Alien3: Special Edition (1992)

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Released 12-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Theatrical Version: Cast And Crew
Featurette-Making Of-Development: Concluding The Story
Featurette-Tales Of The Wooden Planet, Pre-Production Part III
Gallery-The Art Of Arceon, The Art Of Fiorina, Production Gallery
Featurette-Xeno-Erotic, Production: Part 1, 2 & 3, Furnace Construction
Featurette-Adaptive Organism, Optical Fury
Gallery-A.D.I.'S Workshop, Visual Effects, Special Shoot
Multiple Angles-EEV Bioscan
Featurette-Music, Editing And Sound, Post Mortem
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 138:56
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:47)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Version Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Fincher

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Charles Dutton
Charles Dance
Paul McGann
Brian Glover
Ralph Brown
Daniel Webb
Christopher John Fields
Holt McCallany
Lance Henriksen
Christopher Fairbank
Carl Chase
Leon Herbert
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Elliot Goldenthal

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

this time it's a disaster

    Alien and Aliens were both troubled with problems during production. Both had a principal actor fall ill very early in the shoot, necessitating the rapid acquiring of a replacement — in both cases the replacement was a good choice (John Hurt in Alien and Michael Biehn in Aliens), but it's still disruptive. And there were other troubles — Alien had conflicts between the real scriptwriters and the team at Brandywine, Aliens had rebellion in the crew. But neither film had the problems that afflicted Alien3 from the very start of the project.

    Alien 3 was inevitable. The success of the first two guaranteed that the studio and the production house would want to make a sequel. And James Cameron had made sure that the sequel was set up properly, by putting four characters into hypersleep and setting them off on the trip home. There was one problem, though: the success of the first two meant that the studio was expecting a lot from this sequel. This wasn't a case of "give it a small budget and maybe it will make us some money" — this was a high profile project, and an important one to the survival of the studio. That was the start of the disaster.

    The extras in this set actually concentrate more on the disaster than on the movie — there is quite a bit of information about the movie, but even more on the what-ifs.

    The first name associated with this project was Renny Harlin. He spent about a year working on it, then quit when he felt that the story they wanted had diverged too much from what interested him. Then they found Vincent Ward. We hear a lot about his plans for the movie — we get to see conceptual art and the complete outline of the story he wanted to tell. It's fascinating, and I wish they'd made his movie — it involved a group of men who'd rejected technology (sort of neo-Luddites), who lived on a giant space station (3 miles in diameter) where they'd covered all the metal of the space station with wood (I guess because it was "natural"), and who lived a monastic life. There were all sorts of interesting cognates of these basics, including the idea that they viewed the alien as The Devil. It's a real shame that they didn't make this movie — it sounds like it would have been a fitting successor to the first two. But it was a risk (like the other two...). Too big a risk for the studio execs, who kept meddling, and asking for changes to make it safer, or cheaper, or both.

    They made another big error. They set a release date. And they set it in stone, unchangeable. So they started building sets and designing creatures, even before the script was settled. That was another mistake. Clearly the production was out of control — a real producer would have insisted that they not start work on large and expensive sets until they were certain.

    Meanwhile, the script was being re-written. Vincent Ward left — good old "creative differences". The studio hired David Fincher, another new director who'd made commercials and music videos, but never a feature film. (Hmm, something of a theme in this series — the new director who has made only one or no feature film before...) He didn't have a script to work from, because it was still being rewritten, but he was expected to start shooting almost immediately. A few days into shooting someone fell ill. This time it wasn't an actor (for a change!). It was worse. It was the director of photography, Jordan Cronenweth, who was suffering from Parkinson's Disease. He was replaced by Alex Thomson, a very skilled cinematographer (he shot Excalibur, Labyrinth, and Cliffhanger, for example), but such a change is very unsettling for the cast and crew.

    The litany of bad decisions continued. Perhaps they should have abandoned the production, or shut it down until the script was finished, but by now too much money had been invested, so they engaged in the time-honoured practice of hurling good money after bad.

