Anyone who knows me even a little is likely to know how much of an Aliens fan I am, and to a lesser extent the Alien franchise in general; certainly up to a point, with my fandom not extending to enjoyment of any of the movies past Alien 3 – and yes, just to clarify, I do actually enjoy Alien 3 itself despite its obvious faults.

If you do need any more proof, go check out how many articles on this very blog are tagged with the word ‘xenomorph‘. Or take a look at the Polygon article I wrote in which I ranked the entire current run of Alien tie-in novels from Titan Books. I’ve been a fan since the late 80s, when my Alien-obsessed uncle finally deemed me old enough to check out the only two films in the franchise that existed at that time. And they had a huge impact on me in so many different ways.

So of course, it’s only natural that the first – and so far only – episode of Netflix series The Movies That Made Us that I’ve checked out has been the one focusing on Aliens.

Despite my passion for the film – which has remained undiminished since I first watched it at the tail end of the 80s – along with the fact that I’ve devoured all kinds of information related to its production over the years, there was still a lot in this episode that surprised me to discover.

It goes surprisingly deeply into the troubles that the production faced. Amongst the issues delved into are things such as James Cameron’s tyrannical – but clearly effective – directing style causing massive friction, producer Gale Anne Hurd (then newly wed to Cameron) not getting the respect she deserved from the crew and even James Remar, who was initially cast as Hicks, dabbling in hard drugs – then getting arrested before being fired.

Despite Remar’s replacement, Michael Biehn, being so iconic as Hicks – so good in the role that I genuinely couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the Colonial Marine Corporal – I still really felt for Remar. It is a relief to hear that he’s actually been sober for a very long time, however.

It’s fascinating to see how much of a role Sigourney Weaver herself played in smoothing relations between the crew and the director, which reached such a low that it threatened to derail the entire production.

It’s great to catch up with the rest of the cast too, though sadly Biehn and even Lance Henriksen – aka ‘artificial person’ Bishop – aren’t interviewed. Likewise – and perhaps understandably – James Cameron is notably absent. The late Bill Paxton’s premature passing – he died in 2016 at the age of 61 – is covered and it still hurts so much that such a vibrant, talented and likable actor has been taken from us, far too soon.

Though lots of the interviews are full of great insight into the production, the great special effects work, its budgetary struggles and on-set bust-ups, I’m still not enamoured with the hyperactive editing style, which errs on the side of trying (and often failing) to be funny far too often. It’s an issue that also plagued sister series, The Toys That Made Us. Despite this weakness in the presentation, thankfully – and again, just like the toy-focused series before it – the strength of the interviews and the fascinating insight they bring to the table does save the day.

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