action movie freak    

 
Original Aliens poster

 

ALIENS

"Game over, man. Game over!"
The best example of why the length of movies shouldn't matter.

(1986)  Director: James Cameron 

In Cameron's words from the DVD intro:

"What you're about to watch is the Special Edition of ALIENS.
I actually preferred this version to the Release version because I think, as it's been best described by one of my friends, 'it's 40 miles of bad road.' And, I think it's a longer, more intense, and more suspenseful version of the film. The conventional wisdom at the time was: don't make the film too long, but at 2 hours and 37 minutes, this is the ride that we intended you to take."

BAD ROAD
When I first saw this movie in the theater, I thought it was the best movie I'd ever seen.  It started my 'Trinity' (Action | Sci-fi | Horror) obsession, but I had no idea—until I saw it on television years later with 20 additional minutes put back in—what I was missing!  It says a lot for the movie that I liked it as much as I did even without those critical plot points.  Had it been released in theatres with two of the missing points, I am sure it would have been widely thought of as the best Action Movie of all time (it kind of was already, but this would have put it over the top). There were four major points that were cut, comprised up of some more minor scenes, or some where just the length of scenes was shortened.  Of the four, there are two points (or scenes) they should have kept, and two I am glad they cut.

Amanda Ripley McClarenAliens Ripley and Newt showing Ripley's shoes1. Ripley has a DAUGHTER!

In the Theatrical Release Ripley never had a daughter.

In the Special Edition there is an additional short scene after the nightmare and before the Inquest where Ripley meets Carter Burke in a holodeck, and asks him if he was able to find out anything about her daughter. Burke tries not to tell her, but she insists. He has a report, and shows her a photo of her daughter Amy (Amanda Ripley McClaren) who had grown up, gotten married (no kids), lived into her 60s, and died just two years before Ripley was found. Ripley tells Burke she had promised she would make it back for her daughter's 11th birthday. Wow!—only to find out the child lived out her whole life without her. (Unimaginable news!)  Because of this, we understand and empathize with Ripley's need to protect Newt beyond just the fact that Newt's a little girl. And the promise Ripley makes to Newt not to leave her becomes more meaningful since we know she left her daughter.  Also, it makes the moment at the end when Newt calls Ripley "Mommy" that much more poignant. The importance of Ripley losing her daughter in emotionally investing us in the relationship between Ripley and Newt cannot be over emphasized.  It adds immeasurably to the tension when Newt is taken, and our being able to relate to what Ripley is feeling.

Later in the movie in the scene when Ripley tries to get Newt to take a nap in the MedLab, a portion was cut that showed Newt asking Ripley if Aliens growing inside us are like the way humans have babies. She also asks Ripley if she has any kids. Ripley tells her she had a daughter, but she's "gone".  "You mean dead", Newt says.  I think it's an important connection that they each lost family.

Another short scene that is related is one that shows the remaining crew inside the tank drive around to where the Marines are in the Colony complex, to join them now that it's "secure". As Ripley, Gorman, and the "pendejo jerkoff" get out of the tank and walk toward the entrance to enter the facility for the first time, Ripley freezes up.  I remember thinking that she had been through so much to get to that point. In crossing the line of going inside, she/we knew would be the beginning of all the bad things that were sure to happen.  Like her, we were fearful and resigned, and at this moment, accepted whatever would come. There was no going back. Ripley faces her fears and goes on, just as she had done so many times before, but this small scene speaks volumes for her courage by showing her fear, and gives depth to her feelings for Newt—that she is willing to go to such lengths and enter the belly of the beast (practically literally) in spite of her fear.  It helps so much to appreciate her bravery knowing how much she doesn't want to be here.


2. Weapons Inventory | LAST STAND  
When Ripley and the remaining crew members are forced back into the facility for protection because the first drop ship crashes and nightfall is coming, they do an inventory of their remaining weapons supply.

In the Theatrical Release this is a pitiful amount, and there isn't much they can use to protect themselves in order to stall for time so that Bishop can get the second drop ship remote piloted down to them (they need four hours).  They call up some schematics and decide to re-weld shut the two places where Aliens broke through to attack the Colonists, and then also weld shut three more access points in a limited area close to where they are holed up.

Once Ripley and Newt escape the Face Huggers and the Aliens cut the power, they have to use the weapons they have almost immediately in retreat. This makes the ending move much too quickly. The Aliens come in hordes, and it all goes to shit in record time.

