The Special Edition of Alien3, also known as the Assembly Cut, is an extended version of the 1992 film, first released as part of the Alien Quadrilogy box set in 2003. It is a significant reworking of the movie, adding several major sequences and even entirely new subplots while also removing some scenes found in the theatrical version. In all, it expands the run time by over 30 minutes. It is the only extended/alternate version from the Alien series not to be overseen by the movie's original director (David Fincher); its creation was instead supervised by Charles de Lauzirika, director of several Alien franchise making-of documentaries and producer of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, for which the Special Edition was made.
For the release of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in 2003, directors Ridley Scott (Alien), David Fincher (Alien3) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien Resurrection) were invited to create alternative versions of their films for inclusion in the set, similar to the extended Special Edition of Aliens created by James Cameron in 1991. While Scott and Jeunet agreed, Fincher refused to be involved, having effectively disowned Alien3 following its troubled production. Consequently, an alternate version of his film was instead pieced together by the box set's producer Charles de Lauzirika. This new version was based on an early lost cut found in storage at 20th Century Fox, which had been prepared by Fincher and editor Terry Rawlings and dated from before Alien3 was extensively reworked by the studio in post-production. Without Fincher to guide the project, Lauzirika stringently adhered to this lost cut, resisting any temptation to make modifications that might "improve" or otherwise change the movie. As a further consequence of Fincher's absence, the Special Edition of Alien3 is the only one of the alternate cuts from the Alien series not to feature an introduction from it's original director; an introduction by Terry Rawlings was prepared instead, but was ultimately not used.
The new Special Edition is by far the most complex of the alternate cuts from the Alien franchise, and goes beyond simply lengthening the movie. As well as adding a large volume of new material, the Special Edition also rearranges some sequences and even removes a substantial amount of footage found in the original theatrical release. Unlike the alternative cuts of Alien, Aliens and Alien Resurrection, which make changes relatively sparingly, the alterations in the Special Edition of Alien3 are littered throughout the film. Additions range from significant new sequences measuring several minutes in length to individual lines of dialogue interspersed throughout previously existing scenes. As an indication of how pervasive the alterations are, the booklet accompanying the Alien Quadrilogy box set lists the chapters for each alternative film cut and marks those that contain new footage with an asterisk — of the 44 chapters in the Special Edition of Alien3, 31 are thus annotated.
Perhaps the most obvious alteration in the new cut is the restoration of an entire subplot concerning the disturbed inmate Golic, who simply disappears in the theatrical version but becomes something of a secondary antagonist in the extended cut. Another notable alteration concerns the host inside which the Dragon gestates; Spike the dog, the creature's host in the original theatrical release, is removed entirely from the longer cut of the film, and the Alien instead emerges from Babe, one of several oxen that are used for labor at the prison. Several inmates are also killed under different circumstances in the two cuts — for example, Arthur dies in the quinitricetyline fire in the theatrical version, but in the Special Edition he survives this event only to be murdered later by Golic. These alterations mean the Special Edition is incongruous with the theatrical version of the story, as both feature contradictory scenes.
Overall, the Special Edition places much greater focus on the religious beliefs of the inmates at the prison, beliefs that are only touched upon in the theatrical cut. Several of the supporting characters are also fleshed out with additional development, particularly Golic and Aaron — whose decision to attack Michael Bishop at the end of the movie is given additional context. Notably, the majority of the changes and additions found in the Special Edition were retained in the novelization of Alien3 by Alan Dean Foster.
In order to complete the alternate cut for the Quadrilogy box set, several unfinished shots had to be finalized before they could be reinstated, whether it be a case of editing or completing unfinished effects work. Lauzirika talked to editor Rawlings and visual effects producer Richard Edlund to ensure the newly completed shots matched their intentions when the film was originally made. Perhaps most notable among these incomplete sequences was a shot of the infant Dragon staggering away from the carcass of its host — the sequence originally involved a full-scale rod puppet operated on the set by several members of the effects team, the intention being that the crew would rotoscoped out of the footage in post-production, but the sequence was dropped from the film before the requisite effects work was completed. For the Special Edition, the sequence was finished with digital effects, entailing both the removal of the puppeteers and the addition of a new CGI version of the infant Alien as it flees the scene. This new effects work was carried out by Encore Hollywood. Many of the other new scenes added to the film were similarly deleted from the movie before they had been completed, and as a result initial releases of the Special Edition suffered from poor audio quality in parts — the cast never recorded ADR (dubbing) for several of the reinstated scenes, and as a result much of their dialogue was muffled by noise from on-set steam generators. Because of this, DVD releases of the Special Edition included a special subtitle track that added on-screen subtitles specifically for the scenes where audio quality was an issue.
