thrift store finds: aliens novelization

Less a review and more a trip down memory lane, today’s (and next week’s) thrift store finds are a couple of novelizations based on and around the 1986 movie Aliens.

This week, let’s look at the novelization. Next week, the novelization of a novelization.

The first thing you need to know (and something I’ve mentioned AND drawn previously): I was a huge super-freak about the Aliens franchise. I saw James Cameron’s militaristic 1986 sequel to the movie Alien when it aired as a CBS Movie of the Week in the late 1980’s. While it was bowdlerized for the small screen, that movie resolutely kicked my pre-teenage butt. I became obsessed with all things xenomorph.

How some kids are about Star Wars? That’s how I was about Aliens. It was a natural that I would be interested in the novelization.

Now, because I first saw Aliens on network TV, all the cussing and gore was taken out of the flick… but since Aliens is FULL to the brim with cussing and gore, safely editing the movie for broadcast took out a good five to ten minutes out of the film. CBS resolved this problem creatively by airing a version of Aliens with scenes deleted for the theatrical release re-inserted. Writer/director Cameron is notorious for reshaping his movies in post-production. Almost all of the director’s big hits have cool deleted scenes that landed on the cutting room floor.

Aliens in particular, has a couple of really terrific bits left out of the final cut of the movie. Chief among these, an emotional scene featuring the flick’s protagonist, Ellen Ripley.  After drifting through space for 57 years in a cryogenic freeze, Ripley returns to Earth. Upon returning, she finds her daughter, who was a small child when she left many decades ago, has just died of old age. The revelation packs a wallop and Sigourney Weaver knocks the scene out of the park.

I understand why Cameron lost the scene in the final cut; it slows the flick down. When you sit down to watch a movie called Aliens, you want to get Ripley back to fighting the alien as quickly as possible.  The shame of it is, not only does the scene resonate emotionally, it also goes far to explain Ripley’s motivations throughout the rest of Aliens. When Ripley becomes trapped on the alien planet, she becomes a protector to the only remaining human still surviving there- a small girl named Newt.

Let me stress: you don’t need to know that Ripley feels the loss of a mother when you see her defending Newt tooth and claw. However, knowing this brings some extra gravitas to the next hour and a half of Aliens.

There’s also a scene from later in the movie where, upon being stranded on this hostile planet, Ripley and her band of tough-as-nails marines work to repel an attack from the aliens by setting up some motion sensitive machine guns.  It’s a brief scene- no more than two minutes of the running time, but serves a purpose. The scene illustrates for the audience that the aliens are formidable beyond their physical attributes. In a later scene, the aliens figure out a way to runaround the deadly guns… and this gives us some perspective on their cleverness. They’re not just brutish monsters… they’re thinking brutes.

When I first saw Aliens, I saw it with these scenes reinserted into the running time. I watched it, I LOVED it. Later, I would rent the movie from our local video store… or watch it when it aired on HBO. I would be legitimately confused as to whether or not I had simply imagined those deleted scenes. They were never included in any version of the movie I saw after that CBS airing! This was years before home video would easily accommodate customer interest in extra material, behind the scenes documentaries, and the other ephemera that’s a common part of most DVD releases today.

Now… savvier movie watchers than I would have been able to figure out what had happened. Please keep in mind, I was just a kid living in Upstate New York. I had NO clue about “deleted scenes!”

Not knowing where these scenes came from bugged the hell out of me. At least it did until I ran across the Aliens novelization.

Published in 1986 by Warner Books to coincide with the release of the movie, Aliens is adapted for the page by Alan Dean Foster, a notable science fiction and fantasy writer. While he has many original credits to his name, Foster is perhaps best known for a book he wrote for which he received no author credit. Foster is the scribe behind the novelization to Star Wars

.. although George Lucas received author credit on the front cover. He’s written quite a few novelizations over the years, including all of the first three Alien movie novels.

As you likely know (and as I’ve mentioned previously) novelizations need to be completed on an advanced timetable in order that they reached bookstores at the same time as the movie. As a result, novelizations are often based on shooting scripts or in some cases, early drafts of the script. The story which may change between script and screen will stay relatively unchanged in the novelizations. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed reading novelizations when I was younger- you’d never know when you were going to discover something new about your favorite movie.

The Aliens novelization includes both of the deleted scenes I earlier described. When I originally read the book, I remember feeling an acute sense of relief. I HADN’T IMAGINED THESE CRAZY SCENES. They existed somewhere! For that alone, this book was a godsend for my 12 year old sanity.

One interesting thing about Aliens is it’s pretty clear Foster was told to tone down the intense language throughout the book. That makes a lot of sense, considering the age groups likely to pick this up from the bookstore. All of the four-letter expletives have been excised, from what I can tell from my quick re-read of the novelization.

For the most part, this does not hurt the book, but there is one glaring omission that been making me laugh every time I look at it. This comes from the climatic scene at the end of the movie where the Alien Queen is threatening Newt. Ripley responds by donning a futuristic exo-skeleton called a power loader, and greets the Queen with one of the BEST one-liners in cinematic history.

I’m not going to repeat it here, but I am going to show you the novelization’s version of this scene.

Get away from her… YOU! You! You…. YOU!

4 Responses to “thrift store finds: aliens novelization”

  1. […] I said, this is a good adaptation of the movie… and as with all good film adaptations, this one includes a scent that didn’t make the final […]

  2. […] the other books save for the Aliens Omnibus. I believe that one set me back like $2 dollars… but we all know how much I love the Aliens […]

  3. Alan Dean Foster Says:

    All the cursing and harsh language from the original film/script was in my manuscript. Warner bowdlerized the published version without my knowledge, and without informing me. I didn’t know about it until some fans pointed it out to me.
    Dumbass editing.

  4. Christopher Pearce Says:

    Reblogged this on Teachable Moments and commented:

    So today, April 26th is apparently Alien Day; the numerical date (4-26) is a nod to LV-426, the planet where both the movies Alien and Aliens largely take place. Normally I give this kind of corporate shilling a pass; I don’t care at all about that May the Fourth Be With You/Star Wars thing. However, Aliens was bar non my favorite movie when I was growing up. I was obsessed with it.

    So now for your reading pleasure, let me re-present a Thrift Store Finds post I did back in 2011 where I reread and gave commentary on the novelization of the movie Aliens. The post rated a comment from the author of the novelization himself, Alan Dean Foster!

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