In the Special Edition there is a Last Stand feeling created by the casual mention of it by Pvt. Frost in reference to the Colonists' making a "last stand" and a composite of scene fragments that were cut from the Theatrical Release:

• First, way back at the beginning of the movie before the scene where the crew awakens in  their sleep chambers on their way to LV-426 there is a long loving look at the cargo hold locker area, which has an arsenal of rows and rows of weapons, missiles, and even houses a drop ship. The more military preparedness, the greater the terror when they fail. This show of this amount of  munitions so early in the movie sets up more confidence in the soldiers' abilities. Even though they show all this same stuff as they gear up to leave later, shown separately it made a huge impression, and I think they should have left it in.

• Second, Bill Paxton's bravado speech on the way down to the planet "I'm ready, man, check it out. I am the ultimate badass! State of the bad ass art! You do NOT wanna fuck with me. Check it out! Hey Ripley, don't worry. Me and my squad of ultimate bad asses will protect you! Check it out! Independently targeting particle beam phalanx. Vwap! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phase-plasma pulse rifles, RPGs, we got sonic electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, sharp sticks . . . " This list of weapons we never get to see used builds more confidence, and his cockiness makes us think they have a chance. Plus Action Movie Freaks just eat up trash talking (but more about that below).

• Third, is the one big difference in the remaining weapons inventory: 4 robot sentries (UA 571s). BIG difference! 



• Lastly, when they decide to weld the same two entry points plus the same three access points mentioned in the Theatrical Release, in the Special Edition the crew is further away, so the Aliens will have to break through all that, plus then travel down a corridor and break through two more welded access points. Each of these additional access points are guarded by two of the robotic sentries on tripods that fire up to 500 rounds apiece when their motion sensors are tripped.  You don't realize it, but, once they test the sentries, in the back of your mind you're waiting for the sound of them going off, signaling how close the Aliens are. You're thinking, if it was you, what a huge crap you would take once you heard them fire. That alone creates tension.

It's plenty scary when the Aliens break through the first set of barriers, but, as what you imagine is a flood of aliens triggers the first robotic sentry and the guns go off, you're terrified. You count rounds with the crew members like those bullets are all that stands between you and sure death.  Their depletion is a countdown to annihilation. How many Aliens are there?  I remember thinking I wish they had shown more Aliens being blow away. Seeing a swarm overrun the guns would have added to the terror. But they show only a couple, and most of the time, they just show the guns firing. Maybe they didn't show them here because then the scene later with so many of them in the ceiling panel would lose its impact, but I think they should have shown a few . . .

As the sentinels fire, you're wondering how many bullets will it take, because they have only 2,000 rounds (500 x 4 sentries. So many Aliens attack that they drain the first two sentries, and break through to the second barrier. It's at this point that Bishop comes in over the radio and announces: "I have some bad news."  And what does Hudson say? "Well that's a switch!" But you can't even laugh, you're so decimated. You are thinking: this is it! This time the swarm of Aliens will break through the final barrier and kill the remaining survivors. 

The Aliens don't merely discover where the crew is hiding, they cut the power, track them down, and come at them in scary numbers. It's that intense closing-in feeling that gives a choking urgency to the time frame. Just when it seems like the second set of sentries will be depleted and nothing's going to stop them, the Aliens finally back off when the last automatic gun (according to the display) has just 10 rounds left (good thing the Aliens can't read).  In the Special Edition only, we get another of Hudson's jokes: 

HICKS
 
Next time they walk right up and knock. 
 
RIPLEY Yeah, but they don't know that.
They're probably looking for other ways to get in.
That'll take 'em a while.
 
HUDSON Maybe we got 'em demoralized.


Relational Tension adds to LAST STAND Feeling
If you saw the first movie (Alien), coming into this one you knew how horrible a creature the Alien is. It was so over the top for its time that you were still terrified of just one, and, you were wondering ever since you saw the ending of that first movie, if Ripley or the cat (Jonesie) was infected. You bring that terror and tension to the opening scene of this movie, because from the moment it starts, you wonder and then have your worst fears confirmed when a Chest Burster comes out of Ripley. Thankfully, it's just a nightmare. As important as seeing the first movie is to the tension felt in the opening scene of this one, the idea that hoards of aliens are closing in and breaking through barrier after barrier is to creating that last stand feeling, and making—as Cameron describes it "a longer, more intense, and more suspenseful version." And how! The Last Stand magnifies the retreat, and therefore, the entire movie experience. It gives the plot a whopping emotional PUNCH. Putting those two things back in (DAUGHTER & LAST STAND) gives the movie audience more invested emotion, and the scenes so much more impact!  I truly wish I could have seen it that way the first time. I still can't get over the fact that (due only to length!?) these two plot points were cut. 

