Alien³ & The Wooden Planet?

Alien³ & The Wooden Planet?

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
ALIEN³ (Blu-ray)

Release date: October 25th 2010
Certificate: 18

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton and Charles Dance

Released as part of the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set, David Fincher’s feature directorial debut is a dark, futuristic nightmare, more along the lines of 1979 original by Ridley Scott than its predecessor, Aliens (1986).

The film opens with one of the pods from the Sulaco ship from Aliens crash-landing on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, a prison planet with an all-male population of rapists and murders. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt (Carrie Henn) are on board together with the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) but only Ripley survives. Wanting to be sure of what killed her friends, she asks for an autopsy to be carried out but keeps her suspicions to herself. A chat with the remains of badly damaged Bishop confirms that there was an alien on board with them and Ripley further suspects that one might be inside of her.

In one of the most poignant scenes in the entire Alien series, the juxtaposition of Newt and Hicks’ funeral with the birth of the new alien is both sad and terrifying. Although the actors do not appear in the movie, it’s the only chance we get to say goodbye to the characters they played in the previous movie, while at the same time setting the stage for the events which are about to take place.

While the men are uncomfortable with her presence having embraced an apocalyptic, millenarian version of Christianity, Ripley tries to warn them that they have bigger things to worry about than gender issues and reawakened sexual urges. As the aliens’ presence on Fiorina becomes more strongly felt and their survival is threatened, the men’s only hope is a rescue ship from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation which is on its way to collect Ripley. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation have other plans which ultimately makes Ripley rethink her exit strategy off Fiorina.

Alien³ might not have been the movie that Fox set out to make, or the movie that fans wanted to see and its production from conception to completion was difficult to say the least. After the success of Aliens, the studio knew they wanted a follow-up but were not entirely sure which direction to take the story in. Writers were hired for the screenplay which Renny Harlin was hired to direct.

On Disc 5 of the Anthology, Harlin talks about the ideas they had for Alien³ in a documentary called “Development Hell: Concluding the Story”:

We would go to where the aliens actually come from. We would Place the story on the planet where the really originate from and really explain what they are and maybe they are not born to be bad at all.

Another idea was to set the story on Earth and an early trailer from the studio hints heavily at this. Eventually Harlin decided to leave when the writers couldn’t come up with something he felt the previous two movies didn’t already cover. The next director to come on board was Vincent Ward. His idea for movie was radical, ambitious, dark and beautifully gothic with strong medieval influences. Sketches can be seen in the segments where he discusses his vision on “Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Ward’s Vision”.

His idea was to set the story on a wooden planet inhabited by monks. Ripley’s ship would crash-land there, carrying the fully formed alien with it. The presence of Ripley would be seen as a test of the monks’ faith by their God whereas the alien would be seen as something from the Devil.The sketches are extremely fantasy based, in one we see an alien with what looks like sheep’s fur and a human face at the rear. The producers didn’t like the idea of the monks and suggested convicts and instead of the wooden planet that it should be a mining colony. Ward would receive a list of changes Fox wanted for the film.

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Alien³ (1992) Vincent Ward's VisionAlien³ (1992) Vincent Ward's VisionAlien³ (1992) Vincent Ward's Vision

Alien³ (1992) Vincent Ward's Vision

Images taken from Vincent Ward’s site, Vincent Ward Films

Then came Fincher. With a strong background in music videos for artists such as Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, Billy Idol and Michael Jackson and commercials with video-production company Propaganda Films, the director began work on his first feature film without a finished script. Having not only to piece together a story from what was leftover from previous writers’ screenplays including Ward’s, but also having to deal with the constant demands and changes that Fox wanted made directing Alien³ a job no one was envious of. Fincher would walk out before editing began and has since then disowned the movie, preferring not to speak of it.


  • 1992 Theatrical Version
  • 2003 Special Edition (Restored Workprint Version)
  • Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, B.S.C., Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, A.S.C., Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

The Anthology set includes both the theatrical version of the film as well as an extended cut, known as “the Assembly cut” which features over 30 minutes of deleted and alternate footage. This version follows a completely different narrative and opens with the crash of the pod from the Sulaco ship, but instead of Ripley being pulled from the wreckage, she is found washed up on the dirty shore by Clemens.

With the sound and picture quality improvements for this Blu-ray release, Alien³ is definitely my top pick of the films, simply because its fascinating to watch, but now also because of the added insight into the making of the film. Despite Fincher not participating in the documentaries or commentaries, there is still a wealth of information assembled here together with illustrations and behind-the-scenes footage to give you an idea of how difficult his job was on this movie.

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