    David Fincher is quite noticeably absent from the extras. That's understandable, because he copped a lot of flak over this movie, both during the making and after its release. Interestingly, everyone seems to be quick to defend him, with words like "he started shooting without a script", "he was very popular with the cast", "he's a very confident director" and so forth. Under their words, though, there's a strong scent of goat, of the scape variety. One of the few who seems willing to lay most of the blame on the studio is Alex Thomson, but he is long since retired, so maybe he can afford to offend them (I guess the others have to work...). In my opinion, without further research, the majority of blame for this disaster seems to lie with the production team, including the Brandywine team and the executives at the studio — the real damage was done before David Fincher arrived, but was compounded by their continual interference as he tried to put together a movie from the pieces he could make. Yes, a movie must run to a budget, but you have to allow the director the resources he needs to make a coherent film. It didn't help that Sigourney Weaver had her own ambitions for the movie, and was a co-producer — (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) she wanted to die in this movie, so she wouldn't have to make another one (that didn't work, did it?).

    Ahem, moving on to the film... I don't know if I need to explain the plot, but I will give you a quick intro — there are fewer people who have seen this one than the last two. We pick up where the last film left off, with the Sulaco heading home and four characters in hypersleep (clearly they are somnambulists, because they have moved from the Sulaco hypersleep beds with double interlocks, and into ones like those on the Nostromo...). Somehow there's an alien egg on board the Sulaco (hmm). Something goes wrong (there's a hint that this is due to alien acid blood starting a fire) and the hypersleep beds are ejected in an Emergency Escape Vehicle. Fortunately, they are close to an inhabited planet, and the EEV crashlands there. Unfortunately, the inhabited planet turns out to be barely habitable, and the only people there are the residents of a run-down mining prison operated by Weyland Yutani (now where have we heard that name before?). Most of the people were pulled out years before, but a small religious sect among the prisoners decided they wanted to stay, so the company left behind two administrative staff and a medical officer. The prisoners are double Y chromosome (it's a genetic anomaly that was in the news at the time they were making this film — they are men with XYY chromosomes, rather than the normal XY — there was speculation that this made them more aggressive, and more likely to end up in prison). Everyone on the planet is male, so there's quite a stir when they discover that the only survivor of the crash is a woman called Ripley. Ripley's big fear is that she's not the only survivor, and she is proven correct. Fighting against the alien is made more difficult by the fact that there are no firearms, and precious few weapons of any kind, on this planet.

    Alien 3  has been released on DVD before. The previous version was part of the Alien Legacy box set, and only featured the theatrical cut. This disc is part of the Alien Quadrilogy release, and offers both the original theatrical cut and a newly released special edition, which is an extended version which was made from a work print, which is supposed to show us what the film was meant to look like. I like having the option of two versions of the film, especially given that the new version is far more coherent. Certain scenes that were previously inexplicable now make sense, and the pace of the movie is much more even. All in all, it's still not as good a movie as the first two, but the special edition is a great improvement, and I recommend it to you. I think I prefer this ending, too.

    This film is the least popular of all the Alien films. Several of my friends claim that there are only two Alien movies (they also claim that there is only one Highlander movie) — they would prefer to deny the existence of this one and the last. I see that as a limited view. After all, there's the famous saying: "those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it". I think this film (especially the theatrical version) serves as an excellent object lesson in how not to make a sequel to a success.

    If you have the Alien Legacy version of this film, do you need this new one? That depends. If you are interested in owning both the original theatrical version and the new version, then this is your only choice. If you only want the theatrical release, and you have the Legacy disc, then you don't need this one. But I think you'd be making a mistake to stick with just the theatrical version — the special edition is a lot better. The other big reason to get this new version is that it has a lot more extras, including a commentary.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The aspect ratio in which it was made was 2.35:1, so this is very close.

    The movie is alone on this disc, except for the commentary. That means that they don't have to compress the movie as much. This movie has some excellent photography, and it has every chance to show itself off on this disc.

