- "This time it's war."
- ―Aliens tagline
|Directed by||James Cameron|
|Produced by|| Gale Anne Hurd|
|Written by||James Cameron|
|Starring|| Sigourney Weaver|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||July 18, 1986|
|Running time||137 minutes|
Aliens is a 1986 science fiction action film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, William Hope, Paul Reiser and Bill Paxton. A sequel to the 1979 film Alien, Aliens follows Weaver's character Ellen Ripley as she returns to the planet where her crew encountered the hostile Alien creature, this time accompanied by a unit of Colonial Marines.
Aliens' action-adventure tone was in contrast to the horror motifs of the original Alien. Following the success of The Terminator (1984), which helped establish Cameron as a major action director, 20th Century Fox greenlit Aliens with a budget of approximately $18 million. It was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios, and at a decommissioned power plant.
Aliens grossed $86 million at the domestic box office during its 1986 theatrical release and $131 million internationally. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver. It won in the categories of Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actress for Weaver and Best Direction for Cameron. It was followed by two further sequels, Alien3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997), and an official video game sequel, Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013).
In 2179, Ellen Ripley, the only survivor of the space freighter Nostromo, is rescued and revived after drifting for fifty-seven years in cryostasis. At an interview before a panel of executives from her employer, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, her testimony regarding the Alien is met with extreme skepticism as no physical evidence of the creature survived. Ripley loses her space flight license as a result of her "questionable judgment" and learns that LV-426, the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien eggs, is now home to a terraforming colony.
Some time later, Ripley is visited by Weyland-Yutani representative Carter Burke and Lieutenant Gorman of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company intends to dispatch Burke and a unit of Colonial Marines to investigate, and offers to restore Ripley's flight status and pick up her contract if she will accompany them as a consultant. Traumatized by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses to join, but accepts after Burke promises that the team will destroy any Aliens found and not attempt to study or collect them. Aboard the warship Sulaco, she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone, Corporal Hicks and Privates Vasquez and Hudson, and the android Bishop, toward whom Ripley is initially hostile due to her previous experience with Ash aboard the Nostromo.
The heavily armed expedition descends to the surface of LV-426 via dropship, where they find the colony damaged and seemingly abandoned. Two living Alien Facehuggers are found in containment tanks in the medical lab, and the only colonist found is a traumatized young girl nicknamed "Newt". The Marines determine that the colonists are clustered in the nuclear-powered atmosphere processing station, where they find a large Alien nest filled with the bodies of the colonists, who have been cocooned to the walls as hosts for more Aliens. The Aliens attack, killing most of the unit and capturing Apone and Dietrich. Ripley is able to rescue Hicks, Vasquez, and Hudson. With Gorman knocked unconscious during the rescue, Hicks assumes command and orders the dropship to recover the survivors, intending to return to the Sulaco and destroy the colony from orbit. However, a stowaway Alien kills the dropship crew in flight, causing the vessel to crash into the atmosphere processor; subsequently, the surviving humans barricade themselves inside the colony complex.
Ripley discovers that it was Burke who ordered the colonists to investigate the derelict spaceship where the Nostromo crew first encountered the Alien eggs, acting on the testimony she gave after being rescued, and that he hopes to return Alien specimens to the company laboratories where he can profit from their use as biological weapons. She threatens to expose him, but Bishop soon informs the group of a greater threat: the damaged atmosphere processor has become unstable and will soon detonate with the force of a thermonuclear weapon. He volunteers to use the colony's transmitter to pilot the Sulaco's remaining dropship to the surface by remote control so that the group can escape.
Ripley and Newt fall asleep in the medical laboratory, awakening to find themselves locked in the room with the two Facehuggers, which have been released from their tanks. Ripley is able to alert the Marines, who rescue them and kill the creatures. Ripley accuses Burke of attempting to smuggle implanted Alien embryos past Earth's quarantine inside her and Newt, and of planning to kill the rest of the Marines in hypersleep during the return trip to keep the ruse secret. The Marines elect to execute Burke, but before they can act the electricity is suddenly cut off and numerous Aliens attack through the ceiling. Hudson, Burke, Gorman and Vasquez are killed while Hicks is wounded and Newt is captured by the Aliens.
Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and the second dropship, but Ripley refuses to leave Newt behind. She rescues Newt from the hive in the processing station, where the two encounter the huge Alien Queen and her egg chamber. Ripley destroys most of the eggs, enraging the Queen, who sheds her enormous ovipositor and pursues her. Ripley and Newt rendezvous with Bishop and Hicks on the dropship and escape moments before the colony is consumed by the nuclear blast. Back on the Sulaco, Ripley and Bishop's relief at their narrow escape is interrupted when the Alien Queen, stowed away on the dropship's landing gear, impales Bishop and tears him in half. Ripley battles the Queen using an exosuit cargo-loader. The two of them tumble into a large airlock, which Ripley then opens, expelling the Queen into space. Ripley clambers to safety and she, Newt, Hicks and the still-functioning Bishop enter hypersleep for the return to Earth.
- Ellen Ripley .... Sigourney Weaver
- Rebecca "Newt" Jorden .... Carrie Henn
- Cpl. Dwayne Hicks .... Michael Biehn
- Carter Burke .... Paul Reiser
- Bishop .... Lance Henriksen
- Pvt. Hudson .... Bill Paxton
- Pvt. Vazquez .... Jenette Goldstein
- Lt. Gorman .... William Hope
- Sgt. Apone .... Al Matthews
- Pvt. Drake .... Mark Rolston
- Pvt. Frost .... Ricco Ross
- Cpl. Ferro .... Colette Hiller
- Pvt. Spunkmeyer .... Daniel Kash
- Cpl. Dietrich .... Cynthia Dale Scott
- Pvt. Crowe .... Tip Tipping
- Pvt. Wierzbowski .... Trevor Steedman
- Van Leuwen .... Paul Maxwell
- ECA representative .... Valerie Colgan
- Insurance man .... Alan Polonsky
- Med tech .... Alibe Parsons
- Doctor .... Blain Fairman
- Cocooned woman .... Barbara Coles
- Alien Warrior ....
- Power loader operator .... John Lees
- Newt's mother .... Holly De Jong
- Newt's brother .... Christopher Henn
- Newt's father .... Jay Benedict
- Lydecker .... William Armstrong
- Simpson .... Mac McDonald
Origins and inspirationEdit
While completing pre-production of The Terminator in 1983, director James Cameron discussed the possibility of working on a sequel to Alien (1979) with producer David Giler. A fan of the original film, Cameron was interested in crafting a sequel and entered a self-imposed seclusion to brainstorm a concept for Alien II. After four days Cameron produced an initial forty-five page treatment, although management changes at 20th Century Fox resulted in the film being put on hiatus, as they felt that Alien had not generated enough profit to warrant a sequel. A scheduling conflict with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger caused filming of The Terminator to be delayed by nine months (as Schwarzenegger was filming Conan the Destroyer), allowing Cameron additional time to write a script for Aliens. While filming The Terminator, Cameron wrote ninety pages for Aliens, and although the script was not finished, Fox was impressed and told him that if The Terminator was a success, he would be able to direct the Alien sequel.
Following the success of The Terminator, Cameron and partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel to Alien, scheduled for a 1986 release. Cameron was enticed by the opportunity to create a new world and opted not to follow the same formula as Alien, but to create a worthy combat sequel focusing "more on terror, less on horror". Sigourney Weaver, who played Ellen Ripley in Alien, had doubts about the project, but after meeting Cameron she expressed interest in revisiting her character. 20th Century Fox, however, refused to sign a contract with Weaver over a payment dispute and asked Cameron to write a story excluding Ellen Ripley. He refused on the grounds that Fox had indicated that Weaver had signed on when he began writing the script. With Cameron's persistence, Fox signed the contract and Weaver obtained a salary of $1 million, a sum equal to thirty times what she was paid for the first film. Weaver nicknamed her role in the Alien sequel "Rambolina", referring to John Rambo of the Rambo series (the second film of which was originally written by Cameron), and stated that she approached the role as akin to the titular role in Henry V or women warriors in Chinese classical literature.
Cameron drew inspiration for the Aliens story from the Vietnam War, a situation in which a technologically superior force was mired in a hostile foreign environment: "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work." In the story of Aliens the Colonial Marines are hired to protect the business interests of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, corresponding to the belief that corporate interests were the reason that American troops were sent to South Vietnam. The attitude of the Marines was influenced by the Vietnam War; they are portrayed as cocky and confident of their inevitable victory, but when they find themselves facing a less technologically advanced but more determined enemy, the outcome is not what they expect.
