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February 23, 2013 11:35 pm

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People love the movie Aliens. Even people who prefer Alien always add the provision, “But Aliens is awesome, too.” But the question I’m wondering, myself is: Why do I like Aliens so much? It’s funny, because Aliens has always played an important role in my life.

It was one of the first rated-R movies I had ever experienced. Interestingly enough, my full-on first R-rated movie was Terminator 2, another James Cameron movie. There was a copy of Aliens in the daycare room of my church (yeah, yikes), nobody was around, and I tossed it on. I was immediately freaked out by absolutely nothing, and decided it was better if I just held off on my first rated-R experience. Of course then I saw Terminator 2, and it became my number 1 all-time favorite movie. So what does that tell you?

But getting back to Aliens— I finally saw it in full at a friend’s house (where I saw all the movies I like and attempt to emulate in my work, come to think of it; Predator, Terminator, Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China, and Pretty Woman), and it blew my mind. First off, let’s talk about that era. It was the early-to-mid 90’s. DVDs hadn’t taken off, laser discs were prohibitively expensive, and VHS reigned supreme. And if you had a copy of Aliens, two things were true: 1. You were cool, and 2. It was grainy as all hell. That movie looked like they added a layer of sand and shadow over it. At first I thought it was because of how viewed the tape was (Wikipedia it, kids. “Tape.”), but I saw it again at another person’s house, and lo and behold it was grainy and dark, too! It wasn’t until my college years when Aliens came out on DVD that I suddenly could actually see what was happening half the time.

This is a potentially controversial prospect, by the way. The movie builds tension and relies on age-old methods of scare tactics. You can barely see the Aliens, which makes that marines killing scene (“Check those corners!”) all the more terrifying. It’s how I’d always seen that movie. To suddenly “clean it up,” as the advertisements and format suggested, could remove an entire mood element from this classic, diminishing it ever-so-slightly. Obviously, it was much ado. It did clean up the movie, but it was still incredibly dark, and the cool stuff we all enjoyed was just more cool and actually visible. And that’s where I’m heading. You could see all the cool stuff Cameron is famous for making. The aliens, the ships, the settlements, the costumes, their weapons… It’s all cool, and original, and interesting, and lived-in.

I want to provide a lived-in universe that emulates that feeling you get from watching a good, old, familiar James Cameron flick. Minus the cats.

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Copyright Sal Crivelli 2013