Aliens is a film like no other, a rare sequel that is arguably as good or better than the original. It’s horror, but even more so than the original Alien, it is a science fiction classic in its own right. Aliens was ahead of its time, a successful blockbuster from James Cameron, who quickly put together a story treatment and sold the studio on his vision of the follow-on to Ridley Scott’s unique and acclaimed original. Last month here at borg.com we reviewed Aliens–The Set Photography, a new book chronicling the creative work behind Aliens released for the film’s 30th anniversary. Action-packed with top-notch acting from Sigourney Weaver and a great supporting cast, plus some of Stan Winston’s best creature work, Aliens rightfully is getting the 30th anniversary treatment this month in Blu-ray.
Aliens is one of about a dozen science fiction or horror films to earn Academy Awards. It won two, for visual effects and sound editing. It was also nominated for art direction, sound, film editing and original score. Better yet, Sigourney Weaver earned her much deserved first nomination for best actress. Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is among science fiction’s best performances, and Weaver the core of what made the franchise and this film successful. The anniversary release includes two previously released versions, the 1986 original theatrical version and the 1991 extended edition. If you missed the extended edition, it’s well worth your time. Ripley gets more screen-time, and more character development, including the dichotomy between the death of Ripley’s daughter mirroring the Alien queen’s protection of her offspring–it’s great fun to see a character you think you know in scenes not included in the original version you saw in the theater.
The extended edition commentary track is as good as you’ll find on any disc. Where most releases these days include the director or producer and one or two cast members, the commentary accompanying the extended edition includes a treasure trove of content and insights into the film. You’ll hear details on movie making from director James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, the late, great, alien effects creator Stan Winston, visual effects supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn.
Everyone included in the commentary recalls details as if Aliens was filmed yesterday. It’s simply a stunning group to have together on one commentary track. One can only imagine how much fun it would be to sit only with the very funny Bill Paxton and recount his memories from the film. As each actor’s character meets his or her fate, each seems to experience the death all over again, in humorous fashion. After all these years, they still know their lines. The recollections of Hurd and the effects team on scene creation and technical specs is the stuff film school students should listen to over and over. How do you make a big-budget monster movie with no CGI? How much of the film was clever magical tricks of light and low tech? How much psychology was behind the plot traced by the heroine Ripley and her adversary, the giant xenomorph Alien queen? You’ll find out on this track.
You’ll also get the late James Horner’s final theatrical isolated score and the original isolated score. We would have loved to have seen this included on an extra CD or LP. The extended edition includes both extended and deleted scenes. The visual and sound quality is superb. One can only hope an upconverted 3D edition is in store for Aliens sometime soon. Many fans of Cameron still await an edition of his Abyss and True Lies in the format Aliens is presented in with this release.
If you don’t already own the Aliens Anthology, or the 2011 or 2014 release, then this 30th anniversary edition is what you want, particularly if you’re only a fan of Aliens among the entire films in the franchise. The extras on this edition include a limited access, behind the scenes featurette that must be viewed online, high-quality collector concept art cards, and a booklet featuring the artwork of Dark Horse Comics creators, who have continued to adventures of the Aliens/Scott/Cameron/Giger Weyland-Yutani universe.
Pick up the Aliens 30th Anniversary Edition now here from Amazon.