For the Special Edition's release on Blu-ray as part of the Alien Anthology set in 2010, several original cast members (including Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance and Lance Henriksen) were brought back to re-record their dialogue in several of the additional scenes, allowing 20th Century Fox to create a new sound mix. Consequently, every trace of the sub-par sound quality present on the earlier DVD release was eliminated, finally offering fans the Special Edition in a complete version.
The Special Edition of Alien3 is notable in that it has received a significantly more positive reception than the theatrical film upon which it is based. Owing to the significant differences between the two versions of the movie, the Special Edition has undergone something of a re-evaluation amongst critics, and while still generally regarded as inferior to the two Alien movies that precede it, it is generally viewed more positively than the theatrical release.
Here follows a complete rundown of the differences between the theatrical release of Alien3 and the extended Special Edition.
- The recovery of Ripley from the EEV at the start of the film is almost completely reworked and significantly longer in the Special Edition. After the pod crashes into the ocean, a new sequence shows Clemens walking alone among the derelict structures on the planet's surface. He notices the EEV wreckage offshore, before glancing down to the beach where he sees a body wash up on the sand. He runs down and discovers it is an unconscious Ripley, covered in oil and insects. He quickly carries her inside and tries to resuscitate her, much to the shock of nearby inmates, whom he orders to go and look for other survivors. After they leave, Clemens continues attempting to revive Ripley, who begins vomiting seawater.
- Next we see prisoners rushing down to the coast as night begins to fall, taking a group of oxen with them, after which Andrews begins typing his report on the crash, which uses alternate footage compared to the theatrical version — for instance, we actually see him reflected in the computer monitor as he types.
- Following this, the scene where Frank, Murphy and Rains open up the wrecked EEV and look inside, with Frank finding Ripley alive in her cryotube, has been removed.
- The remainder of the recovery sequence, consisting of Andrews' message detailing the victims of the crash intercut with footage revealing their fate, is almost entirely different in the Special Edition. Notably, alternate footage of Frank searching inside the EEV is added here, including him finding Bishop's remains and a more graphic shot of Hicks' mutilated corpse; conversely, the shot of Newt's drowned body inside her cryotube is removed. The on-screen computer type that details the fates of the Aliens survivors is also different — most obviously, the text no longer appears overlaid over footage of the characters being recovered, while the portrait photos that accompany the text in the theatrical cut do not appear. Andrews also gives Newt's age as around 10 years old, whereas in the theatrical version it is given as approximately 12 years old. In all, throughout the sequence, only the footage of Ripley being tended to in the infirmary is the same as in the theatrical release.
- In the theatrical cut, the recovery of the EEV ends with a crane winching the pod into the prison, followed by a shot of Spike barking at a Facehugger inside. Both of these are removed in the Special Edition, and instead we see some of the prisoners preparing to drag the EEV back to the complex with the oxen while several others unload the bodies of the dead, followed by Andrews receiving confirmation that his transmission reporting the crash has been received.
- Before Andrews' first "rumor control" speech, in which he informs the inmates of Ripley's survival, Dillon leads the prisoners in prayer.
- The scene where Murphy discovers Spike in his room, his face lacerated by the Facehugger, has been removed.
- The scene where Ripley examines Newt's body is extended at the beginning so that we see Kevin, Clemens and Ripley entering the morgue. As they descend the stairs, Clemens asks Ripley why she is so insistent about seeing the body and she tells him she has to be certain how Newt died. Clemens reassures her that she drowned, before asking if the girl was her daughter, to which Ripley replies in the negative.
