Why the Director’s Cut of Aliens Sucks

Let me get one thing straight from the beginning:

I love Aliens.

I think it is one of the best Sci-Fi Action movies ever made and one of the best movies of James Cameron before he started getting bad with scripts but even better with effects.

Aliens has great pacing, great suspense and hell a lot of great action. The sound effects for those awesome machine guns alone is fantastic. And on top it all Aliens is on par with Alien although they couldn’t be more different in terms of their respective feeling.

The Director’s Cut of Aliens is whole different story here.

Basically it sucks on a massive scale. It’s not those added scenes that fill in some background information. No…it’s only two damn scenes Cameron added that drag Aliens down to the suck level.

Only two scenes!!

And they completely ruin the movie because they completely remove the tension and suspense.

I am at best okay with most of the other additions. Take the scene where the settlers find the cave with the crashed alien ship. In the original it’s missing hence we know nothing about the beginning. We just see the results. Some might say that this scene is great clearing up everything. Well, I never really cared about that. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is that they are screwed. Period. Another thing is the absence of Ripley. This movie is about her. It starts with her it, it ends with her and in between we never leave her. The settler scene for that alone is an epic waste of time.

Now on to those two damn scenes that truly ruin everything for me.

If you remember, after the first big action scene of Marines Vs. Aliens in which the marines get totally mopped, they head back to the main complex, think about their past errors and start barricading themselves as good as they can since they cannot get off the damn rock.

Well, in the Director’s Cut they do one other thing: they place some automatic guns in the tunnels to fight off the Aliens. What happens of course is that those guns are not placed there for nothing. The creatures start to find their way to the complex and attack twice. Of course they get busted.

It’s those scenes that totally destroy the tension of Aliens and as a result the movie as a whole.

You know I always knew those nasty things wouldn’t wait very long to attack. Why should they wait? They won by a huge margin in the first round. The question for me was more “Where are they now?” It’s the classic horror cliché: the best horror is the one you can’t see because then it can be everywhere. The same is with the original cut of Aliens. What are they up to? Where are they? Did they trick them and their motion trackers? Those nasty little buggers could lurk behind every damn corner. The result is pure tension and suspense.

The machine gun scenes remove this very suspense because they show us our beloved acidic busters. We now know where they are, we can see them and we know they are still outside…Way to go man. That’s suspension for the win!

Come on, James! What the heck were you thinking? Sigh.

As far as I’m concerned I’ll gladly stick to my super mega DVD edition of Aliens which includes the original cut. Thanks to that I can let the suspense raise to the heavens each time I watch this fantastic movie.

What’s your take on this? Am I too harsh or do you agree that those scenes are so wrong on so many levels?

Comments

  • Absolutely, and well described.
    The factor of not knowing / not seeing the aliens was also integral in their design, the way they were camouflaged into the piping and specular wetness of the machinery. They’d literally unfold out of the background.
    The scenes you describe break the mold. We see them, we know they’re there and we understand (too soon) too much about their motivations.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      You are so right, I totally forgot to consider this. The aliens are from their nature sneaky little bastards. In fact you could even say that they perfectly blend with darkness, so they are the darkness, the hidden, the unknown. Thinking about this makes the Director’s Cut even worse. Seriously James: what were you thinking?