GOOD ROAD
In the inverse, there are two back-to-back scenes (3. and 4. below) that were also cut, but I realized no matter how much I liked seeing them, cutting them helped. Here are the Pros and Cons, and I think you'll agree the Cons justify leaving these scenes out.

3. Weyland-Yutani EVIL CORPORATION | The Fear of NOT KNOWING  
+
PRO There is additional footage showing the "Hadley's Hope" (Pop. 158) LV-426 Colony complex. This scene introduces the ideas that the Corporation ordered the Colonists to send someone to check out a certain area, that there are Mom and Pop teams out looking for salvage, and that children play all over the Colony. It gives more of a sense of what was at risk (showing the lives of families with children) and makes us care more about the danger. Plus, it sets up the Corporation again as sneaky and looking for the Aliens. (They even use the term "out past the Alien range".)

- CON The down side is that if you show anything about the Colonists, you take away the suspense that comes from not knowing. By not showing anything about them until you see Newt, and the cocooned and dead, you don't know what happened to them and that makes it scarier. Plus if the Corporation is shown as evil early on, that takes away from your hating Carter Burke later (and makes him seem more like a pathetic flunky, and less the manifestation of Corporate Evil and Greed).
 

4. Introducing NEWT | UNSEEN COLONISTS and ALIENS  
+ PRO
The scene showing Newt's family prospecting in their all-terrain vehicle introduces Newt (and talks about the fact that she plays in the air ducts back in the Colony). It also shows that the Aliens have definitely infected the Colony since Newt's father is attacked by a Face Hugger after discovering and exploring the Alien vessel wreckage from the first movie. 

- CON If you saw the Face Hugger here, it would not as been as suspenseful up to the point where the Marines and Ripley find preserved sample Aliens in MedLab. It would have taken away the shock that two of the Alien specimens are still alive. The whole time, until Ripley sees the specimens, you're thinking an Alien is going to jump out at the crew at any minute—I think not knowing anything about the Colonists or what happened until the Marines find out makes it a lot scarier.

I think 3. and 4. are good scenes, and we always want to see more more more, but, so often, less visual information feeds the imagination, and not knowing/not being shown magnifies the terror.

 

Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley

Rebecca "Newt" Jorden
 

B
ishop 

 

The Winning Team
The main reason people love this movie so much is that this movie embodies that cocky 'American' Spirit and our basic human will to survive. Even in the distant future, the Corporate response is to send in the Military. And not just any soldiers, Marines: The upper level of ass-kickery'; and these are Colonial Marines from our outer-space bad-ass future. Just listen to Pvt. Hudson:


 

The diversity and bravery of the Marines combined with a lack of discipline and overconfidence—what could be more American? LOL
Want some idea how popular something is? See how many fan tribute videos there are on YouTube.

Here's one of every Paxton moment:


The Call of the Ultimate BAD ASS
Did you play the videos above and enjoy every minute? (Then you are an Action Movie FREAK.) Or did you quit early, or just keep reading? (So you're just an Action Movie Fan.No Action Movie FREAK can resist the call of the "Ultimate Bad Ass". For years after this movie, whenever Bill Paxton was in another movie, someone in the audience invariably shouted out "We're in some real pretty shit!" at some crucial plot point.  He was
The Whiner, the 'us' in the movie (as all Whiners are), totally taking a crap, complaining, providing comic relief, and always stealing the scene. Everyone wanted Alien3 to have him in it, to have it be a nightmare that this crew was killed; no such luck.

Paxton was the mouth of the military, but the whole Colonial Marine unit, complete with the trash-talking, cigar-butt-chomping, deep-voiced, scream-it-at-me Sergeant, was loved by the audience. Being part of a group of elite soldiers, the uniforms, the camaraderie, the military speak—sh;sh;"Get on the ready line!"—are all reasons people loved this movie, and Predator (which came out a year later). It's all about being a bad-ass soldier: talking the talk and walking the walk. Military toys help too. The bravado speech Hudson gives listing the impressive array of firepower they have at their disposal was only in the Special Edition.  Because of that  you're just waiting for them to break out the heavy artillery and shoot the shit out of everything, and they do! (More so in the Special Edition, because when everything falls apart in the Theatrical Release you feel less for them, are less scared, and have less confidence in their abilities.  [I always thought this movie would have been better if all the actors were all as beefy as Vasquez. The Sergeant, especially, should have been perfectly fit! But he was awesome in every other way.]
 

