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Aliens - DVD (18)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Scene access; trailer; James Cameron interview; Behind-the-scenes footage; photo gallery; subtitles in 10 languages.

IF RIDLEY Scott's Alien is a tension-packed and hugely claustrophobic screamathon, then James Cameron's pumped-up sequel is an adrenalin-fuelled rollercoaster ride through Deep Space which heralded a brave new direction for the franchise.

Using only elements of Scott's original, Cameron's movie is a very different beast; refraining from the obvious pitfalls of the sequel (ie, more of the same, only louder and more spectacular) and opting for an all-out assault on the sense. It's no coincidence that the poster to Cameron's movie states: 'This time, it's war'.

Set 57-years after the events on the Nostromo, the movie picks up after Sigourney Weaver's sole survivor, Ellen Ripley, is picked up by a deep space salvage crew. Sent back to Earth to explain herself, Ripley (still haunted by the events of the first film) has a hard time convincing her superiors about her story, until contact is lost with the colony that has been established on the planet which first harboured the alien.

Reluctantly, Ripley agrees to go back with an elite troop of marines to wipe out the alien threat and rescue what remains of the survivors - but things don't go according to plan and it isn't long before Ripley must face up to her nightmare once more for another do-or-die confrontation.

One of the biggest talking points among fans (and critics) of the alien franchise is whether Alien or its sequel is the better movie; but the two are so different it could almost be a mute point. Cameron's Aliens has a mind of its own and works on a different level to Scott's interpretation, filling the screen with aliens and seldom shying away from the action.

It's this in-yer-face approach which keeps things fresh and exciting, as well as developing the character of Ripley from a gutsy loner to a maternal protector.

The DVD release of the movie includes the 17-minutes of extra footage missing from the cinema version which develops the Ripley back story even further (she receives the unwelcome news that during her 57 years in hyper-sleep, her daughter grew old and died) as well as adding another well-staged action sequence - involving the Sentry Guns and the aliens' subsequent change of tactics.

Weaver, as usual, is superb in the lead role, while the likes of Michael Biehn and Bill ('Game over, man!') Paxton add solid support, seldom losing out to the effects (which remain pretty special throughout).

And if Alien has numerous individual moments, then so too does Aliens - notably Ripley's final battle with the Queen alien, the aforementioned Sentry sequence, the marines' first encounter with the aliens and, of course, the tension-packed encounter with the face-huggers involving Ripley and Newt.

Aliens constitutes cinema at its most exhilarating and Cameron at his best; it is damn near essential viewing and a must-have for any fans of the science fiction genre.

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