Concept and designEdit
Early concept art was created by Syd Mead, who had worked on Blade Runner, 2010 and Tron. One of the original designs for the spaceship Sulaco was spherical, but it was redesigned as the ship would be out of frame due to the film's aspect ratio. Cameron showed Mead his own concept art and the final result was described as a "rocket gun that carries stuff". Concept artists were asked to incorporate subliminal acknowledgments to the Vietnam War, which included designing the dropship as a combination of an F-4 Phantom II fighter jet and an AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunship.
British Airways was re-equipping several of its aircraft tug tractors at the time of filming, and the crew managed to purchase a tug to use as the Marines' armored personnel carrier. It initially weighed 70 short tons (64,000 kg), and although the crew removed 35 short tons (32,000 kg) of lead, the power station floor had to be reinforced to support the weight. The crew used many "junk" items in the set designs, such as Ripley's toilet, which came from a Boeing 747. Lockers, helicopter engines, and vending machines were used as set elements in the opening hypersleep scene. Production designer Peter Lamont was asked to reduce the cost of several scenes, including the not-yet-filmed Marine hypersleep sequence. Gale Hurd wanted to cut the scene altogether, but Lamont and Cameron felt it was important to the sequence of the film. To save on cost, only four hypersleep chambers were created and a mirror was used to create the illusion that there were twelve in the scene. Instead of using hydraulics, the chambers were opened and closed by wires operated by puppeteers.
Weapons used by the Marines were based on real, fully functional weapons. British armorers Bapty & Co. used guns they found to be the most reliable when firing blanks, whilst also seeking those that offered impressive muzzle flare. The pulse rifles were created from World War II-era M1A1 Thompson sub-machine guns, with a cut-down Remington 12 Gauge Model 870P shotgun housed in a Franchi SPAS-12 shell for the grenade launcher. The smart guns carried by Vasquez and Drake were based on German MG-42 machine guns, also from WWII, dressed up with old motorcycle parts and mounted on steadicam harnesses attached the the actors' waists. The crew found flamethrowers the most difficult weapons to create and use, as they were the heaviest and most dangerous. Unusually for a film production, military-grade liquid-fuelled flamethrowers were used on set, alongside more common (and far safer) gas-fuelled models.
Aliens was filmed on a budget of $18 million at Pinewood Studios, with production lasting ten months. Production was affected by a number of personnel and cast disruptions. Shooting was said to be problematic due to cultural clashes between Cameron and the British crew, with the crew having what actor Bill Paxton called a "really indentured" way of working. Cameron, who is known to be a hard driving director and at the time was bound to a low budget with a release date set that he could not delay, found it difficult to adjust to working practices such as the regular tea breaks that brought production to a temporary halt. The crew were admirers of Ridley Scott, and many believed Cameron to be too young and inexperienced to be directing a film such as Aliens, despite Cameron's attempts to show them his previous film, The Terminator, which had not yet been released in the UK.
Some scenes of the Alien nest were shot at the decommissioned Acton Lane Power Station in Acton, London. The crew thought it was a perfect place to film due to its grilled walkways and numerous corridors. Problems were encountered with rust and asbestos, however, and the crew was required to spend money to clean the asbestos. The Alien nest set was not dismantled after filming, and was reused in 1989 as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman. When the crew of Batman entered the set, they found most of it intact.
At one point the crew members mocked Cameron's wife, producer Gale Anne Hurd, by asking her who the producer was and insisting that she was only getting producer's credit because she was married to the director. A walkout occurred when Cameron clashed with an uncooperative cameraman who refused to light a scene the way Cameron wanted. The cameraman had lit the Alien nest set brightly, while Cameron insisted on his original vision of a dark, foreboding nest, relying on the lights from the Marines' armor. After the cameraman was fired, Hurd managed to coax the crew members into coming back to work.
Music composer James Horner felt he was not given enough time to create a musical score. Horner arrived in England and expected the film to be "locked" so he could write the score in six weeks, which he thought was a sufficient amount of time. Horner, however, discovered that filming and editing were still taking place, and he was unable to view the film. He visited the sets and editing rooms for three weeks and found that editor Ray Lovejoy was barely keeping up with the workload due to time restrictions. Horner believed Cameron was preoccupied with sound effects, citing that Cameron spent two days with the sound engineer creating the sounds for the pulse rifles. He also complained that he was given an outdated recording studio; the score was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, a thirty-year-old studio that was barely able to patch in synthesizers or use the electronic equipment that Horner required.