Aliens Power LoaderCool Factor
So, how cool was this movie at the time? Well, just look at the Power Loader (robotic forklift suit). Even now it's still cool as hell. The power loader and the fact that Ripley could operate it like a pro was kick ass! And wowee, what a payoff: as pictured in the epic moment when the bay door rises and out she comes to fight the Queen. This is the stuff that makes her that female "Superman". (Want more Ripley? read my
Alien commentary). (You know something's cool when they make a toy of it.) It's another reason this type of video game was invented. People identified with the various characters and wanted to be them—You pick which person you would want be—so let's introduce them:
 

The Colonial Marines "5 by 5"

Cpl. Dietrich

Pvt. Frost

Pvt. Crowe

Pvt. Wierzbowski

Sgt. Apone

 

Pvt. Spunkmeyer 

Cpl. Ferro


Pvt. Drake

Pvt. Vasquez

Lt. Gorman

Pvt. Hudson

Cpl. Dwayne Hicks

The Monsters

Carter Burke

The Queen

Aliens

Eggs

Face Huggers

Chest Bursters



The Monsters
This movie did everything well, but it was smart to do one thing REALLY well. It capitalized on 'everyman' emotions such as:

Fear and dislike of an evil, greedy corporation, and getting back at them

Taking control over a critical situation from a weak leader

Taking charge of your own destiny in the face of adverse orders

Using your common sense no matter what you are told to do, and not blindly following
   (like when Vasquez keeps a clip when they're told to relinquish all ammunition), and

Doing the right thing even if it means risking your life (heroes don't think about it, they just act).

I love how they start off with the biggest 'monster': your and Ripley's worst fear—The Chest Burster/nightmare scene in the beginning of the movie. Thankfully it puts to rest the audience's fear that there is an Alien inside Ripley or inside the cat. Once that fear is out of the way, there has to be another danger introduced, and kudos to them for kicking it up a notch by placing 60-70 families in harm's way. It's unthinkable that the Corporation started a colony on LV-426, and that people have been living out their lives without know what danger lurks nearby. Only Ripley (and you) know the danger and the risk. Understandably, she does not want to go back. Who would? But she is a hero, and heroes do brave things.  This movie keeps kicking it up a notch on Ripley's bravery, and each time, she faces the challenge and exceeds our expectations. From being too scared to enter the facility, to taking charge when Gorman breaks down, she keeps on keeping on. 

 

When they get to the MedLab and you see the Face Huggers in formaldehyde, it confirms our worst fears that, yes, all the Colonists were probably killed by Aliens and that there are undoubtedly some Aliens still there running around. When I saw the Theatrical Release in 1986 (were you born yet?), it was like the audience was holding its breath.  When Burke tapped on the glass of what you thought was a dead Face Hugger and  it moved, the entire theater jumped in their seats at once. After that, you knew the worst was coming, because if one of those things was still alive, there must be more, and there was nothing you could do to stop it. So we just hung on for the ride . . .

first Colonist chestburster scene from Aliens. . . and it became a Horror Movie. Your anticipation for this elite fighting unit to start shooting was as great as the characters'.
 

Let's Rock!
They find one Colonist still alive, that is, until the Chest Burster hatches. From this moment on, this movie is more than 40 miles of bumpy road, it is
"an express elevator to hell".

The Marines all had to give up their ammo earlier because they are basically in a big fusion reactor and firing a gun might blow the whole thing sky high. They were supposed to use only the flamethrowers. Vasquez gave up her ammo clip when asked, but of course, immediately pulled out a back-up clip. You have to love her! Not only was she the first in ("take point"), twice, she had enough replacement ammo for herself and those around her. Nobody wanted to be unarmed. When the Marines torch the Chest Burster and the walls come to life (Aliens literally come out of the walls), their flamethrowers don't seem like enough. As the Marines are attacked and start to get taken away or killed, when Vasquez screams "Let's rock!" and starts blasting with bullets, you don't give a damn about the cooling tower or where they are. You're just thinking "Kill those things!"  Vasquez is in a league of her own. Not afraid of anything and handling the big gun!
I LOVE a munitions-competent woman! 


Express Elevator to Hell
After they torched the Alien 'baby', suddenly, people are dying. In this first attack, we lose Dietrich, Frost, Crowe, and Wierbowski. What made it real to Lt. Gorman was losing Sgt. Apone, and Gorman breaks down. With no leader of the squad, and Lt. Gorman turning into a big chicken, the leadership vacuum is filled by Ripley and her bravery and common sense. Of course pull them out! If they had listened to her in the first place . . .  I love how she grabs Gorman by the shirt with both hands, jerking him as she says "Do something!"  Then, she's done with him as she says "Fuck!" and takes control of the situation. With just that one word, she is right back where she was in Alien, and she does what needs to be done to save who is left. In their retreat, sadly, we lose also Drake.