- After Newt's autopsy, a new scene is added in the prison's slaughterhouse. Murphy and Frank enter hauling a cart on which lies Babe, one of the prison's oxen that has recently died. As they string the carcass up, they talk about flirting with Ripley. Murphy then asks what caused Babe's sudden death, but Frank tells him he has no idea, pointing out that she was "in her prime". After Frank leaves, Murphy finds a dead Royal Facehugger on the cart.
- Throughout the intercut funeral/Xenomorph birth sequence, any shot of Spike and the Chestburster erupting from him has been replaced with footage of Babe's corpse in the slaughterhouse. Towards the end of the sequence, a shot of the newborn creature shakily rising to its feet has been removed.
- In the theatrical version, the infant Dragon is not actually seen fleeing from Spike's body but rather its escape is implied through blood trails and sound effects. In the Special Edition, the newborn Xenomorph is actually seen running away from Babe's corpse and out of the slaughterhouse.
- Before Ripley first meets with the inmates in the dining hall, we see the prisoners sat in the room eating and chatting. Dillon gets up from his seat and goes to talk with Boggs, Rains and Golic at another table about some reported "disharmony" among the men. Boggs and Rains openly insult Golic (even though he is sat next to them) and refuse to go out on any more survey missions with him; when Dillon asks Golic what his view of the situation is, he just smiles dumbly. Dillon angrily tells Boggs and Rains to put aside their differences, for Golic is "just another poor, miserable, suffering son of a bitch" like the rest of the inmates at the prison. With the situation resolved, Dillon goes back to his own seat, patting Golic on the shoulder as he passes. At this point, Ripley enters the room as in the theatrical version. This is the first of several additions in the Special Edition that make it clear Golic is both simple and deranged, a fact only hinted at in the theatrical version.
- After seeing the various prisoners reacting to Ripley's arrival in the dining hall, there is a brief additional shot of Andrews and Aaron at their table. The Superintendent makes it clear he is not at all surprised that Clemens has disobeyed his instruction to keep Ripley away from the inmates.
- At the end of their conversation in the dining hall, Ripley asks Dillon what the inmates are doing at the abandoned prison, to which he responds they are waiting for the return of the Lord and Judgement Day.
- When Clemens tells Ripley her advances are very direct and she tells him that she's been out in space a long time, in the Special Edition he responds that the same is true for him.
- When Clemens again tries to find out from Ripley why they had to cremate the bodies from the EEV after they have made love, she asks him if he thinks she owes him an answer because she's lying in his bed. He responds, "I think you owe me an answer. Being in my bed's got nothing to do with it."
- After Ripley removes the black box from the EEV, we see some of the prisoners as Boggs, Rains and Golic prepare to go out on their survey mission (where they light all the candles in the tunnels). Dillon tells Golic to light a candle for Murphy, to which Golic replies he will light a thousand. As they head out, Golic tells Boggs and Rains how Murphy was one of the few inmates who treated him nicely.
- In the Special Edition, the meeting between Clemens and Andrews is extended, beginning with Clemens entering the Superintendent's office. Aaron is initially present and things start very amicably, with Andrews politely offering the doctor tea. Andrews asks Aaron to leave and only then does he start insulting Clemens, which is where the theatrical version starts. There is some additional dialogue between the two in the middle of the scene, after Clemens returns to his seat, in which Andrews voices his dislike of the doctor, calling him "unpredictable, insolent, possibly dangerous" and making it clear he wouldn't allow him anywhere near Fiorina if the facility didn't need a doctor. The scene also goes on longer at the end; after Andrews asks, "Is there anything I should know?" the two men continue to argue. Andrews makes it clear that he suspects Clemens is sleeping with Ripley. He asks what the doctor knows about her arrival on the planet, and Clemens responds, "She told me she was part of a combat unit that came to grief, beyond that I assume it's all classified. I haven't pressed her for more." Finally Andrews tells Clemens to get out of his office, and Clemens hands his tea — which he still hasn't drunk — to Aaron as he opens the door.
- After the attempted rape on Ripley, we see Boggs, Rains and Golic still heading for the tunnels. Golic finds an abandoned cigarette machine and smashes it, taking the cigarettes to trade with other prisoners when he gets back.
- The scene where Ripley is talking to the mangled Bishop is intercut with new footage of Eric discovering Golic, still soaked in Boggs' blood, sitting alone in the dining hall eating cereal. Later, Clemens, Andrews, Aaron and Dillon sneak up on him and restrain him.
