The Social Network will soon be upon us, so I decided to bring up a film in Fincher's catalog that is the most troubled production of his....
The Alien franchise is unique beast. For one, each of the four movies were done by a different director who brought their own vision to the project....Even though one of the visions failed. Fortunately, Alien 3 is not that vision. Secondly, each film has a different tone. Alien is a horror movie wearing scifi clothing, Aliens is an action movie, Alien 3 brings back the horror, albeit in a more nihilistic form, and Alien: Resurrection is a mess.
Now to get down to brass tacks as to why Alien 3 is viewed as a mediocre entry in the franchise.
Viewers who sit down and watch Aliens and afterwards watch Alien 3 are going to get a punch to the face. All the expectations from Aliens are dashed in the opening 5 minutes. The characters we've come to love (Newt & Corporal Hicks) are killed off. But I also love Hudson, Brett and Vasquez. What needs to be realized is that people die in Alien movies. Expectation is the key word audiences are consumed by when it comes to sequels. One can't possibly top Cameron in the action department or for that matter, the tension and suspense that Ridley Scott brought to the first one. So the question people are left with, is who is going to take on this franchise?
Enter David Fincher. Having cut his teeth on the music video scene, Fincher brought a dark, brooding vision to the franchise. This did not go down well with the corporate suits at 20th Century Fox. Submitted for your approval are some quotes from Fincher in regards to working on Alien 3:
FINCHER: You learn very quickly with movie studios that the reason there are so many people working there is to deflect blame and to spread culpability. It just became this morass of one person says this, two days later tht idea gets shot down because of it content, somebody else says go ahead and try this, the writers that you want for some reason aren't returning calls to the studio -- I wanted to get Gregg Pruss on, but he wasn't enough of a name for them at them time, but he was fine when it was Vincent Ward, it was all this kind of double-talk and it just continued from two and a half years. It was a really stupid experience, because we had a a lot of really talented people who could do much better work than they were allowed to do. It was just kind of a process of attrition. Composer Elliot Goldenthal had like nine days to write a score, it was just like "Get it out". It was just such a disaster on every front, we never had the material, we never had the support.
FINCHER: When the studio hires you, executives are trembling and sweating for months and months. A lot of finger-pointing is going on and people are trying to cover up. I learned that the people who have made the largest investments in a project, the ones who have the most at stake, are the ones you can trust the least to salvage a film. The whole process is designed around a system where they set up hurdles for you that you can't possible achieve. Inevitably you fail and the executives say "Okay, let's go with what we had initially set out to do.", but instead of really sticking to the original plan, they no force you to do the same thing with half the original budget, and it jest keeps going on like that.
FINCHER: The lession you learn is that you can't take on an enterprise of this size and scope if you don't really have a movie like THE TERMINATOR or JAWS behind you, because in the end the guy in charge of the studio has to look you in the eye and say "Is this extra $2 million worth it?" and it's very difficult to engender that sort of confidence...It's very nice to say "This is the guy who directed the biggest grossing movie of all time, sit down and shut up, and feel lucky you've got him" -- it's another thing when everybody's wringing their handkerchiefs and sweating and puking blood because of the money that's being spent.
The progression of the Ellen Ripley arc from Alien to Alien 3 is, if anything, tragic. This third entry acts as a solid closing to the series. Now there are a fair amount of things I had problems with when I first saw it. For one, I always wanted to know what happened to Golic, the crazed prisoner who saw 'the demon'. Two, the CGI is dated. Needless to say, in 2003, the problems I had with the film were answered (although that CGI is still there, which brings the film down a notch). The film got a special edition where 30 minutes were incorporated back into the film by editor Terry Rawlings. It seemed alot smoother. The only minor quibble with the new footage would be the decision to have the alien inside of a ox as opposed to the dog. But these are mere nitpicks. Looking back on it, I think it's fair to say that Fincher learned a fair amount on the production of Alien 3. Because he certainly knocked us on our ass three years later with a little old film called Seven.