This Sunday I watched Aliens (1986) I have the big boxed set with all four films in the Alien franchise, though I am really only a fan of two of the films. (Alien and Aliens) The Boxed set has two versions of each movie, the theatrical cut and a director’s cut.
The Director’s Cut of Aliens really does add a lot of character to the film and is my preferred version to watch. However due to time constraints I watched the original theatrical cut of the film on Sunday night. I had this strange desire to be in bed before midnight — silly me.
Aliens is the rare sequel that lives up as a worthy successor to the previous film. Alien is a masterpiece of a horror film directed with perfect style by Ridley Scott. (Can anyone explain to me what Ridley Scott is doing directing the film version of Monopoly? A movie based on a board game? A storyless board game. Never mind, that’s a rant for another day.) Aliens does not try to be a horror film, writer/Director James Cameron crafted Aliens to be an action movies so that he would not be simply re-making Scott’s film. This was the right call to make and a spot where many sequels go wrong. They fail to find a way to be their own film while honoring the first.
In this sequel, Cameron, focuses on Ripley, played pitch perfect by Sigourney Weaver, and her survivor’s guilt. Cameron takes a character that had no backstory – hell in the original screenplay Ripley had no gender – and crafted a backstory that propels the character in action over her paralyzing fear. (Most of the back story elements are presented in the Director’s cut which I recommend you view if you have not.)
Cameron plays perfectly with the form of the story in Alien as a template for his own movie, while creating interesting characters. The arc of the two films are very similar and this is no accident. The turncoat characters, big explosions, and explosive decompression are elements which have cause some to call Aliens derivative, but I think those people miss the point. It was similar because it was not a horror film. We already knew what the monster was and how it worked. The real key in a horrific story is the elements that do not follow our known rules and assumptions about the universe. Once something becomes known and understandable it loses a lot of power to horrify. Hence, Cameron’s call to make this an action film.
Truly I did not regret the two hours plus watching the film Sunday night and wished I could have spent the time to watch the longer version.