  • RICH

    wrong! the uncut version is best! reason one the extended “hadleys hope scence”, puts a contrast to the parts when the CMs go bug hunting, you never see the aliens atack but it sets up the mood from humans to “no humans”. i the short version its not creepy for there is no prevous scence to contrast with showing the people getting taken out that would have been bad but the direction holds back also it adds to the freedom of seeing the marines as “just more people” in the story link. also the pacing of the film becomes slower so the ending and the moments of terror become sharper and have more resonace, the marines getting wasted on c level becomes harsher as it is very strong change of pace. its somewhat overpowering, check out the three gear formation pacing of the uncut version. gear one is the slow build up to the aliens, untill they come awake on c level the pace becomes gear two untill “they cut the power” then its gear three. trust me the facehugger bit with newt and Ripley is better after the guns in the hallway. as the amount of stuff going down comes down like birth pangs! I used to be a fan of the cut version citing the reasons you have but, after watching the film a lot of times the long version is better. two the film has a stronger sublimanal story with Ripleys dead kid scene, the film is story of a Womans fears of losing her daughter to “monsters out there” dreams and sleeping scences highlight this fear as the aliens “come from within” her and manifest as a perverted version of her own motherhood, the fight with the queen is a fight with her supresed fears. when they are faced they flee and Ripley can dream with her child who she never lost only in her dreams. but still enjoy the film in whatever way you see fit! it is one of my faves Avatar is pure pants against this wonderful film!

  • Philip

    I agree with a lot of what you say here… my only criticism is that this movie is just so damn good that any added scenes simply add to the overall package – every possibly existing minute of Aliens is sublime! I understand what you’re saying about suspense, but I happen to really enjoy the (futile) employment of technology (the drone machine guns) against the unstoppable alien creature. My biggest gripe is against the “AVP” remakes – those multi-million dollar lamefests do a lot more to chip away at the integrity of this incomparable franchise than a few extra minutes of plot-padding in this 86′ vintage.

    I’m watching this movie right now on Netflix as I type! I love it and can’t get enough of it!

  • Ellie

    All good points, but I have to go in favour of the director’s cut for Aliens. The extra scenes change the whole story, turning it more into a science fiction story rather than action, with slowing building tension and dialogue, and more character development. The intercutting of the guns sequence and the dialogue scenes really ampt up the tension, keeping you in this heightened state of tension for longer before the pay off. Also, it makes the story about the monster within their own group Burke and focusing on the evil nature within humans more distinct, as Ripley says “You don’t see them (the aliens) fucking each other over for a goddam percentage”. Who doesn’t love more of Aliens anyway, it’s a very fast 2hrs for me, i just watch it over and over. One of my favourite films of all time.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      You also make some good points, Ellie.

      Nevertheless, I think that the whole sequence about the aliens “invading” the colony is still more or less useless. It’s useless because it doesn’t change the story that follows. Or let me rephrase that: we don’t need to see how it all started. Some moments might offer some nice exposition but nothing’s surprising or truly necessary. By knowing the fact the colony doesn’t answer anymore you and I know how the disaster began. We don’t need to see it to know it: the aliens struck. Thinking about it a little bit the colony sequence makes Aliens a little bit worse as the beginning – if I remember it correctly – copies the first movie way to strongly. In both cases a guy get “hooked” inside the alien ship.

      Regarding the gun scenes I stand by my original statement: those scenes places the aliens in a certain space. By adding those scenes you suddenly know where they are and that they’re not inside the perimeter. By not knowing where they are the tension is a lot higher (at least for me) because one of those buggers could jump at a character in each and every second.

      And here’s a new argument regarding the gun scenes: they absolutely contradict the function of the motion trackers in the movie. Basically the motion trackers have two functions in my eyes. The first function applies to the plot of Aliens which is showing movements of possible enemies, of course. But there’s the second and way more important function. This function applies to the movie viewer. By having the characters carrying around the motion trackers with their constant “clicks”, the viewer is constantly drawn to the question “Where” and “When”. Where are the aliens? Are there aliens at all? And from which direction will they attack from? And when will this happen? The original cut of Aliens is almost brilliant because thanks to the motion trackers the aliens have a constant presence, even though they’re not physically present all the time. This also goes for those sequences where they don’t use the motion trackers. Why? Because they’ve used them long enough during their initial exploration of the colony so the viewer keeps (subconsciously) asking himself the same questions.