    The picture is mostly quite clear and sharp; there are a few shots that are a bit grainy, and a few that are slightly out of focus, but it is mostly quite sharp. Shadow detail is generally very good, with the occasional let-down. Film grain is no problem on most shots, but have a look at moments like 42:38 (special edition) — the grain is quite noticeable. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour, what there is of it, is well-rendered — the production designers worked with a very limited palette, but it's all reproduced well. There are no colour-related artefacts, even on the red-lit scenes in the furnace area that provide a gruelling test for your system — if you were going to see colour bleed, you'd expect it there.

    There are a number of moments that look like film artefacts, but they are mostly sparks flying off the strange torches the characters carry. I saw nothing I could positively identify as a film artefact..

    There is some aliasing, but it's quite minor. There is no significant moirι, and no shimmer. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    The language menu shows subtitles in five languages, plus English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched the English. They are reasonably accurate, with some abbreviation and rearrangement, but they are well-timed, and easy to read. I didn't spot any errors. There are no Dutch subtitles this time; not on the menu, and not on the disc.

    The movie disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 70:47 in the special edition, or 58:10 in the theatrical cut (that's a big difference). In both versions it is quite an obvious layer change, with a noticeable pause, and an unattractive break in the score. The extras disc is also dual layered, but appears not to be RSDL formatted (the inner rim labels for both layers read the same way) — that's no problem, though, because they appear to have arranged the extras so that none of them span the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio tracks, both in English, on the movie disc. The first is the soundtrack, provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. The other is the audio commentary, provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) at 96kbps. I listened to both tracks, and listened to the soundtrack on both versions of the film.

    The dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand. Some of the dialogue that has been restored in the special edition is clearly production dialogue rather than ADR — there's a fair bit of background noise — but it is generally quite comprehensible. There are no obvious lapses in audio sync.

    Elliott Goldenthal's score is unusual, incorporating all manner of unusual noises in addition to conventional orchestral score, but it's quite effective. Not subtle, but effective.

    The surrounds are used seriously for directional sound in some scenes, and provide near continuous ambient sound and score. The subwoofer used effectively, too.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are quite few extras in this offering, too. Once again, the commentary is the only extra on the movie disc, with all the others on the second disc. This is a good arrangement, allowing the movie disc to be as good as it can be.


    The menu has good transitions, but it's not animated. There's music behind it. It is simple and easy to use, themed with controls from Weyland Yutani.

Commentary — Cast and Crew

    This commentary features a lot of the people who worked on this film, but only two of the actors. Notably, neither David Fincher nor Sigourney Weaver make an appearance:

    This is an interesting commentary, with some illuminating discussion of how various effects were achieved. This was the last film before the effects houses switched to digital compositing — they describe it as their "last photochemical project". There are also comments on a number of scenes that changed during production; apparently the autopsy scene was a lot more gory originally, for example. They can't help commenting on some of the troubles that the production had, which is understandable.

    As the film progresses, there are a few gaps in the commentary, but they aren't annoying.

    The commentary is subtitled in English, which is a good thing, and something I'd like to see on more movies.

Disc 2

    This disc is titled The Making of Alien³. Such a challenging title, and well up to the standard of the previous films — there are rumours circulating about this, but I'm not going to report them here.

    You can select all the extras individually, from three menus labelled Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production, or you can choose Navigation Options, and play all the featurettes together (the total runs 162:26), or look at all the photos, or all the artwork. These are interesting and useful alternatives.

    Note that none of the extras on this disc are 16x9 enhanced. They are all presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.


Featurette: Development — Concluding the Story (17:01)

    Discussions of the development of the project, and how it got out of control.

Featurette: Tales of the Wooden Planet — Vincent Ward's Vision (13:13)

    The story of the movie Vincent Ward wanted to make — I wish the producers had had the courage to make this, because it sounds really interesting.

Gallery: The Art of Arceon — Conceptual Art Portfolios

Featurette: Pre-production Part III (11:43)

    Various unpleasantnesses are mentioned, such as David Fincher starting without a script, and the difficulties that engendered, and Michael Biehn's law suit stopping them using his (dead) likeness.

Storyboards — Archives

Gallery: The Art of Fiorina — Conceptual Art Portfolios

Featurette: Xeno-erotica — H R Giger's Redesign (10:21)

    A featurette about the work H R Giger put into designing a new alien for this movie. The footage of Giger is fairly grainy, but watchable.


