Notes on watching “Aliens” for the first time again, with a bunch of kids
For his 11th birthday, my son asked if he could have a slumber party. He invited seven other fifth-grade boys. They played video games for a
couple of hours, ate pizza, then said they wanted to watch a movie.
They’d seen every comic book movie multiple times. Seen all the Indiana
Jones films. Star Wars. Anything with a hobbit in it. The usual 11-year
old boy options, circa 2015, weren’t going to work.
So I suggested “Aliens,”
thinking, “Well, it’s exciting, and even if they haven’t see the first
one, the movie tells the story well enough that you won’t be confused
about who Ripley is and what’s at stake for her.”
(some of them had seen the first one anyway, and nearly all had seen at
least one film with a xenomorph in it) and so we watched it together.
And as we watched, I realized again that while unfortunately you can’t
see a great movie again for the first time, the next-best thing is to
show it to people who’ve never seen it.
My first time with James
Cameron’s sci-fi war movie was a great filmgoing experience. I saw
“Aliens” at the NorthPark 1 and 2 theater at NorthPark Mall in my
hometown of Dallas, with a high school classmate who was, at that time,
my regular action movie-watching buddy: Gabe Michaels. We drove to
NorthPark to catch the 11 a.m. show on opening day and got in line a
couple of hours early. We’d already drunk a bit of soda beforehand and I
think we might have downed some more while standing in line. When we
got into the theater, they seated us immediately and there was only one
preview, for “The Fly,” and then wham, they started the movie. Neither
Gabe nor I nor anyone else who’d been standing in that line wanted to
get up from our seats and answer nature’s call, even though we all
pretty desperately had to; there was a lot of muttering and shifting in
seats, quite a few “grin and bear it” expressions.
If you’ve seen
the film, you know there are no aliens to speak of for the first hour,
then suddenly there are aliens all over the place, coming out of the
walls and ceiling, drooling and shrieking and dragging Marines off into
the darkness to be cocooned. It’s one of the greatest releases of
built-up tension in action film history. Throughout
this sequence the audience was enthralled, screaming as the xenomorphs
attacked, cheering as Ripley took control of the all-terrain vehicle to
rescue the imperiled Colonial Marines. Then when the ATV crashed through
the wall, the music stopped, and Hicks told her she’d blown the
trans-axle and need to “ease down, Ripley, ease down,” everyone
collectively seemed to realize they were being given a breather, so at
that point Gabe and I and probably a fifth of the audience rose from our
seats and headed for the bathrooms: fast-walking, some running.
at the urinals were peeing as fast as they could because they didn’t
want to miss another minute of “Aliens.” You’d have thought somebody was
timing them. Like this was the Olympic qualifying round for the bladder
evacuation team. But they weren’t going fast enough to suit a guy
standing near the front door of men’s room. He yelled, "Goddammit! All of you, piss faster!“
And that’s when I knew "Aliens” was going to be a hit.
Anyway, the slumber party…