  • Adaptor

    The scene with the sentry guns was actually pretty effective in my opinion. It establishes, or actually reinforces, the aliens’ level of intelligence and agression. The movie makes it clear that the two tunnels are the only ways into the complex. At least, that’s what the characters think. It gives the characters and the viewer a false sense of security. When the aliens try to get past the sentry guns, getting killed in the process, they don’t come of as very clever but after the aliens retreat, the marines realise the aliens aren’t dumb at all but just really intent on getting in. Knowing that the aliens are that agressive AND smart actually makes the consecutive scenes scarier. Now the aliens are extra pissed and you know they’re smart enough to look for other entry points.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      You have a good point here and it’s true that those scenes reinforce the fact they’re quite intelligent monsters. On the other hand: we see how the characters blockade every normal entry point into the complex. So the added scenes only prolong the fact that the aliens in the end find a way. Perhaps the main reason Cameron put those scenes back in was the fact that they’re quite capable of destroying even the heavy doors so them not using force to go through it might seem a little bit strange.

  • ron

    so true that the machine gun scenes are very important. it makes us feel satisfied to blow or shoot things up, just like the predator scene where the soldiers spray the forest with bullets. whenever thay play aliens on TV i always missed the machine guns at gate scene.

  • I liked the “Hadley’s Hope” scene…the MG turret scene didn’t really add much or take away if u ask me. Watching the bullets countdown was kinda nerve-wracking i guess. But I can see how the power shutting down is maybe just a better intro to the entire alien offensive.

    Honestly….I had seen the movie so many times as a kid and thought maybe I just “forgot” about these scenes until we realized we were watching the Director’s Cut and found websites like this. My friend had a ripped copy of the DVD and we didn’t know for sure which version we were watching ><'.

    A question, when Ripley leaves the dropship to go back and find Newt…Hicks and Ripley have a sentimental moment and finally tell each other their first names…was that in the original? I don't remember it…and it was pretty cheesy.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      As far as I remember, this sentimental scene wasn’t part of the original cut.

      • Yeah it really stood out as akward/new.

        I think I like the Hadley’s Hope scene bcz I always wondered what the colonists life was maybe like BEFORE the shit hit the fan. It was just a brief peek into that world. Plus hearing Newt talk about hiding in airducts is kinda cute (25 yrs after first seeing the original in theaters lol!)

  • Dunnie

    I think it comes down to a question of what story are you trying to tell. While I liked watching the director’s cut … I too found that it had a few negative impacts on the film.

    1. I think it crushed the pacing of the theatrical release. It went from being mean and lean … a story more about the marines and Ripley … into a more meandering … some would argue well rounded sci-fi epic. The problem is that just hearing about the colony being wiped out offers more mystery. Coming from the first Alien film … you just HEAR bout the colony being wiped out and all you can think of is that damn egg nest. You know some bad sh*t went down. Who cares about seeing the back story … eluding to it is all that is needed … and it does not slow down the story.

    2. The Sentry Guns … tis one is tough for me … I love the idea of those things .. and they looked so freaking cool. The do however provide problems with the film. By placing them in the hallways is dissolves tension a bit because you now have an automated machine fighting the creatures with no risk. It takes away from the personal feeling of hand to hand combat that the Aliens are know for. They are primitive , but dominant.

    That being said .. they are freaking awesome. =)

    I am going to watch them back to back and really analyze this. Gonna do the same for the first movie too.

    D

  • scott

    I disagree entirely. The inclusion of the ‘guns in the tunnel’ scene creates more tension, not less. It creates a dramatic sense of forbodding, that even with as much technology as the soldiers have, the shear numbers of aliens to an ever dwindling supply of bullets is a recipie for disaster. This coupled with the 17 days to a rescue increases the tension. Finally, their last resort is to baracade themselves in a room whereupon they learn that the aliens have found a way in, something they’ve missed taking the tension to a whole ‘nother level.

    Thinking back to Jason and the Friday the 13th movies, the freddy cougar movies etc, what is scarier…walking into a house where you ‘think’ the killer might be, or knowing that the killer is chasing you and your out of bullets and your only visceral reaction is to run.
    After all what scary movie doesn’t have the villain chasing the lead character at some point?

