UPDATE 03/04/2019 THIS EDIT IS NOW FINISHED. I was never happy with a few things, but they’re sorted now. Email me if you’d like to see it. Anyone who has the link for the old version, it should still work for the new.
Hi Folks, Another cut and paste from some older project notes from my first crack at a fan edit…
Alien 3 - Third Cut
1920 x 808 – 23.97fps - HEVC x265 5.1 AC6 at 640kbps
Utilising the assembly cut as the core structure, this version calls upon portions of the theatrical cut to augment my preferred narrative. The assembly cut had given us a much fuller perspective of the characters and a compelling narrative borne of the environment of Fury 161 and the heavy symbolism that defied the popcorn fans…
Firstly I wanted this cut to restore the shot of newt in her cryo-tube. I found nesting it with the footage of the cryo-tubes from the assembly cut was possible by unifying the scenes using added lighting effects to Newt’s locked off shot in order to emulate the sparking flare-torch used to light the theatrical scene, whereas the assembly cut scenes used what seemed to be caged tungsten bulbs. So although the oxen are introduced and are part of this cut, the dog accompanying the prisoners in the hatchway is used for the EEV scene. This is inter-cut with the on-screen report as it is typed by Andrews from the assembly cut and includes the close-up of Hicks in the cryo-tube and the hand held pan across Ripley’s empty cryo-tube which also has lighting effects added. It rounds off with the EEV seen from above and the oxen about to drag it up the shore, but here I added sounds of the dog barking seemingly off camera to help tie the elements to the same place. The crane is still used to take the EEV the rest of the way in either version of the film so the scene with the dog barking in the hatchway can comfortably still be included. The inclusion of the overhead shot showing the prisoners taking the bodies out of the damaged and gaping hole of the EEV was a little contrasting to the previous shot of the hatchway view, but I felt that they would likely as not have accessed the module from both ends as would likely be deemed convenient. EDIT: I went back to this scene and added rolling or drifting smoke over any shot needed to match the use of the flare torch. This applied to Newt’s, Hicks and Ripley’s cryo. The smoke, when colour matched, really tied the segments together nicely without looking too dominating.
The first scene in the abattoir is retained, but cut short to omit the face hugger or indeed any certainty over which animal will give birth to the alien. Mostly this scene is retained for the dialogue and the characters’ development, including their not inconsequential attitudes toward Ripley. This culminates when Murphy kicks the dead oxen which cues the scene cut to the autopsy.
Newts’ autopsy plays out and then cuts to Spike the dog’s scarred face scene - indicating for sure the direction of the dog/oxen narrative as that of the theatrical cut – I always thought the dog birthing scene had superior shots to suit the editing pattern and the far more emotive content to convey distress to the audience. The sound of the dog yelping in its’ hapless and painfully doomed state heightened the tension, the empathy and the horror. The newborn alien from the theatrical version is also just a simpler and tidier manifestation of the sinister for me. The Oxen was just a lump of furniture at this stage and the investment of the model makers efforts were probably the main reason for it’s inclusion. What is convenient for a K9 narrative is that the assembly cut had left in Murphy’s dialogue about “Spikey” in the vent shaft scene.
Now here I interject some years after making the edit and writing this description to reload the drives and start cutting it up again. Having since watched Wreckage and Rage and reading countless forums and blogs and interview transcripts published due to the resurgent, albeit still cult, popularity of the film, I decided to tuck into some more changes that hint at what Fincher was toying with that didn’t fully materialise even in The Assembly Cut. This may seem a conceit and might tune a few viewers out that would have liked the hybrid edit as it was but…
…I wanted to feature Golic’s dragon as he saw it. However simply, but only if it looked right.
I introduce fire and a heat haze to one of the most iconic shots of the creature in the film so it’ll likely carry the taste of Marmite for people. The dragon shots that were talked about involved the guy wearing the suit getting sprayed with cold water as they used flame bars close to him to get a heat distorted apparition. I don’t think it’s possible to achieve what Fincher wanted exactly or if it could be done without a decent cgi artist, but I figured I’d try putting something together to see what sticks and hopefully it wouldn’t feel too tacked on. I used some bellowing fire footage that someone made in Blender with FumeFX (grabbed from Loki 3D’s channel on youtube) which was rendered against black and I rescaled it and warped it’s shape to suit the movement in the frame. This was then placed on a screen filter overlay on top of a turbulent warp filter for the creature’s head on the main video layer. The shots of Golic’s blood stained blinking face was cut into two shorter length segments - which in turn intercut with the view of the creature above him - now segmented into three reciprocal pieces. In the first two instances the creature is breathing fire as Golic blinks in semi hallucinogenic disbelief but after he turns to run, his escape footage is cut a little shorter to show a last brief shot of the creature watching after him, but without any fire, to re-establish reality for the audience. There is re-timed and repeat-used footage to achieve this, but with enough substantial transformation to be comfortable. Although the apparition itself is not it’s own separate feature fx or based on additional footage, it does feature for slightly longer than before and flows still with the immediacy of golic’s reaction. Overall the scene stays at the same run time.
