REVIEW: Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition
The 1980s was perhaps the first decade where sequels were crowding the theater screens and most were justifiably vilified by critics and fans alike for being little more than a retread of the original. That changed when director James Cameron, fresh off a little indie production The Terminator, was tasked with a sequel to 1979’s surprise hit, Alien.
The Hollywood executive merry-go-round delayed the sequel by several years, although that allowed Cameron to hone his ideas with producer/wife Gale Anne Hurd. He envisioned a story where the humans were akin to the Americans during Viet Nam, strangers seriously outnumbered in a strange land. After insisting the film star Sigourney Weaver, who was in a contract dispute with 20th Century-Fox, all the pieces came together.
When the movie opened in 1986, it set a new higher standard for what a sequel should be, which was expanding upon the characters and universe seen in the first film. At the same time, it also was one of the first films of the modern era to hang so much of the film on a female protagonist. As a result, it was the right film at the right time, in the hands of a rising director who it box office gold.
20th Century Home Entertainment is celebrating this achievement with a handsome Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition. The box set comes with a digital HD code and a booklet featuring art culled from Dark Hose Comics’ assortment of Aliens-related comic covers plus a handful of art cards.
Weaver’s Ripley, sole survivor of the Nostromo, awakens 57 years later and winds up leading an expedition back to LV-426 and the malevolent lifeform awaiting them. The film continues to be a thrilling adventure thanks to Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton. Not only is it an action-adventure thriller, but it deepens Ripley by her protecting Newt (Carrie Henn), the young survivor of the human colony. All of which results in the now-famous but then-explosive climax as Ripley, in armor, confronts the Alien Queen.
The Blu-ray transfer is excellent (same one from the Aliens Anthology) and the sound superb, making for a good home viewing experience. You can choose the theatrical or 17-minute longer extended edition, which is nice to have. All the old special features are reprised here along with. The Inspiration and Design of Aliens featurette. However, you can only access the new feature through HD streaming and only 10 times between now until 2019 when it presumably vanishes.
Despite that flaw, this is one of the strongest anniversary editions of a film to come out in a long time and is recommended.