    Ultimately the aliens went from lurking to chasing and you think that they should have kept lurking. You’re wrong.

    • Jason

      ^ Agree somewhat….also, the Freddy Cougar movies are my fav……way better than The Lion King,..or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

      • Matt

        I was always a big fan of The Aristocats. Always did hate the Tigger Movie though.

  • Collie

    Interesting article. I agree and disagree with what you’re saying. I could have done without the “sentry guns” scene, I agree that it does hinder the tension of the film. I think it’s scarier not knowing where the aliens are at, or what they’re up to, and brings a little a bit of the tone from the first Alien film.

    That said, I think the opening scenes add a lot. I like that we get to meet Newt with her family, like a regular kid, giving us a chance to see the transformation that she went through before Ripley & the crew find her. It also kind of backs up the theme that the Burke character carries throughout the film, being that humans at heart our really out for themselves, and to make a quick buck at any cost. Newt’s parent talk about the dangers of entering the alien craft, but they still end up entering it, in the hopes to make some money on whatever it is they find. I mean technically they are the first domino to everyone dying, a whole colony is lost because of their greed.

    I also like that we get to see the space colony with people, alive. Just normal joes trying to do their jobs, kids running around, regular life in space if you will. Again we get to compare that with the ghost town, that Ripley and Co. arrive to. Unlike in Alien, where some huge corporation feels 6 lives are expendable for a “perfect” being (well a “perfect being” as far as warfare is concerned), in Aliens we have a corporation willing to sacrifice families of people, and by getting a chance to just see just a glimpse of those families in action it makes the corporation that much more evil, as well as Burke. One thing I loved about these films is that in the end, the bad guy is always man.

    One more thing, actually a question here. Is there more added to the board room scene at the top of the movie? I always feel like there is, but I can never place it. Also, do we get the scene where Burke tells Ripley about her daughter in the original cut, or is that scene extended as well?

  • Gadget Man

    Sorry, I don’t agree.

    I read the book ‘Aliens’, by Allan Dean Foster before I saw the film.
    I knew, already about the settlers, and the automatic guns, so, when I saw the film, I felt cheated, by the ‘cut out scenes’.

    Theatrical or directors, it still one of the best action movies ever made.
    If you want suspense, you’ve got it in ‘Alien’.

    Now Alien 3…….,That’s a totally different ball game!

  • Troy

    You make perfect sense and I didn’t see it that way. The reason I didn’t see it that way is because along with the ultra sucky Beginning scene with the settlers (my imagination suited me better) the extra scenes were just more of my very favorite movie. When you have seen this movie as many times as I have, you tend to appreciate 30 seconds a minute, ANYTHING additional to sink your teeth into. I ultimately end up nullifying it in my head anyway. I liked the original as it is. The one thing I enjoyed about the scene with the guns is that it did create some suspense as they were running out of ammo.

  • Phantasmx11

    Disagreed, the added scenes play a key role in the movie and provide a large explanation for why things unfolded this way. Let me guess most who agree it “sucked” are yanks, well i won’t provide a reason why i disagree. You don’t have to provide rats with explanations. Aliens is a classic one version or another, either make a better movie or shut you mouth and know your place.

  • zeus

    I disagree.i prefer the directors cut much more.
    Although the scene with the settlers is un-needed the scene gives the viewing something to go by – what the place was like before disaster struck. Its like seeing a picture of a before and after – without the before the after may not look as powerful.

    The scene with the turrets is one of my favourite in the whole film. It shows off the marines fire power, then seeing the counter go down as more and more aliens are thrown to the bullets – At first this seems like the aliens are not too intelligent but with the later scenes it just shows the aliens were not afraid to die.
    The marines start to panic when the bullets start running low – building up the tension.
    Then the aliens stop – are they dead? why did they stop? what are they up to? All these questions run through the mind of the viewer which i believe builds up more and more tension compared to the cut version.