When Golic sets the alien free, it’s run from the doorway is now a touch faster in an attempt to speed past the jarring visual artefacting of the rod puppets’ relatively low frame rate which effectively deletes portions of it’s body. The camera pan up is a little quick as a result, but acceptable.
The composite shot’s of the company ship entering Fury’s planetary system and the communications dish outside the facility have now also been adjusted to sit more accurately within the colour palette of the rest of the frame.
For undoubtedly the most iconic shot in the film - Ripley’s dread approaching her at close quarters as she flattens herself against the infirmary wall…I decided to try and tart up the creature’s approach immediately beforehand. There are many shots of the rod puppet that don’t work very well at all, but this stands out due to the sheer inky wet quality of the full scale hero head prop in the profile shot it cuts to. I rotoscoped the hell out of this scene and zoomed in from the full frame slightly to 1. Avoid the impossible task of fixing the legs and 2.get the alien’s physique to appear suitably daunting and imposing. Within the re-framed shot the alien is scaled up on an alpha channel to be re-composited in Premiere, it’s outline trimmed and tidied, re-lit using After Effects filters and adding a touch of wet glossiness lacking previously. I also re-trimmed and re-lit the steel furniture to the left of the screen as it’s own alpha channel composite layer. Overall it is an improvement and the colour temperature and grading balance is better with the background and foreground.
Back to the original edit and description…
The rousing speech made by Dillon is cut slightly short to omit the very peak of the emotional crescendo which was scored and scripted just a touch too heavy and a few seconds too far for my tastes. The response to Dillons’ speech, felt forced in the theatrical cut because they were aiming for a higher gusto than was psychologically believable. “Fuck it!” is retained. “Let’s go for it” is dispensed with. The music was drowned out as smoothly as possible to give slightly premature closure to the scene instead of lingering uncomfortably. It was a close call to cut the scene short. But that last bit of dialogue bugged the piss out of me since forever.
There are very subtle attempts here and there to localise and re-grade the Alien as it runs around the corridors and the tunnel network surrounding the leadworks – places where the matte contrast and colour difference seemed too obvious, but I really didn’t over do it as I knew I didn’t have the time or patience to rotoscope what was in some cases very poor visual artifacting from the rod puppet frame rate discrepancies. Some of the optical effects would need to have been either cut or completely re-rendered/reshot to satisfy the most critical eye, so I didn’t do a great deal…Although I revisited the scene where Davide (Pete Postlethwaite) throws a flare torch at the alien on the ceiling. After some painstaking attempts to balance the superimposed matte colours between the alien and the environment I inserted some smoke footage shot on black using varying channel filters to set it into the scene. Similarly to those I used for some shots inside the EEV I morphed it into suitable angles and timings to portray the trailing smoke of the direction the torch took as it bounces of the alien’s head when it flicks it’s skull around in reaction. I felt it was much improved and just added some sparks to polish it off and then let it be.
I always felt it was a little quick between “trust me?” and “no” considering this is her life she’s deciding to sacrifice, but you justify these things by looking at the whole film as part of her decision making process. Then when I came across a telephone interview transcript someone had with Fincher where they got him to open up a little about it, he commented on the previous length of the edit where Ripley agonised for a much longer period of time before closing the gate on Bishop. This got me thinking that although they had thrown a little more into Bishops argument for The Assembly Cut, what Fincher hinted at was just not possible without extra original footage. It also occurred to me that an uncomfortable amount of time dedicated to Ripley’s agonising might be realistic, but uncomfortable just the same. So I thought a small extension might be possible and might suffice as an improvement to the timing if I re-used existing footage in disguise.