- Golic's rambling as Clemens tends to Ripley in the infirmary is extended, and he talks about how, in an insane world, a sane man must appear insane, an observation that Clemens sarcastically labels "very profound".
- The buildup to the Dragon's attack on Clemens is slightly longer and intercut with numerous brief new shots. As the doctor prepares to inject Ripley, Golic notices their feet beneath the dividing curtain and leans down off of the bed to which he is restrained to get a better look at what they are doing. After Ripley gives permission for Clemens to give her the injection, we see a reflection of the Dragon dropping down from a ceiling vent in one of the pieces of equipment in the room, and Golic notices one of the other beds sagging to the floor as the creature stands on it. This is followed by an extreme closeup of Clemens preparing the needle. In the final moments before the Dragon attacks, there are also new shots of Golic squirming in fear on the bed, an extreme closeup of his terrified eyes, the Dragon's shadow on the floor behind Clemens and finally the creature's feet seen below the curtain.
- Immediately before the Dragon headbites Clemens, there is an additional closeup of its salivating jaws parting.
- After the Dragon flees with Clemens' body, Golic stares up at the vent through which it disappeared, muttering, "Magnificent!" Blood rains down from the vent.
- In the theatrical cut, the shot of Ripley running from the infirmary cuts to Andrews addressing the prisoners in the dining hall, but in the Special Edition it instead cuts to Dillon praying with them. Once they have finished, Dillon starts shouting at the other inmates, angrily admonishing them for the recent unrest and disorder among the group. When he is finished, Andrews thanks him and then begins his "rumor control" speech.
- An alternate take of Jude nervously mopping up Andrews' blood in the mess hall is used. This is followed by a second shot of him filmed from above, from inside the blood-stained vent into which Andrews was taken, over which Dillon's first line of dialogue from the next added scene is heard.
- When the prisoners congregate in the assembly hall after Andrews' death, Dillon again leads them in prayer, welcoming the Xenomorph as the divine apocalypse for which they have been waiting. As he does so, David and Kevin quietly discuss the situation rather more fearfully off to one side.
- After Morse threatens to shove Ripley's head "through the fucking wall", in the Special Edition she replies, "Sounds good to me."
- During the preparations for the quinitricetyline plan, Arthur and Troy are shown checking through boxes and boxes of batteries, searching for some that actually work to power Aaron's flashlight.
- There are numerous short additions during the scenes of the prisoners spreading the quinitricetyline, showing more of the inmates crawling around inside the vent ducts and painting the liquid on the walls and floors. Owing to the previous addition of Arthur and Troy checking batteries, a shot of someone finding a battery in a toolbox has been removed. Kevin complains about the stench of the quinitricetyline whilst painting it inside a vent, and the man with him tells him not to breathe the fumes, to which Kevin incredulously responds, "I'm in a fucking pipe with it, how can I keep from breathing it?!"
- When Ripley begins to feel out of breath while spreading the quinitricetyline, the Special Edition continues to show how Dillon notices and asks if she is OK. She tells him she is but he insists she looks unwell.
- The explosion sequence is significantly longer, and ends with perhaps the most major departure from the theatrical version — in the Special Edition, the plan to trap the Dragon in the nuclear waste dump actually succeeds. After the fire is started prematurely, there are many more shots of explosions and prisoners falling from the vents, some of them burning. In the theatrical cut, Dillon soon manages to turn on the sprinklers, but in the Special Edition the switch breaks away in his hand and the system fails to activate. As the fire continues to rage, a prisoner fleeing the inferno with Aaron is set alight, but Aaron leaves him behind. Ripley arrives and helps another prisoner to extinguish the burning man, only to realize it is Gregor, while the man helping her is Junior — two of the inmates who attempted to rape her. Dillon arrives and he and Ripley carry Gregor to safety. Suddenly the Dragon appears, flushed out by the fire. The creature corners Ripley, Dillon and several others in front of a sealed door, but Junior gets its attention and runs into the waste tank, luring the Dragon after him. Ripley follows and slams the silo door closed. The surviving prisoners gather in front of the waste dump as Junior's screams echo from inside. Finally, Dillon finds some working controls for the sprinklers nearby and activates them, the water dousing the flames as the survivors stare at the sealed waste tank door.