Featurette: Production: Part I (18:03)

    Talks about the continual reworking of the script, and the frequent chopping and changing of the producers. Some of the behind-the-scenes footage shows a despondent David Fincher. There's also a description of the change of cinematographer.

Gallery: Production Gallery — Photo Archive

Featurette: Furnace Construction — Time-lapse Sequence (4:37)

    This is quite cool: they had a time-lapse camera running from a fixed location as they built this set. It's amusing to watch the ants scurry as they build this set..

Featurette: Adaptive Organism — Creature Design (20:35)

    The creature creators get to tell of their experiences in building the new alien.

Gallery: ADI's Workshop — Photo Archive

    Amalgamated Dynamics Inc built the alien. This is 191 photos of their work.

EEV Bioscan — multi-angle vignette (2:01)

    A multi-angle piece showing the layers of the bioscan and the final composite — a total of six angles.

Featurette: Production Part II (14:40)

    They didn't wrap, they simply stopped shooting. Then they moved the film to LA, and ended up doing another six weeks of shooting to try to get the additional footage they needed.

Featurette: Production Part III (8:57)

    Further discussion of where things went wrong.


Featurette: Optical Fury — Visual Effects (23:22)

    Repeated comments about how much simpler this would have been digitally, and how much work it was to do optically. There's an interesting demonstration of the rod puppet that did the ceiling running.

Featurette: Music, Editing and Sound (14:54)

    There's some interesting discussion of the music and its composer, and of the sound effects and their team. There was some conflict between the two, with the combination of their work sometimes producing cacophony. The composer is proud of his score, but he thinks the movie sounds bad.

Gallery: Visual Effects Gallery — Photo Archive

    137 photos of visual effects elements.

Featurette: Post-Mortem — Reaction to the Film (5:51)

    They have a lot less to say about this film's reception...

Gallery: Special Shoot — Promotional Photo Archive

    79 photos shot to promote the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of the Alien Quadrilogy has just taken place (December 2003); the Region 4 is out, too. You will be able to buy this 2-disc edition separately (from January 2004), or as part of the Alien Quadrilogy, and you'll get the same thing — the only difference is that the Quadrilogy includes an exclusive ninth disc.

    There are a few differences between the Region 1 and Region 4 versions, and unfortunately they are all in favour of the Region 1. The Region 1 movie disc has:

    Comparing the 2 disc Alien Quadrilogy version with the older 1-disc Alien Legacy version of this film is much more one-sided than the one for Alien:

    The 2-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    The 1-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    That's a fairly conclusive win on the extras front to the new 2-disc version. Add to that the presence of the special edition of the film, which is considerably more coherent than the theatrical release, and I'd call this an overwhelming win to the new one.


    The Alien film that almost everyone hates. It has been presented extremely well on DVD, and I have a new appreciation for it after seeing all the extras — it's still nowhere near as good as the first two, but the special edition is something watchable (at last!).

    The video quality is mostly very good, but there are those moments of film grain.

    The audio quality is excellent, except for the background noise on the dialogue of some of the restored scenes.

    The extras are plentiful, and go quite some way toward explaining the problems of this film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Stop paying out this movie!... - REPLY POSTED
I'm guilty of liking it - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
what is not on this disk etc -
Quote: "The Alien film that almost everyone hates.", that would be Alien Resurrection. ;-) -
Is it actually available yet? - REPLY POSTED
Doco Changes. - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Alien Vs Predator -
Alien Quadrilogy is *not* out yet -
Another brilliant nihilistic Fincher vision - Edward M (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Alie 3 is vile. -
Alien 3 is vile -
Digital bits dejavu - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
workprint quality? - REPLY POSTED
Alien³ -
Why Alien3 is so disliked - Jace
Alien 3 - MaskMan (read my bio)
Subtitles - REPLY POSTED
Subtitles are not burnt in on region 1. -
The extended version is a great film - Nick H (do you have a spare 60 seconds-read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Why no director's intro like the other 3 films? -
RE: Why No Director Intro / Commentary Like The Other Three Films - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)