Aliens back back in 1987 on VHS on lend from the local video library (and subsequently every week for about a year or so from the pirated VHS I made of said film, often with my good friend Jon) I thought it to be cinematic perfection.
I remember Alien being shown on ITV and it being one of the few films I was allowed to stay up late to watch back as a nipper – I’d had a comic book adaptation of it for some time (an excerpt from it is the big picture to the left - googling for this awakened some memories, I can tell you), so my Dad surrendered to my incessant high pitched nagging, and I remember being both amazed by it. Whilst shitting myself in terror. Not literally, you understand. So even as a sixteen year old when I heard there was an impending sequel I was positively giddy with excitement.
It didn’t disappoint. The films both have a very separate tone from each other; Alien is a classic haunted house film, a “spooky thing in the dark” movie, whereas Aliens is basically just the Vietnam War in space – highly trained soldiers with weapons fighting and losing primitive forces defending their home territory. Even more than 24 years later, I’d struggle to think of a film that betters Aliens in suspense, characterisation, plot and special effects.
Alright, sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill! Assholes and elbows!
My favourite elements? That the Alien life-cycle that was briefly touched upon in the first film, is expanded to its logical conclusion – but still remains faithful to the original. The technology in the film all feels very real, as though nothing exists in it that couldn’t feasibly be built now. It even has the cheek to expertly riff off the original; An android in the crew that far from being the traitor we expected him to be, ends up being one of the most heroic characters in the entire movie.
What do you mean, "They cut the power"? How could they cut the power, man?! They're animals!
After so many years of watching and reading about both films, I'd always thought myself a bit of an expert on both of them. Turns out from these documentaries, I knew very little. Little titbits of information that the geek in me finds fascinating, such as that the character of Lambert in Alien was in fact born a man but given gender reassignment at birth. That the APC was in fact a modified vehicle used to tow planes to their hangars. That a team of cameraman owe their lives to being replaced by a remote unit at the last minute before shooting a shot with the APC when its brakes failed. That Sigourney Weaver is a member of several anti-gun lobbies in America and found it difficult to be convinced to work on a film where guns featured quite so heavily. That John Hurt was bought into Alien with less than twelve hours notice after the actor who had been filming the role was taken ill after suddenly being diagnosed with diabetes. Probably stuff of very little interest to anybody else, but of great fascination to me who has always been interested in the behind the scenes details of films, especially ones I consider so brilliant.
I haven't even watched the films on bluray yet, I've been that absorbed by the extra features. My only glimpse at Aliens was to check how nice a bluray transfer it's made - and it can't be faulted. Crystal clear and looking like it was filmed last year. If you've seen both the films before, watch them again. If they haven't seen them yet, why are you still reading this?
Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.