By Kristin Battestella
Only a handful of sequels are equal to if not better than their predecessors. Although James Cameron’s 1986 sequel to Alien isn’t quite the same caliber as The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather Part II, Aliens is a must see science fiction classic in its own right, regardless of its place in the Alien Legacy.
Ridley Scott's 1979 original Alien was technically a horror movie in space-complete with all the shocks and suspense of a psychological thriller. Despite the special effects, in Alien it's what you don’t' see that makes it exceptional. With the 1986 sequel, however, James Cameron's crafty movie making sets up a thrills and chills action flick that has a story to boot. Long before his over ambitious Titanic, Cameron was making history.
Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ellen Ripley, but after 56 years drifting in space, Ripley is all but a basket case. Bad enough, but the only person interested in her situation is Corporate sleaze Carter Burke, played devilishly by Mad About You Star Paul Reiser. Burke convinces Ripley to return to LV-426 with a group of Space Marines, but not just one alien has infiltrated the Terraforming colony. Ripley has to battle it out with the infamous Alien Queen and all her minions.
The Special Edition DVD of Aliens-available individually or in The Alien Legacy Set-includes 17 minutes of restored footage. These additional moments refine the movie and cap off a film that was already one of the best science fiction flicks since Star Wars. The restored footage highlights Ripley's trouble with the Corporation and showcases her lost daughter. Ripley left for space when she was 11, and now Ripley learns her daughter has grown up, married, and died. Instead of destroying Ripley, this extra storyline strengthens and solidifies Ripley's later attachment to little alien survivor Newt (Carrie Henn).
James Cameron often uses the same actors in his blockbusters. Terminator alumni Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen round out the Aliens cast as Corporal Hicks and the android Bishop. The relationships Ripley develops with both men mirror her strength inside and out. After her betrayal by an android in the first film, Ripley’s respect and trust in Bishop is a significant step, as is her relationship with Hicks. They flirt, he shows her how to use weapons, early on Hicks protects Ripley and Newt. In a perfect world these three outsiders could be a unified family, but if in space no one can hear you scream, the odds are definitely against them.
In addition, fans are treated to bits and pieces of the Sulaco, extended scenes on LV-426, and a special speech from
as played by Bill Paxton. Jennette Goldstein (who later appeared in Terminator 2) is also treated with more dialogue for no-nonsense Private Vazquez. Another storyline skillfully restored after being left on the cutting room floor shows repaired robot sentries repelling several alien attacks. These sequences add extra time to the movie, but they also add depth and intelligence to the love-to-hate Xenomorph. Now instead of one big assault, we see the trial and error and brain power of the aliens. Not only do they have acid for blood, but now the aliens are smart-and that’s frightening. As Hudson says, “They cut the power!”. Details like these give the creatures a life of their own and help a movie seemingly about marines versus slime outlast the competition- 20 years and three sub par sequels later. Hudson
The stellar theatrical release of Aliens was a blockbuster success and garnered critical acclaim for its production, direction, and acting. The uninitiated need not see the original film in order to enjoy Aliens, but the extra material is worth a look from naysayers. Cameron’s extra footage goes beyond human good, alien bad. 17 minutes can go a long way in adding character to an action movie that already carried a level of seriousness. Without the popularity of Aliens and its subsequent rise to cult status, the still quality but inferior Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, and the fan boy Alien vs Predator would not have been made.
Although the Special Edition of Aliens has been available on DVD for some time, it’s never to late to add a must have to your collection. Parts may be too scary for kids, and high tech fans might find a few of Stan Winston’s creatures a tad hokey, but the Special Edition of Aliens is more than worth the trip to your favorite retailer. Die Hards will definitely pay the price of admission-if they haven't done so already.