Fox // 1986 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 7th, 1999
This time its war.
The second installation of the Alien saga, Aliens is, in many ways, as good as the original. While this disc suffers in comparison to the Alien 20th Anniversary Edition DVD, it ranks much better when compared to its typical competition.
As we all know, it is incredibly difficult to follow up on a successful movie with a successful sequel. Only a select few sequels have achieved in a similar manner to their predecessors. Two that come to mind are Star Wars and The Godfather. James Cameron has done it TWICE. You may not like him, or his Hollywood persona, but you have to respect him, if for no other reason, than for that simple fact. First with Aliens and later with Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Aliens takes the original story of Alien in an entirely new direction. Ridley Scott was very successful in filming a cramped, dark, dank, suspense thriller in Alien. He gave the feeling of claustrophobia aboard the Nostromo, notwithstanding that ships sheer size. Not much room to fight one alien. Cameron takes a far different approach here. Building on the original story, Cameron takes our heroine back to the scene of the crime as it were. But she is not alone. She is joined by a bevy of Marines who are along for the ride to make war on our alien friends.
This is a director's cut special edition with quite a bit of restored footage, including some new weapons for our Marine friends. The video quality of this disc was quite good. In fact it is easily the best this movie has ever looked in a home release. However, it did have some problem areas. These will be discussed below, as usual. Generally, the colors here were very strong. Every important shot in this film (read action shot) is lit very low key but still looks gorgeous. Our friends behind the bench seem to be solving this problem as time goes on. If you remember, this was a big problem area in earlier discs.
The audio is pretty good as well, but also not perfect. The best part of this track is its clarity and use of subwoofer. As you can imagine, with several futuristic Marines floating about the place fighting off scores of aliens, you have a great opportunity for lots of big bangs, which is exactly what Cameron delivers.
This disc also has a goodly amount of extras hung around its neck. It includes production artwork for the collections of James Cameron, Ron Cobb & Syd Mead, production photographs, an interview with James Cameron, the typical booklet with production notes and trailers to all the Alien films. I would have liked a commentary by Cameron and some more talent, but I guess its hard to get too picky after all the goodies we got with the Alien disc and the fifth disc which is on its way.
Lastly, we cannot forget to mention the fine work done by so many of the principal actors here. Sigourney Weaver was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this installment of the series. This is not terribly rare, since she has been nominated two additional times. What is rare, however, is a nomination for a part in a science fiction flick. I cannot remember any other lead performances that were so nominated. I have not looked deeply in the Oscar archives for proof, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Michael Biehn (Hicks), Reiser (Burke), Lance Henrikson (Bishop) and most of all Bill Paxton (Hudson) turned in additional strong performances. Paxton's character will keep you laughing all the way through all the scary moments of this film. I really believe his performance deserved some recognition by the Academy.
The negatives on this disc are really outweighed by the positives, but they are here so let's talk about them. The video has some trouble spots, all of which involved some graininess. The major trouble spots seemed to revolve around the additional scenes. I guess this is to be expected as they were shot after the film using a different process. In particular, look to the scene where Sigourney Weaver and Paul Reiser are discussing Weaver's daughter, after she turns off the holographic landscape image. I noticed a LOT of graininess whenever the angle shifted the focus to Weaver. I am also told that the process in which this entire film was shot lends itself to a grainy transfer, which explains the troubles with this transfer. As I said earlier, this disc looks much better than any other transfer this film has received prior. However, when compared to the look and feel of the other three discs in this series, it pales in comparison.
An additional trouble spot was the distinct lack of use of directional effects throughout the film. Most of the work done by the rear channels seemed to be in mono. There were some times when the rears got a decent workout, but not nearly as much as they could have. Neither this problem, nor the slightly grainy picture will keep fans away from this disc, nor should they. This is the best this movie has looked and sounded in a long time and maybe ever.
This movie is a wild roller coaster ride that should not be missed. If you are a fan, grab this disc and don't let go. If you're not a fan, have your head examined by the court appointed psychiatrist. You can find her office down the hall to the left, room 401.
Acquitted on all counts. Keep up the good work, Fox.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Behind The Scenes Footage
* Interview With James Cameron
* Still Photo Section
* Includes Over 17 Minutes Of Restored Footage