Aliens: Special Edition

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The planet from Alien (1979) has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, enough?


So this is how films are made: the director turns in a cut he or she is more or less satisfied with, but it's too long. Some films (Dances With Wolves being the most recent example) can just about get away commercially with being too long, but most need to run somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours — partly as that is pretty much the typical audience's natural attention span, partly because cinema managers need to get in a certain number of showings per day — and so our director's cut gets edited to bring it down to a more suitable length.

Most long films, of course, can certainly do with having half an hour cut out of them, but the very best, it would appear, actually deserve to have that footage put back in. The special run re-releases accorded recently, for example, to Lawrence Of Arabia, Spartacus and Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, with precious restored minutes, proved that movies we already knew were very good indeed were, in fact, little masterpieces. And here is the special edition version of James Cameron's two-and-a-half-hour director's cut of Aliens.

One may, of course, sit down to watch this with some cynicism, remembering that Cameron's two-and-a-half-hour "director's cut" of The Abyss was released, and could certainly have done with having half an hour cut out of it. Well, the good news is that the restored footage here really does make an already good film — many think that Aliens has always been a more interesting and enjoyable movie than Alien — even better.

Scenes that readers of Alan Dean Foster's novelisation of the film knew existed are now back in, strengthening the characterisation of Ripley (Weaver) and the little girl Newt (Henn) who becomes her surrogate daughter, and, as most of the cuts were made in the first half of the movie, we now have a neat little scene where Ripley wakes up after 57 years in cryogenesis to discover that her daughter has lived her whole life and died as a little old lady, plus scenes with Henn's parents being sent by the villainous Company to investigate the crashed spaceship from Alien and bringing the aliens into contact with the colonists.Later on, we also find that Ripley even has a first name, Ellen.

This restored Aliens is, then, a richer movie, but considerably less of a slam-bang spectacle.