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Introduction
Released as part of the Alien Legacy box set, as well as on a stand-alone disc, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi film stands as one of the best follow-ups of all time. Featuring more aliens, a group of kick-ass marines and some good special effects, this is a worthy addition to anyone’s film collection. But how does the DVD compare with others in the series?

Aliens: Special Edition
Film
Fifty-seven years ago, the crew of the space freighter Nostromo encountered an alien creature so deadly that only one crewmember survived. That person was Ellen Ripley. Now, after more than half a century in cryo-sleep, she awakens to find that the human race has colonized LV-426, the planetoid where she and her crew first encountered the alien. Ripley is held accountable for the destruction of the Nostromo all those years ago, stripped of her status as a flight officer and forced to work in a menial job. She awakens every night, screaming, the nightmarish images of half a century ago still haunting her dreams.

Meanwhile on LV-426 the colonists have discovered the derelict alien ship from the original film, with disastrous results. When transmissions from the colony abruptly cease a squad of hi-tech Colonial Marines is sent to investigate, taking Ripley along as an advisor. What they discover on the planet is beyond their worst nightmare. The alien creature is back, and this time it is not alone! Hoards of aliens infest the planet and have all but wiped out the colonists. Only one small child remains, a young girl named Newt, who is found in an almost catatonic state.

When the marines attempt to discover the location of the colonists they are unaware that they are walking right into the heart of the alien nest. Attacked without warning their ranks are decimated, with only a handful making it out alive (thanks to some quick thinking from Ripley). Trapped on an alien planet, the survivors try to stay alive long enough to reach the safety of their drop ship.

Performances are good, especially from Sigourney Weaver, Lance Heinrikson, Bill Paxton and Michael Bein. This instalment is also the most quotable of the series; how many times has someone used the phrase "Game over man! Game over!" in your presence? Special effects are also a lot better in this sequel, especially the hi-tech weaponry of the marines. Director James Cameron also has his own take on the alien’s life cycle, which is interesting, but ultimately limits the creature in ways that the original vision of the alien didn’t (just watch the deleted scenes on the Alien disc for proof of that). This edition also restores footage that wasn’t in the original theatrical release. The footage mostly expands on the emotional and narrative elements of the film, but there is at least one excellent action sequence in there.

Aliens: Special Edition
Video
Aliens is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and, on the whole, the video is of a high quality. Having said that, it isn’t as good as the transfer on the Alien disc, despite the THX certification. It does tend to look a little soft in places, with visible grain during the many darker sequences. Still, I did have the opportunity to compare this with my old pan & scan VHS copy and the difference is staggering, so there’s no real reason to complain. All in all this is a good, if not excellent transfer.

Audio
The 5.1 audio track is decent, with the marine’s gunfire and alien screeches all sounding better than ever.  The score is also excellent, and really heightens the tension. This is very eerie stuff, the only downside being that the rear channels aren’t used as much as they could be. If only more use had been made of the surrounds, it would have helped to make the audio something really special.

Extras
Extra features are fairly limited, especially compared to those found on the Alien disc. Included is the theatrical trailer, a fairly short interview with James Cameron that was filmed around the time of the movie’s initial release, some behind the scenes special effects footage, a stills gallery and 17 minutes of extra footage, which is actually integrated into the film.

Aliens: Special Edition
Overall
With Alien, director Ridley Scott created one of the most believable, and terrifying films I’ve ever seen. Sequels by their very nature tend to be poor rehashes of the original, but this is something that Cameron’s Aliens is not guilty of. It may not be as subtle as its predecessor, but for all-out action/horror/sci-fi of a superior nature, you don’t get a lot better than this. It may not be able to match the Alien DVD in technical terms, but it’s very enjoyable movie and certainly the best of the three sequels.


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