Six weeks from theatrical release, no dubbing had taken place and the score had not been written, as Horner was unable to view the completed film. The final cue for the scene in which Ripley battles the alien queen was written overnight. Cameron completely reworked the scene, leaving Horner to rewrite the music. As Gale Hurd did not have much music production experience, she and Cameron denied Horner's request to push the film back four weeks so he could finish the score. Horner felt that, given more time, he could get the score to 100% of his satisfaction, rather than the 80% he estimated he had been able to achieve. The score was recorded in roughly four days. Despite his troubles, Horner received an Academy Award nomination (his first) for Best Original Score.
Horner stated that tensions between himself and Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. Horner believed that Cameron's film schedules were too short and stressful. The two parted ways until 1997 when Cameron, impressed with Horner's score for Braveheart, asked him to compose the score for Titanic.
Brothers Robert and Dennis Skotak were hired to supervise the visual effects, having previously worked with Cameron on several Roger Corman movies. Two stages were used to construct the colony on LV-426, using miniature models that were on average six feet tall and three feet wide. Filming the miniatures was difficult due to the weather; the wind would blow over the props, although it proved helpful to give the effect of weather on the planet. Cameron used these miniatures and several effects to make scenes look larger than they really were, including rear projection, mirrors, beam splitters, camera splits and foreground miniatures.
The alien suits were made more flexible and durable than the ones used in Alien, to expand on the creatures' movements and allow them to crawl and jump. Dancers, gymnasts and stunt men were hired to portray the Aliens. The creature's head was changed from the sleek shape used in Alien, as the crew thought that the original shape would crack with the creatures' increased mobility. Ridges were added along the head to increase its durability during movements.
Scenes involving the alien queen were the most difficult to film, according to production staff. A life-sized mock-up was created by Stan Winston's company in the United States to see how it would operate. Once the testing was complete, the crew working on the queen flew to England and began work creating the final version. Standing at fourteen feet, it was operated using a mixture of puppeteers, control rods, hydraulics, cables, and a crane above to support it. Two puppeteers were inside the suit operating its arms, and sixteen were required to move it. All sequences involving the queen were filmed in-camera with no post-production manipulation.
Aliens had several scenes cut during production. The majority of this footage was cut at a late stage when the studio complained that the film was too long, and these scenes were subsequently reinstated for the 1992 extended Special Edition of the film (they are not included below). However, several other pieces of footage have never been used in any version of the film, although some of the deleted material was included in the comic Aliens: Newt's Tale.
The sequence showing the recovery of the Narcissus was originally longer, beginning with the salvage vessel scanning the shuttle with a large searchlight as it approached.
In the scene where Burke informs Ripley that her daughter has died, he additionally tells her, "Some promises you just can't keep." (referring to Ripley's promise to Amanda to be home for her 11th birthday). Following this, he checks his watch, anxious to get himself and Ripely to the hearing seen in the finished film.
More footage was filmed of the day-to-day life at Hadley's Hope, including some colonists struggling to cover machinery and vehicles in the gale-force winds (briefly visible in the background in the Special Edition). Another shot showed a colonist entering a bar and grill.
The colony rescue teamEdit
After Russ Jorden is subdued by a Facehugger, it was originally planned to show a rescue team arriving from the colony in response to Anne's distress call. They were to head inside the Derelict, discovering the remains of the Pilot (now partially buried by volcanic debris), before stumbling into the cargo hold and themselves being subdued by multiple Facehuggers. The rescue team and Russ would subsequently be taken back to the colony, heralding the beginning of the infestation. While the sequence was cut before filming due to budget limitations, the events were later mentioned in Aliens: Newt's Tale.
Waking from hypersleepEdit
As the Marines wake up aboard the Sulaco, Spunkmeyer is seen saying, "I'm too old for this shit."
As the Marines prepare for the drop, Bishop is seen using a remote device to raise the section's APC into the Sulaco's hangar bay on a hydraulic lift. He then uses the remote to drive the APC towards Gorman (seen in the finished film). Model shots for this sequence were filmed but never used.
