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36 Things We Learned From the ‘Aliens’ Commentary

Explore everything we learned from the DVD commentary for James Cameron’s Aliens.
By  · Published on June 14th, 2012

Who’s to say we can’t break away from the Summer movie season tie-ins for a while? There isn’t much to connect with Rock of Ages. Or That’s My Boy. Does Happy Gilmore even have a commentary track? This week we felt we wanted to stick around the Alien universe a little bit longer. Besides, this Alien Blu-Ray box set is truly a thing of beauty. Scientists are going to be finding this thing centuries from now and think it was something we worshipped. They wouldn’t be too far off.

This week, we’re digging into the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien, James Cameron’s Aliens, a film so highly regarded by fans of the series, there are those who claim it’s the only sequel in any franchise to ever surpass its original. That’s another debate for another day. What isn’t arguable, though, is that Cameron’s sequel brings with it as much iconic imagery and memorable moments as the 1979 original. The Alien Vs. Aliens debate will carry on for ions, long after Cameron has built his kingdom by the Mariana Trench and brought the world to its knees with the wave of his fist. Come to think of it, James Cameron would make a good Bond villain.

Here’s everything our favorite, would-be Bond villain and a ton of cast and crew had to say about Aliens.

Aliens (1990 Director’s Cut, originally released in 1986)

Commentators: James Cameron (writer/director), Gale Anne Hurd (producer), Stan Winston (alien effects creator/makeup and visual effects master), Robert Skotak (visual effects supervisor), Dennis Skotak (supervising director of photography), Pat McClung (model shop supervisor), Carrie Henn (actress “Newt”), Chris Henn (actor “Tim Jorden”), Michael Biehn (actor, “Corporal Hicks”), Lance Henriksen (actor, “Bishop”), Jenette Goldstein (actress, “Private Vasquez”), Bill Paxton (actor, “Private Hudson”)

Best in Commentary

“I gave up early on trying to have a physique like you guys. That would have cut into my drinking time.” – Bill Paxton

“And everyone, of course, said it couldn’t be done, which is, at least at the beginning of Jim’s career, typical of Jim’s ideas, and then it worked beautifully,” – Gale Anne Hurd. She’s referring to Cameron’s idea to mount futuristic weapons on Steadicam harnesses, but it fits in with everything about the man’s career.

“I think, in terms of actual technique, it’s crude compared to films that are made now, but, I think, in terms of storytelling, it’s as good as I’ll probably ever be, which is what film making is all about. It’s about the people. It’s about the relationships. Of course, then they made the third film and killed everybody.” – James Cameron

Final Thoughts

Aliens is a super-sized kind of movie, and this commentary is pretty super-sized itself. Not only is it just an inordinate amount of people contributing to this commentary – 12 in all – but it’s nonstop with cutting between the different groups. There’s hardly any dead air on this commentary, and much of what is offered is entertaining at the very least. There are enough fun anecdotes from the cast members to make it enjoyable, even if these moments don’t add much to what we already know. Carrie Henn adds little, and it’s a mystery why her brother is on here at all. Must have been a package deal.

But it’s when Cameron, Hurd, or Winston are speaking that you get the real golden nuggets on this commentary. All three are so gifted in what they do and have so much experience in the industry that every sentence is loaded with insight. Hearing Cameron speak about his own film is every bit as interesting as the film itself, and this Aliens commentary proves that he’s a director we should be covering more of on Commentary Commentary.

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