This second part of the movie has the reduced core cast:  Hicks, Gorman, Vasquez, Hudson, Burke, Ripley, and Newt.  We never really got to know Ferro and Spunkmeyer before they are also killed as the first drop ship crashes.  What a classic Action Movie scene that is. It looks so real as the flaming wreckage pieces come hurtling toward the crew and they have almost no time to get out of the way.  Once it's over, Hudson picks up a piece of the ship, still smoking, and begins his oh-so-famous lament: 
 
HUDSON
 
Well, that's great. That's just fucking great, man, Now what the fuck are we supposed to do?  We're in some real pretty shit now, man.
 
HICKS (to Hudson) Are you finished?
(to Ripley)   Are you all right?
 
NEWT I guess we're not going to be leaving now, right?
 
RIPLEY I'm sorry, Newt.
 
NEWT You don't have to be sorry, it wasn't  your fault.
 
HUDSON
 
That's it man. Game over, man. Game over. What the fuck are we gonna do, now? What  are we gonna do?
 
BURKE Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of  songs, huh? Why don't we try that.
 
RIPLEY We better get back because it's gonna be dark soon and they mostly come at night, mostly.
 

Real Pretty Shit
The remaining cast has faced the enemy and lost. They know, finally, (as Ripley did all along) what they're up against and there seems
to be no hope. They discuss their options.
 
RIPLEY
 
How long after we're declared overdue can we expect a rescue?
 
HICKS 17 days.
 
HUDSON 17 days? Hey man, I don't wanna rain on your parade but we're not gonna last 17 hours. Those things are gonna come in here just like they did before, and they're gonna come in here and they're . . .
 
RIPLEY Hudson!
HUDSON and they're gonna come in here and they're going to come in here and they're going to kill us!
RIPLEY Hudson!
HUDSON This little girl survived longer than that with no weapons and no training.
(to Newt) Right?
HUDSON Why don't you put her in charge?
 

Enter a monster of another kind: Greed. Now the villain is Carter Burke. We love this core cast (except for Burke). We wish for this remaining group to somehow get out alive, and we're right with Ripley when she kicks up the escape scenario yet another notch and suggests they nuke the entire site from orbit!  Ripley gets her wish when they realize the reactor is doing emergency venting, which is a sign it will blow. 

Gorman and Vasquez gripping the grenade in AliensAs the core cast gears up for the last stand, the sound of the Aliens banging on the doors is what nightmares are made of. They keep coming and they cut the power. Somehow they find a way in and now it's a retreat against the clock of the whole place blowing up on its own.  Vasquez fights valiantly to her last bullet in the mouth of an Alien.  Gorman redeems his cowardice and absence (he got knocked unconscious) when goes back to try to save Vasquez. He stays with her to detonate a grenade just before an Alien gets them (killing them, but hopefully buying some time for the others to flee.  The explosion causes them to lose Newt down a vent.  They find her with a wrist tracker Hicks gave Ripley ("Doesn't mean we're engaged.") but then she is taken by an Alien in the water. I guess the motion tracker didn't pick up that one . . .

Hicks is injured when he shoots an Alien trying to get into the elevator with them at close range. The acid eats through is chest plate. Ripley saves Hicks, and then, despite the incredible shortness of time, goes back for Newt.  Could you have done that?  Mothers will say yes. The rest of us cowards are not sure.  We know there must be an Alien Queen somewhere laying eggs, and when we finally do see it, Ripley is way too close for comfort. I love that they used the fact that she knows she can communicate with these creatures.  With the threat of the flame thrower she negotiates their escape, but then the Queen renegs, this gives Ripley the freedom to let loose and torch the place.  You wanted it to happen anyway.  It helps you hate the Aliens.  The fact that it rides the elevator can't be underappreciated in the terror factor either. You know somehow it's going to get on board. They give you just a hint as the ship scrapes the platform, dragging some debris off . . .Ripley operating the power loader at the end of Aliens

Fucking A!

Still, when it happens it's a surprise. The turnaround of Bishop as a good Android is nice. He saves Newt.  They also did a great job of showing how Ripley uses the power loader as a weapon.  It evens the playing field. The teeth and the tail keep Ripley busy but what a great payoff for that equipment, and a nice parallel to the first movie when she runs back to her astronaut suit. 

This movie is so enjoyable, I never get tired of watching it.  This is my all-time favorite, #1 Action Movie, or maybe it's Predator . . .