So I isolated 2 clips of her as she slowly backs away listening to Bishop talk. These 2 shots I zoomed in and reframed a little and used portions in reverse, slowing them down slightly to last long enough whilst being careful to avoid blinks or eye movements that didn’t suit the direction of reciprocal head movements. One shot was used to show the start of Ripley’s resignation in her eyes after Bishop says “trust me?” The other was a little more neutral and was used to replace the footage of her swallowing as Bishop talks about the malignancy.
Now, that shot of her swallowing is what I wanted to free up as I wanted to use it for the final decision. It now slots in after the shot of Morse and before the shot of Aaron and the Yutani guy. The actions and expressions are great and fit nicely considering her expression at the start of the shot where she states her refusal, but her position relative to the gate is from earlier in the scene so she is totally out of place and the gate needs to be in front of her not behind. So I figured I’d do a bit bit of rotoscoping in After Effects and blur the background, whilst shifting her off the right to create a visual and emotional chasm to the left of her for the viewers benefit. Using the same footage and using a camera blur with a touch of kodak themed grain got rid of the gate, made the lighting work seamlessly and it even gave the impression of detail on the wall far behind her. Then I shifted the colour theme from rust to pinky reds to line up with her face as she closes the gate. It feels right to me, although the dialogue Bishop has about dealing with her malignancy is a little rushed now. I might extend that shot if possible, but I was strictly limited to how the eye’s worked in reverse and what footage was acceptable at which speeds - even when using a timewarp filter.
I inserted a few frames worth of animation at the start of Ripley’s death fall. Just as the framing cuts to a view looking down at her as she falls, I inserted a brief glimpse of the aperture she is falling through. This is for the continuity of the height she would have been falling from before she would have appeared in the vast hellish chasm. To cut straight to the shot of her surrounded entirely by fire from relatively close to the start of her fall backward seemed slightly premature. I also slowed down the whole fall by a small amount so that the timing felt right essentially. And as there is no chest burster in this version, the arcing grace of her fall is echoed in the simplicity and uncomfortable finality that focuses all the emotion of the moment on Ripley’s sacrificial decision. It seems, to me at least, that the cut to her cradling the queen was an awkward and unrealistically time consuming distraction from the already symbolic and quasi religious ending to the trilogy – which in the assembly cut was all the more appropriate.
This has also now been re-revamped. The colour of the furnace is now in line with how the exposure would realistically change if the camera really were to follow her through the aperture. The brightness now flushes way stronger as she passes into the chasm and the cartoon red is now a warm yellow picked out by monochromatic shadows on Ripley’s figure as it gradually becomes a sparking dissolving silhouette during her fall. This is an attempt to create a white hot heat, rather than the lava looking cartoon of before. Her fall also now goes much farther as she is seen getting smaller beyond her previous point of disappearance. I used a frame of her as a cut out and animated it in premiere. I augmented this with turbulent warp filters, footage of sparks and flames positioned around her shape on multiple layers. As her body catches fire, I added a flourish of sparks from there on down to segue the engulfment of the furnace. There is even a single frame of her as a skeletal figure before she dissolves completely and a small explosion emanating from her chest area to represent a different reaction of the Queen’s silicone life form to the combustible temperature. Her remaining glowing particles are blown away seemingly with the direction of a thermal bellow from below. This hopefully feels thorough rather than grotesque as the previous transition was a little too brief as she just faded into a level of heat that she hadn’t reached yet.
I toyed with the idea of fixing the opening credits to suit it’s own continuity and it’s links to the previous film…somehow. And then of course I didn’t. Because issues of circumstance, continuity and Alien life cycles aside, the opening credits are an artistic triumph in my book. Plus the best Fox logo fanfare that will ever be carries me through any narrative inconsistencies in the introduction happily…
And just to note, Alien Resurrection always felt like it fell outside of the trilogy regardless of the versions you watch. For it’s amazing production design and boldness of narrative, it still felt like a desperate reboot for those who like seeing big guns on computer game characters - and little more besides. The queen’s reproductive narrative was relegated into a cul-de-sac that took her out of the equation in order to facilitate a hybrid newborn whose best design was left on paper. Although macabre and disconcerting, it diluted the atmospheric identity of the “franchise” in it’s classic antiquity. Also, Brad Dourif was the only guy in the world who could pull off the “Beautiful butterfly” speech, but I’d have liked to have seen him in a more prominent role and as part of a creepier tension based horror. ‘Resurrection tried to jam a lot of content into an action paced and grotesque sideshow…Sometimes admirably I might add, but not compellingly by any means.
Anyway, hope I didn’t leave anything out as I originally re-edited this a few years back and it’s been sat on my drives since then.