The Theory of Chaos

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Game over, man. Game over!

I’ve always been divided on the special edition cut of Aliens. The shorter theatrical cut has a way of leaving much more to the imagination. We walk into the colony knowing no more than the Marines. There’s a haunted house aspect to that I like – getting an insider’s look at it pre-infection as a hustling, bustling little outpost makes it less spooky on arrival, although more poignant for knowing all the people we met so briefly have been turned into monster factories. On balance I’d have preferred it as a deleted sequence, bonus material to expand the world of the movie for the fans while leaving the narrative more breakneck. The battle of Hadley’s Hope is a whole horrifying story unto itself, and we can leave it that way, and enjoy speculating.

The gearhead in me appreciates the sentry gun sequences, and it does keep the Alien menace alive as we sense them moving around the perimeter, testing the defenses, searching for a way in. The rapidly declining ammo count is one of those clever little Barrel=Shark devices that allows our mind to conjure up the threat without the filmmakers having to spend much money. Though on the flip side it’s much more primal and unsettling to simply
know they’re out there, and that inevitably, they will get in. That breathless approach from above the ceiling tiles, capped off by poor Corporal Hicks shining his flashlight into the maw of a nightmare, resonates deeper when we’ve let our awareness of the horde outside lull just that little bit while we worried about the dropship and the unstable processing plant and those little scuttling facehugger bastards in medical.

There could also be bias here, because I watched the original so, so many times growing up that every scene that’s out of my memory sequence jars like hell. They just don’t feel like they
belong. Hudson’s little dance of braggadocio as the squad preps for deployment, tipping off the eventual debut of the Alien Queen, hell, finding out Ripley and Hicks’ first names, they just don’t add up to being worth anything for me.

But I am absolutely in favor of the extra grace notes about Ripley’s lost daughter. There’s a strong enough theme of maternal instinct, both human and non-human, running through the movie, but knowing the extra anguish that ties into her survival of the first movie’s trauma really helps us appreciate her transformation into Fierce Mama Lion when she internally assigns herself the job of Newt’s protector. That, and it reminds us that Sigourney Weaver is the absolute shiz-nit.

Given the choice, I wouldn’t watch the theatrical cut of
Terminator 2: Judgment Day anymore – the director’s cut lets us see that the liquid metal T-1000 is way too experimental to be trusted with field duty yet (which is how they’re able to stop the dag-blammed thing at all), and it gives Sarah Connor (in her dreamland reunion with Reese) a chance to show a warmer side than the dominatrix-revolutionary notes she’s playing in most scenes.

There I think Cameron got it right. In
Aliens I feel like the best version may just lie somewhere between the two we have. But watching it reminded me of something any screenwriter worth their salt should file away – for a movie that everyone remembers as a non-stop rollercoaster ride, it takes a full hour, an hour plus ten in the extended cut, for the first actual action sequence in Aliens. Funny how that works.

Last Movie I Saw
: The Departed. The review is on the way.


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