The Special Edition of Aliens is an extended version of the 1986 film, released in 1992. It is a straightforward extension of the movie, adding extra scenes to the original theatrical version and extending the run time by over 16 minutes. Its creation was overseen by Aliens director James Cameron.
Unlike the other alternate versions of the films in the Alien franchise, the Special Edition of Aliens was not created for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in 2003 but actually evolved over a period of several years in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It originated with the film's broadcast television debut on CBS in 1989, which featured several deleted scenes reintegrated into the movie to extend its running time. These scenes included Ripley learning of her daughter's death, all sequences involving the robot sentry guns, and Ripley and Hicks exchanging their first names, although at the same time the film was censored for violence and profanity. The remaining extra footage in what is now known as the Special Edition was not added to the film until the extended cut was given a limited home video release on VHS and LaserDisc in 1992. Notably, two of the largest additions to the film — scenes set on LV-426 before the Xenomorph outbreak begins — had not had their special effects finished during the original production and thus remained incomplete. For home video, James Cameron returned to visual effects artists Robert and Dennis Skotak and had them finish the sequences so that they could be included in the longer cut of the movie.
James Cameron had originally intended for the footage added to the Special Edition to be included in the film's theatrical release. However, 20th Century Fox representatives thought the film was showing "too much nothing" and spent an unnecessary amount of time building suspense. Conscious that a film over two and a half hours in length would allow for fewer screenings per day (and therefore reduced profits), Fox had Cameron cut the running time by over 15 minutes. Since its release, Cameron has described the Special Edition as his preferred cut of the movie and the version he always intended people to see.
The Aliens Special Edition was one of the first "Director's Cuts" to gain widespread attention and a home video release (along with the Director's Cut of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner) and can therefore be seen as the beginning of the now common trend of releasing extended/alternate cuts of movies on home video and, in some cases, theatrically. Initially, the Special Edition was said to be a strictly time-limited release that would only be on sale for a period of 100 days, after which it would never been seen again, but this later proved not to be the case and it has been included in virtually all home video releases of Aliens since. It is not clear if this was a reversal on Fox's part resulting from the unexpected success of the alternate cut — the Special Edition VHS and LaserDisc releases sold over 170,000 combined units in the first five weeks of release in the UK alone, on top of some 270,000 units of the original theatrical cut that had already been sold — or whether the situation was simply a sly marketing ploy from the studio to push initial sales.
Here follows a complete rundown of the differences between the theatrical release of Aliens and the extended Special Edition. Alterations made to the 2010 Blu-ray release are also listed below.
- Before Ripley goes to the hearing on Gateway Station regarding the events of the first film, she is relaxing on a park bench. However, the woodland vista is revealed to be an image on a giant television screen, which she switches off. Burke arrives, and Ripley asks if he has found out anything about her daughter. He tries to get her to focus on the hearing, but she persists, leading him to reveal that Ripley's daughter, Amanda Ripley-McClaren, has died whilst she was drifting in hypersleep. Ripley starts to cry as she clutches a photograph of her 66 year-old daughter to her. This scene was included in the original 1989 CBS broadcast.
- The hearing itself is slightly extended, with Van Leuwen reading out his findings before closing the case. Ripley's flight licence is suspended indefinitely and she is subjected to ongoing psychiatric tests, but she is spared criminal charges. During this added footage, we see Ripley's Nostromo crew file on the screen in the background.
- A lengthy addition occurs immediately after the hearing. We see the exterior of the Hadley's Hope colony, with vehicles moving around and people covering equipment against the harsh winds. Inside, the operations center is a hive of activity. A man called Lydecker walks with the colony's administrator, Al Simpson, and talks about a group of prospectors who have been dispatched to survey a certain sector of the moon on orders from Weyland-Yutani; the prospectors want to know if they will get salvage rights on anything they find as they are acting on company orders. Simpson says that, as far as he is concerned, they will. Lydecker then has to deal with a group of children trespassing in the operations area, and we see a crate bearing Weyland-Yutani's logo and slogan.
