The second installment of the Alien legacy has always caused movie purists some degree of angst. For sheer fear inducing stalking and claustrophobia there's nothing to compare to the terror of Alien. However, if you're looking for a bug stomping, action packed, explosive thriller of a movie, Aliens is about as good as it gets.
The only survivor of the ill-fated deep space mining vehicle, Nostromo's, dreadful visit to planet LV-426, Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) escape pod is picked up more than 50 years later by a passing salvage crew. Waking in a changed world and haunted by nightmares of the Alien discovered by her crew on the barren planet, Ripley is shocked to learn that colonists have been living on LV-426 for several years now, apparently unaware of the Alien threat near their settlement. Company agent Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) informs Ripley shortly thereafter that they've lost contact with the colony, and asks her to accompany him on a mission to investigate the problem. Realizing that the only way she can overcome her nightmares is to find some catharsis in confronting her very real demons, Ripley joins Burke and a bad-assed military unit in a journey to LV-426 to wipe out the Aliens once and for all. What they find at the colony deflates even the biggest of the Marine egos accompanying her and pits them all in a life or death struggle to escape the planet.
Sigourney Weaver's Ripley is the prototype for the female action hero in American cinema. Strapped down with tons of fire power, sweating, and driven by what can only be described as maternal insanity, she blasts her way through the Alien nest and straight into the lustful hearts of moviegoers everywhere. Reiser's Burke is appropriately smarmy and shifty. The Marines, led by Cameron staple Michael Biehn are all terrific charicatures, and Lance Henriksen as Bishop, the "synthetic person," is the perfect misunderstood robot with heart.
This is one of my favorite science fiction movies ever so I'll admit to being biased. However, loving the movie as I do also makes me give this presentation a pretty critical eye. The restored footage is pretty seamless here. I was surprised several times by how smoothly it was pieced in, so much so that I had to skip back to catch a couple of things. However, overall quality of the transfer is only good. I can't rave about this one as being SO superior to the VHS. It's better, surely, but it wasn't WOW inducing. There are some pops and crackles and some occasional fuzzing of background shots. Nothing annoying enough to keep me from buying the disc, but not nearly as good as the medium allows. The sound was wonderful though and I again found myself longing for a home theater system.
The interview with James Cameron is surprisingly interesting if you can get past the hideous Hawaiian shirt he's wearing. Of particular interest was his description of the process involved in making a sequel, i.e.: how to stay true to the original while still introducing new ideas and personal vision. This interview was made in 1989, pre-King of the World days, and Cameron was thoughtful and informative. The Photo Gallery was extensive but a good deal of it will only appeal to those among us who obsess over the intricate detail involved in designing the power loader or the Marine weaponry. The disc also includes trailers and a Behind the Scenes segment that was more like the photo gallery, only with some audio commentary and motion.
The real reason to buy this version is the 17 minutes of restored extra footage. If you have laser discs then you've probably already seen this stuff but if you were one of the millions of us who never bothered with laser, now's your chance to see the whole movie. The bulk of the extra footage is concentrated in the the first 45 minutes of the movie and it introduces subplots that were left behind, like what happened to Ripley's daughter and how that plays into her relationship with Newt later in the movie. As far as effects are concerned, there is an entire sequence within the compound on LV-426 where the Marines set up remote assault sentries outside of the doors to the lab and we actually get to see those guns at work. Pretty neat stuff.
This is a good investment for your DVD library. It's perfect late night, lights-down-low home theater viewing. Beer and pizza not included in the price.