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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
As so often happens with movies, hundreds of hours may be shot for every one hour you see onscreen. Often this extra footage is nothing more than various camera angles of action and dialog. The director and editor sit together with the first rough draft and figure out what shots best suit the flow and emotion of the movie.
Director James Cameron has already established himself as a master of movie pacing. After all, he took a movie about the most famous ship disaster in the world and made it exciting. How you can keep people on the edge of their seats over a movie that they already know the end to is amazing, but Cameron can do it like very few others. His secret is: All Action is Character Driven. Despite what may be going on with the trucks, the helicopters, the ships, or the spaceships, he makes us see it all from the perspective of the witness.
In TERMINATOR 2, we are in the helicopter with the pilot and see the liquid metal Terminator smash the glass and flow into the opening, his chrome reflecting the shocked pilot's face.
In Titanic, we are with the people on the aft of the ship as it upends and we see the folks below us falling into the water and bouncing off of the railings. When you watch other disaster movies, for example The Posiedon Adventure, you see the disaster happening from a place of safety. We view the scene as a bystander, as a witness. James Cameron makes us feel the danger.
ALIENS was so damn popular in 1986 and ever since that it wouldn't normally be something we would review here at Feo Amante's Horror Movies, but this movie is a Special Edition with 17 additional minutes of footage. As with the first ALIEN, Walter Hill (WARRIORS) shares the writing credit. Hill is a great partner to have on any action film as he really knows how to inject adrenalin into a script. Why he has never tried his hand at novel writing I have no idea.
So how does ALIENS: SPECIAL EDITION hold up?
To refresh your memory, Warrant Officer and First mate of the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver: ALIEN [all], GHOSTBUSTERS [all]), is the sole survivor of the Alien attack that killed her entire crew in the first film, ALIEN. Adrift in a lifeboat, she is found by a salvage ship, still in suspended animation, after 57 years: everyone she ever knew is gone.
Hardcore ALIEN fans have long been aware of Ripley's unfilmed history. We know that Ripley's daughter was written out of the final script for ALIEN. ALIENS: SPECIAL EDITION brings her daughter back, if only as a deceased 67 year old woman (it makes you wonder why people are still dying of old age, at 67, in the far future. No other explanation is given for the daughter's death.) The scene is brief but powerful, and serves to remind us of the loss Ripley feels. She is truly alone in the Universe without a friend.
Now we return to the infamous planet LV-426, where the crew of the Nostromo first landed and brought back the Alien. Only now, the "Company" is terraforming the planet and there are over 100 families living there. Way back in 1985, many of these actors played their parts never knowing that they would wind up on the cutting room floor. 17 minutes is one big chunk of movie. The extra pieces are fine right up until we find ourselves in the land rover with Mom, Pop, and the kids. This is Rebecca's family; Rebecca (Carrie Henn) being the child we know as Newt,
"Only my brother calls me Rebecca."
The company, punishing Ripley for having destroyed valuable cargo (see ALIEN and the review of the original theatrical ALIENS) on the pretext of trying to destroy a "Monster" loose on the ship, has now lost contact with colonists on LV-426. They ask for Ripley's help - just in case there are monsters after all. They make promises, offer incentives, a bonus plan, return to former status, etc., and protect her with a mess of aggressive, ready for ass-whupping, Colonial Space Marines. Ripley agrees, they return, they land on the planet, and Merry Mishaps occur.
Too bad this movie has an
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
James Cameron personally supervised this Special Edition, and while it doesn't say "Director's Cut" on the box, the addition of the 17 minutes is certainly a lot better than the Director's Cut of movies like BLADE RUNNER (the first DC, not the FC), George Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, and ARMY OF DARKNESS. If this is Cameron's leftovers, Wow!
If this were the original ALIENS, I would give it 5 Shriekgirls, no problem. But since I'm mainly looking at this movie's additional 17 minutes and how it relates to the rest of the film, I'm knocking off one Shriekgirl for the Newt Family Scene. A totally unnecessary bit of exposition that chokes the pacing of the film. This still doesn't ruin the movie, and ALIENS: SPECIAL EDITION is still worth seeing. Even with 7 so-so minutes, ALIENS: SPECIAL EDITION still outshines ALIEN³ and ALIEN RESURRECTION.
20th Century Fox could do us all a big favor by releasing a DVD with the original ALIENS as well as the Special Edition, instead of sticking us with the SE version only.
Go to the ALIENS Review