- Alternate footage is used when the inmates survey the carnage in the aftermath of the explosion. The short sequence where Morse discovers Arthur's body and Dillon laments, "Oh, Jesus. This makes ten..." is removed in the Special Edition.
- A large block of new scenes are added concerning events at the prison while the Dragon is trapped. The first of these shows the remaining prisoners gathered in the assembly hall, where Dillon says a prayer for the dead, intercut with more footage of the survivors gathering those who perished in the fire. The inmates are watched from above by Ripley and Aaron, who discuss their religious beliefs, with Aaron making it clear he neither shares nor particularly respects their views. Their conversation moves on to what Weyland-Yutani will do about the Dragon when they arrive, with Aaron insisting they will "go in there with Smartguns and kill it". He goes on to tell Ripley about the message Andrews received earlier labeling her "top priority". Ripley raises the suggestion that the company might want to recover the Xenomorph rather than kill it, but Aaron refuses to believe they would be that crazy.
- Next we see Golic, still tied to the bed in the infirmary and being guarded by Morse, who is shaving his head. Golic begs to be let loose but Morse flatly refuses. Golic continues pleading for his freedom, pointing out that his story about a Dragon killing Boggs and Rains was clearly true all along. When he asks what he is supposed to do if the creature gets into the infirmary again while he is tied to the bed, Morse tells him that they have trapped it in the waste tank. After pointing out that he always offers Morse cigarettes before any of the other prisoners, Golic is finally able to convince his jailer to untie him. However, as soon as Morse turns his back, Golic mutters that he needs to see the Xenomorph again and knocks him out with a fire extinguisher, telling him, "No more cigarettes for you."
- Following this, we see Ripley and Aaron in Andrews' office, where Ripley has Aaron send a message to Weyland-Yutani telling them they have trapped the creature and requesting permission to kill it (regardless of the fact they have no actual means to do this). When Aaron asks what to call it, Ripley tells him to call it a "Xenomorph"; Aaron does not know how to spell it, and so Ripley takes over at the console. Despite Aaron's insistence that the company never tells them anything, they get a reply almost immediately prohibiting any offensive action, confirming Ripley's suspicions about their plans for the creature.
- After this, Golic arrives at the waste tank and confronts Arthur, who is standing guard. When Arthur refuses to let him into the tank, Golic kills him by slitting his throat with a shiv, before opening the door and stepping inside. He asks the Dragon (unseen) what it wants him to do next as he walks into the darkness. Moments later, the Dragon emerges and runs away, free once more.
- Finally, Ripley is with Dillon in his cell, telling him how they need to kill the Dragon before the Weyland-Yutani team arrives. However, Dillon isn't interested, not wanting to risk any more prisoners' lives and not caring if the company gets their hands on the creature anyway, even if it will lead to the death of many innocent people. Morse then comes running in and nervously informs them that they have a problem.
- After this, the scene where the survivors meet outside the empty waste tank is longer with several new lines of dialogue, mostly from Aaron concerning Golic's actions in the preceding new scenes. The shot of Dillon kneeling over Arthur's body, removed earlier in the Special Edition, is shown now, minus Dillon's line about it being the tenth victim they have found. There are also a few more seconds of Aaron, Dillon and Morse thinking the situation over before Aaron concludes, "Well I'm out of ideas!"
- Dillon's line to Morse when he grabs him outside the waste silo has been altered — in the theatrical version, he tells him to gather the survivors in the press, whereas in the Special Edition he instead tells him to gather everyone in the assembly hall. When he then notices Ripley has disappeared, the Special Edition adds him saying, "Where is she?"
- After Ripley has learned of the Chestburster inside her, we see Dillon and the other prisoners gathered in the assembly hall. Dillon proposes they stay where they are as the room has no air vents, taking it in shifts to watch the doors, and hopefully they can hold out until help arrives. However, David argues that they will simply be trapped. When Dillon points out that David has a shiv with which he can defend himself, William mocks the implication that they can stab the Dragon to death, forcing Dillon to admit their best hope may be that they can hurt the creature before it kills them. Eventually, he asks if anyone else has a better plan; when Gregor tries to light a cigarette for Morse, Morse stares at the burning match and remembers what Ripley said about the Xenomorph being afraid of fire, suggesting they go to the foundry instead. Dillon agrees, and several shots then show the prisoners making their way there.
