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The Movie Hole

Quick Change: Making an OK Movie Great - "Alien 3"

JJ Mortimer

Michael Biehn.

Had Michael Biehn actually reprised his role as Corporal Hicks from Aliens in this film, it would have been not just a little better, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade better.  Like, let's say you're having a really bad day.  The sky is dark and gloomy, it's humid, and your dog just died.  Then the next day the sun comes out, a television report comes on saying a rogue faction of terrorists are headed to your city, and Michael Biehn shows up and kills them all Rambo-style, with a strong air of authority and seriousness.

Fuck yeah.

Fuck yeah.

The second day would have been great, but Alien 3 ended up being that first day.  It was game over after the first ten minutes of film.

There were so many issues with the film before it was even in production.  The director's seat switched hands numerous times, as did the writing team.  At one point, the film was supposed to focus solely on Biehn's character of Hicks, with Ellen Ripley as a side character (and in some drafts not even in the film at all, having died in her cryo-tube after a crash landing).  Hicks was to arrive on a planet where the Weyland-Yutani company has been using the xenomorphs as biological weapons against their enemies, and he was to be involved in some kind of rescue operation.  Essentially, taking some of the military action and intrigue established from James Cameron's Aliens and pumping it up.  In a way, Alien 3 was to be the movie that many people had hoped Terminator 3 would have been - a sequel that listened to the audiences and gave them a bigger version of what they loved about the franchise.  Instead, both films failed on that level (and I'm sure I will highlight the third Terminator in a future installment of this blog).

What really sucked the most about Alien 3 wasn't really that it took a step back in scope from its predecessor, but that all the behind-the-camera bullshit prevented the original film makers from creating the film that the movie goers actually wanted to see after the awesomeness that was Aliens.  Producers were apparently unwilling to work with contractual disputes with Michael Biehn for a follow-up to Cameron's box-office blockbuster, so they did the easiest thing imaginable (and something that became an apparent tool used not only in the show Lost but on soap operas for years) - just fucking kill the guy's character off.  That'll show him.

You know what? Fuck it.  Let's just kill them all, along with any connection to the success of the prior film.

You know what? Fuck it.  Let's just kill them all, along with any connection to the success of the prior film.

James Cameron's film established Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley as a mother figure who cares for a little girl as though she were her own daughter, protecting her from the atrocity that has befallen her family and the rest of a mining colony on an alien planet.  The result didn't have Ripley become this rip-roaring action figure, but rather a perfect reprisal of her character that was established in 1979s Alien, and going against all odds to do what she feels is necessary to save the little girl from vicious alien creatures. This also resulted in one of the coolest lines in action film history with, "Get away from her you BITCH!" 

Ripley saves the girl, and flies off with a half-shredded android and an injured Marine (Michael Biehn) in tow.  Her story is complete.  Anything more would be rather unnecessary.

But fuck it.  Unnecessary is the gold field of all producers, so why not bring back her character, kill off the girl and the Marine, and make us experience her misery as she tries to survive amongst all-male prisoners and a single alien.  Let's make it dark, drab, and depressing.  Let's take the relationship that was partially becoming acknowledged between her and Hicks in the previous film, and say to hell with that.  Let's also kill a dog in the process.  I hate that shit.

They should have just paid Michael Biehn a shit load of money.  The Biehn-ster always makes a movie better.  In 1996s The Rock, I got amped up the most when he showed up on screen, playing a Navy SEAL for the third time in his film career.  The guy is so straight-by-the-numbers that any role you give him will be solid.  He never really excels, but does just enough to get the job done and get it done RIGHT.  Having Michael Biehn in Alien 3, even if nothing else about the setting or mood had changed, would have made the movie actually fucking work.

Hicks probably would have beaten the shit out of at least seven prisoners before shoving a shotgun in the face of the alien and blowing the back of its gawdamn head off while declaring, "Eat THIS!"  Ripley would have been able to save her hair, the prison colony would have a Marine giving orders and rounding up orderless men, and we would truly be able to see a lowly corporal become a man of authority.  The film makers would have had a character develop and grow.  Hell even IF they decided to kill him off at the end of the film, there still would have been some development and growth.  And don't get me started on the final decision to kill of Newt as well.

Instead, without Michael Biehn, Alien 3 became a film about loss rather than gain, and to this day becomes the least entertaining (and arguably the least-watched) of the four initial Alien films.  To have made this film better, all they needed to do was:

PUT HICKS IN THE MIX.  Then it would have been "game time."

"But hey,  Aliens  had something going on here, but fuck it.  Nobody liked that movie.  Get rid of that guy and  Alien 3  will be great!"  --- Millionaire idea makers.

"But hey, Aliens had something going on here, but fuck it.  Nobody liked that movie.  Get rid of that guy and Alien 3 will be great!"  --- Millionaire idea makers.