of ALIENS, many will find ALIEN 3 to be a genuine downer. Within the first several minutes of the film, everyone who survived the conclusion of ALIENS will be dead, except for Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). After crash landing on a nearly barren world, Ripley awakens to find herself in the equivalent of a penal colony, with a handful of prisoners who serve as the custodians of the now defunct facility. While to prisoners are serving life sentences for the worst possible crimes, they supposedly have found religion and like their lives like monks in an iron bar monastery. The introduction of a female into the midst of this brotherhood agitates some of the inmates, however their interest in Ripley becomes secondary to something lurking in the dark prison corridors. Ripley quickly comes to the conclusion that she wasn't the only survivor of the crash, when she discovers evidence of an enemy she knows all too well. With no weapons to protect themselves from the alien, the prisoners are forced to rely upon the ingenuity of Ellen Ripley to neutralize the creature. The cast of ALIEN 3 also includes Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Daniel Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany and Lance Henriksen.
The biggest problem with ALIEN 3 is that the supporting characters aren't particularly likable, so when they meet up with the creature, the audience isn't likely to care. Also, the alien effects aren't as good as they were in the preceding two installments. However, the film does have a few things going for it. Sigourney Weaver's delivers another fine performance that adds further dimensions to the character of Ellen Ripley. David Finchers direction is decidedly stylish, which invigorates the films action sequences and gives the film a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, the negatives still outweigh the positives in the theatrical cut. Perhaps someday we will get to see the improvements the purportedly exist in the director's cut.
As far as the quality of the DVD goes, I really can't complain about ALIEN 3. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment offers the film fairly close to its full theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nonetheless, there are a couple of occasions where the edges of the frame appear somewhat compromised. Despite the minor shortcoming in the framing, the DVD offers the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions, plus the THX certified transfer looks great. ALIEN 3 looks better than the first two installments in the series, but then again, the quality of film stocks had greatly improved in the interval between the second and third film. The DVD provides a sharp, finely detailed image that has a deep black level and excellent shadow detail. Contrast is very smooth and color reproduction is excellent considering the film's intentionally limited palette. Flesh tones are relatively natural and strong colors reproduce without any visible signs of chroma noise. Dual layer technology, along with first rate DVD authoring reigned in all traces of digital compression artifacts.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an excellent mix that takes full advantage of the discrete capabilities of the format. There is a strong bass component in the mix that will put your subwoofer to work, plus the surround channels are far more aggressively utilized than in the first two films. All I can say is welcome to the Dolby Digital era. The forward soundstage has good channel separation that easily melds into the surround channels to create a unified sonic environment. Dialogue is very clean and reproduces with a natural timbre, however Elliot Goldenthal's score seems a bit subdued in the mix. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also provided on the DVD, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.
The interactive menus are mildly animated and contain sound, but fall short of the really cool interfaces found on the ALIEN and ALIENS DVDs. Access to the DVDs extras is provided through the menu system, along with the standard scene and language selection features. Supplements include a "Making-Of" featurette, along with theatrical trailers for all four ALIEN films.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released ALIEN 3 on DVD for $29.95 or as part of The Alien Legacy collection, a four film box set for $109.95.
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