Searching the colonyEdit
Several individual lines of dialogue were cut during the initial sweep of the colony complex. As a Marine scans a trashed room wit his camera, Burke comments that it resembles his room from college. When Newt escapes into the ventilation system, Drake nonchalantly comments, "Let her go, man, who cares?" This line made it into the comic adaptation Aliens: Newt's Tale. After pointing out how she never speaks, Ripley additionally tells Newt, "It's all right with me. Most people talk a lot, and they wind up not saying anything at all." Soon after this when Hicks informs them that they are heading out to the Atmosphere Processor, Newt attempts to escape but is caught by Hicks, who she tries to bite on the hand again. This time he pulls away before she can, remarking, "Hope she doesn't have rabies." This also made it into Aliens: Newt's Tale.
Hicks and WierzbowskiEdit
During the Hive ambush, footage was filmed of Hicks propping a wounded Wierzbowski up against a wall after the Pulse Rifle ammunition explodes. He then goes to check on Crowe.
During the dropship crash sequence, model shots of the crashing ship hitting and destroying the APC were filmed, although were ultimately not used (likely because the footage is not particularly realistic).
Aliens in the complexEdit
Immediately after Bishop is elected to go to the colony's transmitter, the pounding of the Xenomorphs ramming the pressure door suddenly stops. Hicks points out that the creatures are inside the complex.
Ripley and HicksEdit
When Hicks asks Ripley how long it has been since she slept, she pessimistically tells him, "They'll get us." He responds with, "Maybe. Maybe not."
Model shots were filmed of the second dropship being fuelled automatically aboard the Sulaco. These were never used.
By far the most famous of Aliens' deleted scenes. As Ripley searches for Newt inside the Hive, she is suddenly grabbed by a hand. It turns out to be Burke, who is cocooned to the wall with a Chestburster inside him. He begs Ripely to kill him; she gives him a hand grenade and moves on. The scene was ultimately cut because James Cameron realised after filming that Burke should still have had a Facehugger attached to him by this point in the film. It was, however, included in Aliens: Newt's Tale. The footage was released for the first time on the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set.
Ripley suits upEdit
Before Ripley confronts the Queen in the Power Loader, a sequence originally showed her strapping into the suit, similar to that seen earlier in the film when she helps to move supplies aboard the Sulaco.
Eagerly anticipated by fans following the success of Alien, Aliens was released in America on July 18, 1986, and September 26 in the United Kingdom. The film opened in 1,437 theaters with an average opening gross of $6,995 and a weekend gross of $10,052,042. It was number one at the United States box office for four consecutive weeks, grossing $85.1 million, and remains the highest-grossing Alien film at the U.S. box office when not adjusting for inflation. The film took a further $45.9 million outside of North America, for a total gross of $131 million.
Test and pre-screenings were unable to take place for Aliens due to the film not being completed until its week of release. Once it was released in cinemas, critical and audience reaction was very positive. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and called it "painfully and unremittingly intense" and a "superb example of filmmaking craft." He also stated "when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence." Walter Goodman of The New York Times said it was a "flaming, flashing, crashing, crackling blow-'em-up show that keeps you popping from your seat despite your better instincts and the basically conventional scare tactics." Time Magazine featured the film on the cover of its July 28, 1986, issue, calling it the "summer's scariest movie". Time reviewer Richard Schickel declared the film "a sequel that exceeds its predecessor in the reach of its appeal while giving Weaver new emotional dimensions to explore." The selection of Aliens for a Time cover was attributed to the successful reception of the film, as well as its novel example of a science fiction action heroine. Echoing Time's assessment, Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader called the film "one sequel that surpasses the original."
Reviews of the film have remained mostly positive over the years. In a 1997 interview, Weaver stated that Aliens "made the first Alien look like a cucumber sandwich." In a 2000 review, film critic James Berardinelli said "When it comes to the logical marriage of action, adventure, and science fiction, few films are as effective or accomplished as Aliens." Austin Chronicle contributor Marjorie Baumgarten labeled the film in 2002 as "a non-stop action fest." Based on 48 reviews, the film holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average critic score of 8.8 out of 10. It also holds a score of 87 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on the other major review aggregator, Metacritic.
Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Music, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. It won two awards for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. Sigourney Weaver received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and although she did not win, it was considered a landmark nomination for an actress to be considered for a science fiction/horror film, a genre which was given little recognition by the Academy in 1986.
Aliens received four BAFTA award nominations and won in the category of Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards in the categories of Best science fiction film, Best actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best supporting actor (Bill Paxton), Best supporting actress (Jenette Goldstein), Best performance by a younger actor (Carrie Henn), Best direction (James Cameron), Best writing (James Cameron), and Best special effects (Stan Winston and the L.A. Effects Group).
