I have an image, of a young, scholarly Quinn (my son) entering his Middle School science fair… where he has been prodded into covering the life cycle of insects. Why? Really so that I can somehow work a viewing of Aliens into his personal curriculum.
Ideally it would be both Alien followed by Aliens (followed, later on I suppose, by Prometheus when we start a lesson on the pitfalls of storytelling). However, if it’s only one movie, I prefer the message of Aliens a little better—that while there may actually be things hiding under your bed (or as Newt would say: “My mommy always said there were no monsters—no real ones—but there are.”), you can at least take them out with targeted bursts of 10 millimeter explosive tip caseless/standard light armor piercing rounds.
After recently re-watching Aliens, I also went to the script. IMSDB has what’s fairly close to a shooting script, but with a few key details regarding the creatures (that I’m sure Q. will somehow work into his project):
- The alien warriors don’t eat you, they sting you.
In the film, Lt. Gorman’s knocked out by falling cargo during the APC escape, and remains unconscious until a good while later. In the script, he suffers a much different injury—an alien atop the APC smashes through a window and tries to drag him out, first stabbing him with its tail. Like an insect, its tail functions as a stinger, used to stun and incapacitate prey. Which further explains how victims are brought back to the nest and cocooned; they’re unconscious when this happens. When Gorman reappears later on, this proves the alien’s sting is only temporary (and so Ripley knows that it’s still possible to go save Newt).
This detail was written out for the shooting script, which changes things considerably. Paul Reiser’s character (Carter Burke) appears to have been attacked and eaten by an alien during the climactic battle, but he originally would have been stung and dragged away as well. In the earlier script, Ripley finds him cocooned on her way to rescuing Newt; instead of freeing him, she hands him a grenade to kill himself before an implanted alien can burst through his chest. That’s… pretty cold. Better perhaps that he die at the hands of the aliens, as shown.
It would also have made for a haunting detail for Ripley to find the captured Colonial Marines here as well (not in the script, but only my twisted imagination). After all, she herself claims Sgt. Apone and the others would also have been cocooned; here, she may have found them, already dead.
- The aliens are smarter than we think.
If you’ve ever seen the deleted scenes, the marines regroup after the APC crash and inventory their remaining gear. It’s not much in the final film. In the deleted scenes, however, they also have automatic sentry guns, which they use to guard the corridor that runs between their outpost and the main facility. When the aliens first come for them, the sentry guns mow them down, almost running out of ammo in the process.
It’s only then that the aliens cut the power and make a second attempt. And it really is strategic on their part; they cut the power, thinking this will disable the guns, then cling to the infrastructure over the drop ceilings in order to move past the barricades. They are not—as Hudson believes—just animals, man.
- The Alien Queen is way smarter than we think.
It starts from the top, of course. The Queen may not only be intelligent, but highly calculating as well. The Marines can’t just hold up and wait for rescue; there’s a problem with the venting, and the whole facility is due to blow in a matter of hours; I never quite got this from viewing (although it’s clearly right there), but the venting issue was a direct result of the Marines’ disastrous firefight. Exactly as Ripley warned against, use of high caliber weapons ruptured something in the cooling system.
Now, why would the Aliens build their nest where they did? On one hand, they were drawn to the heat. Just animals, man. In the script, however, Ripley theorizes that the Alien Queen nested there intentionally—knowing that invaders would be at risk if they ever tried to destroy her nest.
Add to that, Ripley escapes the Alien Queen by taking an elevator back to the top of the facility. In the film, the Queen sees her do this and takes a second elevator car. In the script, Ripley can’t even get to the elevator in time—she takes the ladder/stairs, which the Queen can’t fit. Doesn’t matter—Ripley already called the elevator down, and the Alien Queen still understands to ride it after her. And so Ripley needs to race up the stairs faster than the elevator—which would have made for a more frantic, exhausting chase.
So, that’ll be my kid at the science fair someday with the enclosed terrarium/diorama filled with wasps, or termites, or whatever, built around a homemade Aliens playset.