I just watched Aliens for the first time

I have a confession. A happy one: yesterday marked the first time I'd watched the movie Aliens from start to finish. I know. It was the strangest thing. I'd gone my entire adult life (and most of my childhood) presuming I'd seen it simply because I could remember and understand so many references from it. Nearly every line spoken by the Marines was familiar — and often lines I unknowingly reference myself. I've always wanted to nuke things from orbit — but now I'm sure why. I caught it on Netflix.com using the new Starz play library, which isn't anything near DVD quality, but was good enough. I remembered lots of scenes, which means that I probably saw bits of it here and there over the years. (The final battle against the queen? I'm positive I've watched it.) But within a couple of seconds of the credits I knew I hadn't watched the whole thing through, especially when Paul Reiser's Carter Burke walked on screen. The next couple of hours were one solid block of disarming familiarity, a movie so essential to geekdom that I'd been able to build a convincing model of it in relief just from the impression it made on so many other things I've enjoyed. So of course I wanted to buy some sneakers. Reebok actually issued the "Alien Stomper" shoes that Ripley wears throughout the film, although I haven't been able to confirm that they actually did a red-and-white colorway like hers. Surely they did, but they were released in 1987 and specifics are spare. [Update: Yup, there was a red version. Zappos teasingly hosts an image of it, but returns no results for the shoes in their database.] There was at least one reissue, a surprisingly awesome Freddy Krueger edition with screaming burned flesh on the soles. (Three pair on eBay for $80 each. Go get 'em, dreamers!) I was also quite taken with Ripley's jumpsuit, which appears to have some sort of intricate lacing around the lower back, a subtle feminine touch on a utilitarian design that complements such a "tough, competent and...maternal" character. If you happen to know if it was a custom costume or something that was used by a real military I'd be curious to hear about it. Anyway, what a treat. I got a lifetime of presuming I was versed in a classic but got to savor it twenty years after all my friends. How often does that happen? If only they'd made a sequel to Star Wars.
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22 Responses to I just watched Aliens for the first time

  1. A New Challenger says:

    I just watched both Alien and Aliens for the first time last year. Both great movies. Last month I caught a bit of Aliens on cable at my friend’s house, and our discussion as the movie played out eventually lead to the realization that every video game ever is an homage to these two films. Well, at least StarCraft and Metroid are. There are 4 or 5 references to Aliens in StarCraft, most of them from the dropship unit.

  2. akbar56 says:

    For the record, Alien and Aliens should never be compared as to which is the better film.

    One is a horror/suspense/thriller set in a scifi setting the other is an action/thriller set in a scifi setting.

  3. the Other michael says:

    I’ve never seen “War Games.”

    Sadly, I cannot say the same for “Hackers.”

  4. hohum says:

    @10 Akbar56, I don’t necessarily think that means that one can’t be compared to the other (for the record, I find oranges to be far superior to apples, excepting Granny Smiths). Just because they may fall into slightly different genres doesn’t excuse the fact that Aliens is merely entertaining on a shallow, surface level while Alien feels more like a good movie. That is, Aliens makes its genre apparent by its lack of other redeeming qualities, while Alien is just an all around solid film.

  5. bobkat says:

    Halloween Jack, the difference between Aliens and Shrek is much greater than you perhaps imagine.

  6. themindfantastic says:

    There is at least two versions of Aliens out there, when I saw the first I was a kid and I thought it was pretty kick ass, but then ‘Blowed em up good’ was kind of my movie ratings system when I was younger. The slightly longer more indepth directors cut however is much more worthy to watch, and while I knew I had seen the film before it was much more satisfying to my now adult, able to comprehend emotional/intellectual depth, viewing sensibilities. But there be the blowed em up good in it to satisfy the kid in me still.

    Granted I still prefer Alien (still almost drop a brick watching the film, and I know it like the back of my hand) but Aliens is not without its merits. The costuming I have seen people make pretty good facsimilies of, even a guy who did the Burke (Paul Riser) character very well, vest and everything. Pretty Awesome.