Time magazine named Aliens in their Best of '86 list calling it a "technically awesome blend of the horror, sci-fi and service-comedy genres." In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Aliens as the second-best action movie of all time, behind Die Hard. In a Rotten Tomatoes analysis of the top 100 science fiction films, Aliens ranks tenth among the best-reviewed films of the genre. In 2004, Aliens was ranked thirty-fifth on Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" for the scene in which Ripley and Newt are attacked by facehuggers; the original Alien was ranked second for the chestburster scene. IGN ranked it third in its "Top 25 Action Films of All-Time", stating that "there won't be an Alien movie as scary – or exciting – as this one made ever again."
Home video releasesEdit
Aliens was released as part of The Alien Legacy DVD box set in 1999 along with Alien and Alien3. Both the theatrical version and the Special Edition of the film were released again in 2003 as part of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, along with similar alternate versions of Alien, Alien3, and Alien Resurrection. A separate two-disc "Special Collector's Edition" DVD of Aliens was released on January 6, 2004, containing the same material as the two Aliens discs in the Quadrilogy set. Additional content in these versions included an audio commentary for the special edition featuring director James Cameron, producer Gale Hurd, special effects artists and crew members. The second disc included special features relating to pre-production, production, and post-production.
A "Special Edition" of Aliens was released in 1992 on laserdisc and VHS that restored seventeen minutes of deleted footage. These additions include a lengthy segment set on LV-426 before the Alien outbreak showing Newt's family first encountering the derelict spacecraft, Ripley learning that her daughter has died during the years she was in hypersleep, scenes in the operations building where the Marines use sentry guns against the Aliens, and several extended dialogue scenes between Ripley and the Marines. The footage had been deleted from the original theatrical release as 20th Century Fox representatives thought the film was showing "too much nothing" and spent an unnecessary amount of time building suspense. James Cameron has described the extended cut as his preferred version of the movie and the version he always intended people to see.
Most of the Special Edition's footage was first seen when the film made its broadcast television debut on CBS in 1989, but two additional sequences concerning personnel at Hadley's Hope discussing Burke's transmission to investigate the derelict, and the Jorden family's subsequent discovery of the ship, were added to the initial Laserdisc release. According to Cameron, the visual effects for the scenes were incomplete, so he went back to the Skotak brothers and had them finish the sequences. All currently available versions of the Special Edition contain these scenes.
Additional small changes have since been made to the Special Edition for its Blu-ray release, mostly to correct goofs present within in the film. Specifically, scratches on the supposedly unbreakable glass of the medical lab window and Lance Henriksen's visible torso in the scene where Bishop has been ripped in half have been digitally removed. Also, for the scene where Ripley attaches a Pulse Rifle and Flamethrower together, the order in which the weapons are removed from their racks and subsequently laid down now matches (originally, Ripley was seen grabbing a Flamethrower but setting down a Pulse Rifle, then grabbing a Pulse Rifle but setting down a Flamethrower).
Notably, the Special Edition of Aliens has since been confirmed as the canon version of the movie, the only one of the extended/alternate versions from the franchise to be verified as such; the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines (which is also confirmed as canon by 20th Century Fox) uses elements taken from the Special Edition in it's plot, most notably the sentry gun scenes.
Interpretation and analysisEdit
Philosopher Stephen Mulhall has remarked that the four Alien films represent an artistic rendering of the difficulties faced by the woman's "voice" to have itself heard in a masculinist society, as Ripley continually encounters males who try to silence her and to force her to submit to their desires. Mulhall sees this depicted in several events in Aliens, particularly the inquest scene in which Ripley's explanation for the deaths and destruction of the Nostromo, as well as her attempts to warn the board members of the alien danger, are met with officious disdain. However, Mulhall believes that Ripley's relationship with Hicks illustrates that Aliens "is devoted ... to the possibility of modes of masculinity that seek not to stifle but rather to accommodate the female voice, and modes of femininity that can acknowledge and incorporate something more or other of masculinity than our worst nightmares of it."
Feminist Susan Faludi writes of Ripley in Backlash that, "The tough-talking space engineer who saves an orphan child in Aliens is sympathetically portrayed, but her willfulness, too, is maternal; she is protecting the child - who calls her 'Mommy' - from female monsters."