- The scene above then cuts to the prospectors inside their tractor, and they are revealed to be Russ and Anne Jorden, with their children Timmy and Newt. It soon becomes clear what they were sent out to search for — the derelict ship appears over the horizon. Russ pulls up alongside it and he and Anne head inside to investigate. After some time Anne rushes back to Newt and Timmy and immediately begins frantically calling for help over the radio, as Russ lays outside, a Facehugger wrapped around his head.
- When Burke and Gorman come to see Ripley in her apartment, Burke mentions that Weyland-Yutani co-financed the Hadley's Hope colony, hence his personal interest in the mission to investigate. He mentions Weyland-Yutani's slogan, "building better worlds", causing Ripley to somewhat humorously quip, "Yeah, I've seen the commercials."
- Before the Colonial Marines wake up aboard the Sulaco, there are several long tracking shots showing the deserted interior of the ship, similar to the opening shots of the Nostromo interior in Alien.
- As the dropship descends to the planet, Hudson brags to an obviously nervous Ripley about the Marines, calling them his "squad of ultimate badasses". He also reels off a list of their advanced weaponry and superior firepower, mocking her obvious unease, before Apone makes him stop.
- During the initial sweep of the deserted colony, Hudson and Vasquez pick up movement on Hudson's motion tracker. They storm a small room to investigate, but discover the signal is merely a pet hamster moving about inside its cage.
- After the sweep, we see the APC drive up to the colony entrance. Ripley, Gorman, Burke and Bishop disembark, but Ripley stops before going inside, standing in the rain. Hicks comes over and asks if she is OK. She replies (half-heartedly) that she is and they go inside.
- Another major addition to the film comes in the form of several separate sequences involving the survivors' use of automated sentry guns to defend the colony from the Xenomorphs. The first of these additions comes when Hicks is listing the Marines' surviving weaponry after the dropship crash; after covering the small arms situation, he goes on to point out they have four intact robot sentries, which he claims "really kick ass". All of the added scenes concerning the sentry guns were included in the original 1989 CBS broadcast.
- Following on from the above addition, the scene where Ripley and Hicks plan their defence of the colony on the electronic plans has been extended and also features alternate takes and dialogue. Firstly, Ripley suggests placing sentry guns in the service tunnel beneath the complex as well as sealing the pressure door. When she talks about welding the air ducts closed following this, her line, "That should seal off med lab and operations..." has been removed; instead, she points out the Aliens will only be able to attack them from two specific corridors, and Hicks suggests they place the remaining sentries there to cover them.
- The scene where Hudson seals the pressure door beneath the complex is extended to show how he and Vasquez first set up two of the sentries in the service tunnel, while Hicks sets up the corresponding control computers in operations. After assembling the guns, Hudson and Vasquez test them by hurling a metal canister down range, causing the guns to shred it. An alternate take is then used for when Hudson seals the door into the tunnel.
- A brief shot of two of the sentries scanning the corridors of Hadley's Hope is added before Ripley goes to put Newt to bed.
- While Ripley is tucking her up in bed, Newt asks if a Xenomorph grew inside her mother, and points out that the same thing happens with "people babies". Ripley responds that that is very different, before Newt asks if Ripley has any children. Ripley awkwardly responds that she had daughter, but that she's dead.
- After Bishop proposes some unseen Xenomorph must have laid the Eggs used to impregnate the colonists, Hudson suggests the creatures may be similar to ants, with a single fertile female that oversees them.
- After Ripley confronts Burke about his role in the colonists finding the derelict, an alarm sounds. She runs into the operations center, where Hicks announces that the Xenomorphs are coming through the tunnel. The sentry guns open fire, and the Marines watch their progress via the readouts on the guns' control consoles. Even though the guns slaughter the Xenomorphs, they keep on coming and the weapons eventually use up all of their ammunition. The Xenomorphs are then heard pounding against the door that Hudson sealed earlier.