- After refusing to tell the rescue team the facility has gone toxic, Aaron asks Ripley if she has any ideas as she leaves. In the theatrical cut, she suggests she will go and find the Dragon, but in the Special Edition she first explains that the creature won't kill her because she is "carrying the new Queen". Aaron questions whether she is really willing to bet her life on the Dragon being intelligent enough to realize, after which she talks about going to find it as in the theatrical version.
- There are extra portions of dialogue throughout the scene where Ripley meets Dillon in his cell after she comes face-to-face with the Dragon. After informing him of the embryo that is growing inside her, Ripley goes on to tell him that she encountered the Dragon and that she "could've been lunch", but that the creature won't harm her because it knows she is carrying its future. Later, after telling Dillon she must have been impregnated whilst in hypersleep, she goes on to say, "I was violated. And now I get to be mother of the year." Finally, when asking Dillon to kill her, she points out that the Queen inside her has the potential to "wipe out the whole universe". Dillon also has an extra line at the end of the scene — after telling Ripley that he intends to use her to fight the Dragon, he says if she doesn't like it she can go kill herself.
- The scene where Dillon rouses the other prisoners into action is longer. At the very beginning of the scene, he tells the remaining inmates that they have a chance to get even for those already killed. Aaron interrupts, pointing out that the rescue team will arrive shortly, meaning they can just "sit this out" and likely survive. Ripley responds that Weyland-Yutani are only interested in the Xenomorph, but Aaron still believes the company will save them and take them home. There is also extra dialogue during Dillon's final call to battle, including telling the prisoners "this is as good a place as any to take our first steps to Heaven".
- In the theatrical version, there is a scene of David criticizing the bait-and-chase plan to Jude before the action starts. In the Special Edition, there is a different scene of William and Gregor discussing the fact they don't believe in God like the other inmates. Nearby, Jude is banging his head against a wall, obviously terrified. William and Gregor then start laughing, and we see several added shots of the lead works complex, their laughter echoing through the corridors. Eventually Jude also steels himself, shouting, "Let's lunch this thing!"
- A shot of Aaron wiping down a mirror and staring at his reflection while the prisoners are busy preparing in the lead works has been removed.
- After the chasing has started, David finds a corpse near a blood-stained wall and identifies it as Vincent.
- During the first round of chasing, several of the prisoners run back into the piston chamber, having gotten lost; Dillon almost accidentally kills Morse with his axe as he bursts into the room. They set off again, Dillon telling Ripley that they are improvising.
- When Michael Bishop is trying to convince Ripley to come with him and his team, he invites a scientist to explain the procedure to surgically remove the Chestburster. The scientist states the operation will be quick and painless, and that Ripley will only be unconscious for two hours, after which Bishop concludes, "And then it's over."
- After Aaron attacks Bishop, additional footage is added that shows more clearly that Bishop is human, including several shots where he can be seen suffering more from his head wound, which bleeds profusely. At one point, he shouts to Ripley, "I'm not a droid!" He also sees a scientist filming what is happening and yells at him to stop.
- Ripley pauses longer before throwing herself into the furnace, during which time several long closeups of her agonizing over the decision are inserted. Before she jumps, she mutters that the company people are crazy. There is also one final closeup of her face immediately before she leaps to her death.
- The Special Edition uses a completely different take of Ripley falling into the furnace. On the way down, the Chestburster does not emerge from her chest, and she simply falls gracefully into the fires with her arms outstretched. Whereas she fades into the broiling fire in the theatrical cut, in the Special Edition we actually see her hit the surface and briefly burst into flames before she vanishes.
- Despite Fincher's infamous disowning of Alien3 following its production, he apparently did consider returning to the film to supervise its director's cut. Although he eventually decided against it, he gave Charles de Lauzirika his blessing with the endeavor. In fact, after the Special Edition was complete, Lauzirika was contacted by Fincher regarding the reconstructed version, although the two never met and their conversation never progressed any further.
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