  7. racer x says:

    I’ve had that same thing happen with movies and other cultural events. I call the understanding of things one has not personally seen “cultural osmosis.” It’s what I blame for knowing so much about Grand Theft Auto without ever having played.

  8. Chris Furniss says:

    I am currently doing a similar thing with movies and books that I have missed for whatever reason. A few weeks ago I saw Blade Runner for the first time.

    I know.

    It is very interesting how all the elements of these movies are ingrained into our collective geek knowledge. And it is pure joy to see all the pieces fit together.

  9. tsteele999 says:

    Aliens was the movie I took my second-ever date to in 1986…first date was to “The Fly”, boy could I pick ‘em.

  10. HeatherB says:

    I didn’t get to watch the film until I was an adult either. I was banned from viewing the film as a child and as a teenager I never really got a round to it as it wasn’t on the top of my or any of my mates to do list. There is no shame.

  11. glenfant says:

    The Aliens Director’s Cut is the one and only movie I ever watched on Laserdisc. Yes, we had to flip it over an hour and a half through the film.

  12. Nelson.C says:

    I think lacing is a feature of g-suits of a certain era. A little googling turned up this pic, which shows a lot more lacing than I remember from Ripley’s suit.

  13. strider_mt2k says:

    Nice man! Congrats!

    It’s a great film. :D

  14. Joel Johnson says:

    Yo, Strider! Did you want to get in on the Faucet? We couldn’t find your email.

  15. dhalgren says:

    I was lucky enough to see Alien at the Egyptian in Hollywood when it first came out. Aliens of course I loved.

    Hold the phones though…

    I have not seen E.T.

    I was a bit too old to see it when it came out and I haven’t bothered since. I figure I’ve gone this long, I’ll not bother.

    Speaking of Aliens, wtf was Spielberg and Lucas thinking at the end of the newest Indiana Jones movie?!?!

  16. Halloween Jack says:

    I completely get this. I haven’t seen any of the Austin Powers or Shrek films, although I’ve seen bits and pieces of them. Ditto for Napoleon Dynamite. Sometimes I tend to resist watching a film precisely because everyone says “you gotta see this.”

  17. TEKNA2007 says:

    Lucky you, Joel. I wish I could watch it for the first time, again.

    Got to see it in a colossal wide-screen movie theatre that no longer exists (Atlanta’s old “Columbia”). That was just so maxed out on every metric of wow-factor.

    God damn it, Spunkmeyer …

  18. SamF says:

    Wow, freaky (kinda, sorta, I guess). Last night someone in a BB thread mentioned Videodrome and I was like “man, I want to watch that again. I haven’t seen it for years.” So I watched it on netflix last night, and right after it started I was like “wait. I don’t remember this. I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched this all the way through”. I think I’d probably seen part of the edited-for-TV version years ago.

    Also, instead of remembering movies I’ve never seen, I’d like to forget movies I have seen. And instead of a Star Wars sequel, I’d make it a Star Wars prequel.

  19. hohum says:

    But, but, have you seen Alien? I think I’m in the minority, but I thought Ridley Scott’s was the best film in the series…

    @3 Glenfant, You had to flip it an hour into the film, not an hour and a half. Or maybe every half hour. But those are the only two possibilities with an LD – CLV discs hold 1 hour per side, and CAV discs hold 1/2 hour per side. So it was even more annoying than you remember. But so charming!

  20. Gainclone says:

    I’ve never cared for Aliens. I prefer Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” No “S” on the end. It’s more like a real movie and less like a generally shitty action film.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I watched Blade Runner for the first time a few months ago. To be honest, it isn’t as good as it’s hyped to be.

  22. star35 says:

    The first time I saw Aliens I was tucked up in bed with very high fever and ‘flu and I hallucinated most of the way through it. It was much scarier than any other version I’ve ever seen!

    I also saw the most surreal Betty Boop cartoon ever on the same afternoon and I’ve never been quite sure if I imagined it or if it was just that crazy anyway.

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