Alien 3, the sequel to James Cameron’s wildly successful and influential follow-up film to Ridley Scott’s Alien, entered theaters on May 22 of 1992 with great expectations. To say that those expectations were unfulfilled would be an understatement. First time director David Fincher (who would go on to make some of the greatest films of the past thirty years) did his best with material that he had, but countless re-writes, studio interference, and mismarketing doomed the picture and disappointed fans and critics alike.
The mythology behind the film’s change in trajectory has taken on a life of its own since the film’s release, and the biggest mystery revolves around the scrapped initial screenplay by sci-fi legend William Gibson (Neuromancer). Thankfully, over thirty years later, the script that Gibson wrote is finally seeing the light of day courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, and after reading the first issue (adapted by Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain) the only disappointment is the fact that Gibson’s screen play went unused.
Alien 3 The Unproduced Screenplay is a perfect follow-up to Cameron’s Aliens and picks up directly after the end of his film, with the survivors (Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and an eviscerated Bishop) headed home after the confrontation with the Mother Alien. Gibson’s script and Christmas’ writing place us right back in the believable world previously established in Alien and Aliens, filled with corporate monsters who express no value for human lives in the face of profits and conquest. The opening “shots” (panels) do this without the use of much dialogue and focus instead on computer screens, blue steel interiors, and automated announcements, again showing how Gibson’s story would have seamlessly continued the work of Scott and Cameron.
The new wrinkle in the story has to do with an international presence that has been hinted at, but not fully explored in the Alien universe in the form of the Union of Progressive Peoples (a nod to the cold war era when the script was produced). Adding this element to the treachery of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (as well as their influence concerning the U.S. Colonial Marines), broadens the canvas of the story and introduces another formidable foe for the Weyland-Yutani Corp., as well as our crew of refugees.
Christmas’ art and Bonvillain’s colors carry much of the story and pacing, and many of the panels are without any dialogue, especially during the exploratory and action sequences, appearing like storyboards for a potential film. When a discussion occurs between the Anchorpoint administrator and representatives of the company, Christmas’ storytelling again takes over and the artwork is dialed down, to allow for the exposition and explanation to occur and fill the reader in on the complex dynamic between government, private, and public interests.
We get a quick glimpse of some of our favorite characters from the previous films, but they understandably take a back seat to the story-telling, allowing Christmas and Bonvillain to set up the new environment and problems that they will face. Overall, the adaptation is a bitter-sweet reminder of what could have been, but also an exciting look at what would have been in a new medium with the care and attention that Gibson’s script requires.
Alien 3 The Unproduced Screenplay #1 goes on sale on Wednesday November 11 at finer comic book shops everywhere.