Friday, February 09, 2024

Exploring the What-If: A Review of William Gibson's Unproduced 'Alien 3' Screenplay

Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3. Photograph: 20th Century

William Gibson's unproduced screenplay for "Alien 3" offers a narrative that diverges significantly from David Fincher's 1992 film, potentially providing a sequel that aligns more closely with the thematic and tonal elements established in "Alien" and "Aliens".

Gibson's script set the stage with the Sulaco entering a sector controlled by a cold war-esque Union of
Progressive Peoples (U.P.P.), whereupon Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks find themselves amidst a new set of challenges. Unlike Fincher's version, Gibson's screenplay maintains the survival and continuity of key characters from "Aliens," notably Bishop, Newt and Hicks, and introduces a plot revolving around the militarization and genetic modification of Xenomorphs.

One of the key aspects where Gibson's screenplay could have excelled over Fincher's "Alien 3" is in its extension of the action-oriented, ensemble-cast dynamics that James Cameron developed in "Aliens." Gibson’s narrative continuity with "Aliens" could have offered fans a more satisfying narrative bridge between the second and fourth films of the franchise. Additionally, the screenplay's exploration of themes such as cold war tensions and the dangers of bioweaponry could have added depth to the "Alien" universe, presenting a nuanced backdrop against which the horror and survival elements of the series could unfold.

[SPOILER ALERT below]

Moreover, Gibson’s screenplay proposed a fresh take on the Xenomorph life cycle and the potential for human-Xenomorph hybrids, introducing new elements to the alien mythology that could have enriched the franchise's lore. This creative expansion upon the established Xenomorph biology could have provided a novel and terrifying twist on the alien threat, rejuvenating the franchise with new horror and science fiction elements.

However, it's worth noting that Gibson’s screenplay, while offering interesting narrative and thematic elements, also faced criticisms for potentially not deviating enough from the formula established by "Aliens" and for sidelining Ripley, a crucial character of the franchise. Despite these criticisms, the screenplay’s potential to combine the action and team dynamics of "Aliens" with new, thought-provoking themes could have resulted in a sequel that not only paid homage to its predecessors but also paved new ground for the series.

In comparison to the released "Alien 3," which took a more isolated and horror-centric approach by focusing on Ripley's struggle on a prison planet (and which was nevertheless, IMHO, a brilliant film), Gibson’s version could have provided a broader scope, exploring interstellar politics, biotechnological ethics, and the complexities of human and alien interaction. While Fincher's film has gained appreciation over time for its atmospheric and stylistic contributions to the franchise, Gibson's unproduced screenplay remains a fascinating "what if" scenario that hints at a different direction the "Alien" saga could have taken, potentially offering a more direct continuation of the themes and characters that fans had grown to love in the first two films.

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