- After Bishop has begun crawling to the uplink array, the Xenomorphs assault the second sentry gun position, this time just down the corridor from the operations center. The survivors watch the readouts desperately as the guns burn through their ammunition and the Xenomorphs still keep swarming forwards. One of the guns runs dry and Hicks grabs his Pulse Rifle, expecting a fight, but Ripley stops him, pointing out that the Xenomorphs have suddenly retreated. They look at the control consoles and see that the last gun has just 10 rounds left in its magazine. Hicks points out that there will be nothing to stop the Xenomorphs next time, but Ripley suggests that the creatures don't know that and might assume the guns are still a threat, forcing them to search for another way in. Hicks then tells Hudson and Vasquez to begin patrolling the perimeter, as seen in the theatrical cut.
- When Ripley tries to break the glass to escape the Facehuggers in the med lab, a continuity goof regarding a scratch on the glass appearing and disappearing has been fixed in the 2010 Blu-ray version of the Special Edition.
- A continuity goof when Ripley is preparing weapons aboard the dropship, whereby the order in which she took weapons from a rack and the order in which she set them down did not match, is re-edited and fixed in the 2010 Blu-ray version of the Special Edition.
- Before Ripley heads into the Hive to rescue Newt, she pauses aboard the dropship and tells Hicks that she will see him soon. They subsequently reveal their first names to each other, and Hicks tells Ripley not to take too long, making it clear the two share a romantic interest in each other. This scene was included in the original 1989 CBS broadcast.
- In the theatrical version, actor Lance Henriksen's body is visible disappearing through a hole cut in the stage as Bishop's severed torso grabs Newt to stop her being sucked out of the Sulaco's airlock. This has been digitally removed in the 2010 Blu-ray version of the Special Edition.
- The extended cut of Aliens is officially titled the "Special Edition", not the Director's Cut; this seems somewhat odd, as James Cameron has stated numerous times that the longer version of the film is his preferred cut and the version he originally wanted to release in theatres (i.e. his "director's cut"). The official title is doubly strange when compared with the Director's Cut of Alien, which is referred to as such even though director Ridley Scott has said numerous times that the original theatrical version is in fact his preferred "director's cut". Throughout his career, Cameron has repeatedly used the term "Special Edition" to refer to the longer alternate versions of his films (examples include The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgement Day), even though in most of these cases, the longer versions are in fact his original, preferred "director's cut".
- Sigourney Weaver was furious when she discovered the subplot involving her deceased daughter had been removed from the theatrical release of the film, as she considered it to be crucial to her character's development in the movie.
- The Aliens Special Edition is by far the oldest of the extended/alternate versions from the Alien series, having been created more than 10 years before the alternate cuts of the other three films.
- Notably, the Special Edition of Aliens has been confirmed as the canon version of the movie, the only one of the 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 only included in the Special Edition in its plot, most notably the added sentry gun scenes. The extended cut (with the digital corrections of the 2010 Blu-ray release) is also the version typically shown on UK television.
- The added scene featuring Simpson and Lydecker is almost identical to a scene in James Cameron's later film Terminator 2: Judgement Day: an employee flags down a supervisor in a busy office and they walk together, discussing the behavior of their employer — Weyland-Yutani in Aliens, CyberDyne Systems in Terminator 2 — before the more senior man ends their conversation with a line about their employer always responding to sensitive questions with the phrase "don't ask".
- ↑ "Weyland-Yutani Archives - Aliens 1989 CBS Special Edition Broadcast". Retrieved on 2014-11-17.
- ↑ Dave Hughes, Michael Matessino, David C. Fein, James Cameron. Alien Trilogy booklet, p. 18 (1992), 20th Century Fox.
- ↑ Aliens film commentary, Alien Quadrilogy box set
- ↑ James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens Special Edition (1992), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens magazine, Vol. 1 #17, p. 48 (1992), Dark Horse International.
- ↑ Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #2, p. 21 (1992), Dark Horse International.
- ↑ John Hurt, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, H. R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett. The Alien Saga (2002), Prometheus Entertainment [DVD].