Several movie academics, including Barbara Creed, have remarked on the color and lighting symbolism in the Alien franchise, which offsets white, strongly lit environments (spaceships, corporate offices) against darker, dirtier, 'corrupted' settings (derelict alien ship, abandoned industrial facilities). These black touches contrast or even attempt to take over the purity of the white elements. Others, such as Kile M. Ortigo of Emory University, agree with this interpretation and point to the Sulaco with its "sterilized, white interior" as representing this element in the second film of the franchise.
While some claim that the shape of the Sulaco was based on a submarine, the design has most often been described as a 'gun in space' resembling the rifles used in the movie. Author Roz Kaveney called the opening shot of the ship traveling through space 'fetishistic' and 'shark-like', "an image of brutal strength and ingenious efficiency"—while the militarized interior of the Sulaco (designed by Ron Cobb) is contrasted to the organic interior of the Nostromo in the first movie (also designed by Cobb). David McIntee noted the homage the scene pays to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.
The android character Bishop has been the subject of literary and philosophical analysis as a high-profile fictional android conforming to science fiction author Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and as a model of a compliant, potentially self-aware machine. His portrayal has been studied by writers for the University of Texas Press for its implications relating to how humans deal with the presence of an "Other", as Ripley treats them with fear and suspicion and a form of "hi-tech racism and android apartheid" is present throughout the series. This is seen as part of a larger trend of technophobia in films prior to the 1990s, with Bishop's role being particularly significant as he proves his worth at the end of the film, thus confounding Ripley's expectations.
- Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton all appeared in James Cameron's previous film, The Terminator. Jenette Goldstein would later appear in the film's sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
- There was talk of bringing H.R. Giger back for the second movie to do more design work, but James Cameron decided against it because there was only one major design to be done, that of the Alien Queen, and Cameron had already done some preliminary sketches.
- The photograph of Ripley's daughter Amanda that is seen in the extended Special Edition is actually that of Sigourney Weaver's mother, Elizabeth.
- Producers David Giler and Walter Hill were keen to work with James Cameron after having read his script for The Terminator. Cameron went in for a meeting with the two producers and pitched several ideas at them, none of which they were that receptive to. As he was leaving, however, they did mention that they were thinking of doing a sequel to Alien, and immediately Cameron’s interest was piqued. Cameron submitted a 40-50 page treatment of what he would do for an Alien sequel which contained a lot of ideas for an existing treatment he had done for a script called "Mother". Giler and Hill loved Cameron’s treatment and commissioned him to write a screenplay. Cameron got the good news the same day he landed screenwriting duties for Rambo: First Blood Part II.
- All of the cast who were to play the Marines (with the exception of Michael Biehn, who replaced James Remar two weeks into filming) were trained by the SAS (Special Air Service, Britain’s elite special forces regiment) for two weeks before filming started; actor Tip Tipping, who plays Private Crowe, was in fact a member of the SAS before becoming an actor and stuntman. Sigourney Weaver was absent from the training due to prior commitments, while Paul Reiser and William Hope did not participate because director James Cameron felt it would help the actors create a sense of detachment between them and the Marines. – the characters these three actors played were all outsiders to the squad; Ripley being an advisor to the Marines while on the trip to LV-426, Burke being there just for financial reasons and Gorman being a newly-promoted Lieutenant with less experience than most of the Marines.
- The cast was also instructed to read Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers as part of their preparations.
- The film's tagline, "This time it's war", is credited to James Cameron.
- Aliens (novel) — The novelization of the film by Alan Dean Foster.
- Aliens: Newt's Tale — A comic book adaptation that tells the film's story from the point of view of Newt.
- Aliens (1987 video game) — The first of two video games based on the film.
- Aliens (1990 video game) — The second video game based on the film.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Schickel, Richard (2007-07-16). "Help! They're Back!". Time Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill, Stan Winston. Superior Firepower: The Making of 'Aliens' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Aliens film commentary, Alien Quadrilogy box set
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 "Weyland-Yutani Archives - Aliens Unseen: The Lesser Known Deleted Scenes". Retrieved on 2013-04-30.
- ↑ "Strange Shapes - Hadley's Hope". Retrieved on 2013-05-13.
- ↑ James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens Special Edition [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ "AvPGalaxy - Alien Encounters Convention Cast Panel Video". Retrieved on 2013-05-23.