  • Jimbob Walton

    I partially disagree. The settlers’ scene was half-baked and rushed. I didn’t care about any of the colonists sufficiently prior to their inevitable encounter with the alien vessel, probably owing to the time Cameron had in which to develop the relevant scenes.

    The sentry guns scene was to my mind an excellent addition to the film. It symbolizes the contest between the manufactured and the organic, the programmed and the instinctive. I enjoyed the tension here which was admittedly different to that which must otherwise lay in wondering where the hostile creatures finally intend to attack. It also alludes once more to the marines’ considerable hardware and hence strategic options; they aren’t giving up and still have ‘cards to play’. And, the viewer is still not entirely certain what he should infer from the aliens’ probing, self-sacrificing assaults down those gloomy tunnels.

    The sentry guns are in counterpoint to the the marines’ motion sensors. They are a finite resourse (unlike the seemingly tireless waves of egoless ‘perfect organisms’) which requires the marines to know where and when to use them. Again, we experience an interesting contrast which I deemed to be deliberate and I am surprised they were excluded from the theatrical release.

  • BigBen

    First off, I’m of the mind that both versions are classics. However, I do prefer the directors cut, and for most of the reasons stated previously. The Hadleys Hope scenes provide a reference for what life was like in the colony prior to the sh1t hitting the fan.
    As for the scenes with the sentry guns, that went to what Cameron was (pardon the pun) shooting for with aliens. He was going for something of a Vietnam war in space. A force with superior firepower being beat back by a seemingly primitive force. The colonial marines had all the weapons, pulse rifles, smart guns, grenades, sentry guns, yet it still wasn’t enough.
    I agree with an earlier post that the sentry gun scenes don’t take tension away, but rather add tension. Those scenes aren’t showing that the xenomorphs are unintelligent, but instead, especially when added with them cutting the power, prove that what they’re doing is testing the humans defense. The queen is using her army of drones to seek out the weak points, and when she finds it, that’s when it’s over for most of our heroes.
    After the first wave, we hear the aliens beating at what must be an imprenetable pressure door. They then try the second corridor, and, luckily for the marines and ripley/newt/burke, the creatures don’t realize that the sentry guns are now out of ammo, and thus begin searching for another way in. This to me is where the tension really ramps up, as we now have to wonder just where the hell will they try next.
    To answer a question earlier about the scene where ripley is in front of van luen and the other company execs- yes there is some added dialogue, tho I can’t quite recall exactly what it was. Something van luen was saying to ripley about how the company was going to deal with her.

  • I TOTALLY AGREE! You’ve simply driven the thoughts out of my mind! (Thanks to dmaas too for his further contribution.)
    You are telling the truth, MY FRIEND. THE DAMNED FUCKING TRUTH! A truth that’s written on fire letters over the bloody stone! A truth that ONLY A REAL ALIEN(S) LOVER MIGHT UNDERSTAND! Those scenes are something that should have never been screened and that ruin Aliens perfection!
    It’s nice to know that there’s someone that appreciates and feels something so wonderful as this great film exactly as you do! Hope to meet some day and watch Alien+Aliens together as, I’m almost sure you’ll agree with me, the saga is only Alien+Aliens, PERIOD, STOP, END OF THE STORY. Alien3 and Alien Resurrection are just a pile of shit and would have been better if they wouldn’t ever been made… (pity)…

    Cheers from Italy!
    Dan.

  • Jc cuts are all crap

    Hadleys hope scene was trash all jc,s cuts suck t2 as well has some stupid scenes like kyles ghost. When i saw the director cut of aliens i was highly disappointed by the added colony sequence the acting sucks the diolouge was useless and it totally kills the suspense. Who cares about a back story for newt it adds nothing to the movie just jc trying to force emotion and make a connection that didnt need to be made.

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