It will be hard for some of you youngsters to believe, but there was a time, not so long ago, when one did not have a global forum in which to air one’s frustrations, nitpick movie mistakes, and call filmmakers hacks. Yes, before there was an internet, we could not simply log into the comments section on IMDb or YouTube and let the world that know that “tHis mOOvie SUx BALZ.” No, we had to put forward our theories of cinematic ball-suckiness person-to-person, perhaps while standing around a water cooler or huffing paint in our parents’ basement. There were even times, believe it or not, when we would become so irate over the shortcomings of a film or TV show that we would sit down, compose our thoughts, and mail them to a magazine.
Such was the case back in 1987, when numerous angry fanboys took to the letter column of Starlog Magazine to vent their hatred for a little science fiction flick called Aliens. Yes, that Aliens. It seems that not everybody thought it was the classic it’s come to be regarded as, and many fans wrote in to nitpick various elements of the film and whinge in general. Where it gets interesting is in what happened next. As pointed out via Reddit, director James Cameron actually addressed the complaints personally in the magazine’s 125th issue. He corrects misunderstandings, explains that some confusing aspects were the result of deleted footage (much of which appeared in the later director’s cut), and generally defends his work.
For instance, one reader had taken issue with the Queen alien. Cameron says:
His contention is that she destroys the original intention of the missing scene in ALIEN. This is perfectly correct, but I find it somewhat irrelevant since as an audience member and as a filmmaker creating a sequel, I can really only be responsible to those elements which actually appeared in the first film and not to its “intentions.” ALIEN screenwriter Dan O’Bannon’s proposed life cycle, as completed in the unseen scene, would have been too restricting for me as a storyteller and I would assume that few fans of ALIENS would be willing to trade the final cat-fight between the moms for a point of technical accuracy that only a microscopic percentage of ALIEN fans might be aware of.
That’s the sort of semi-passive-aggressive reply that was just begging for somebody to invent the internet already. Cameron also responds to one fan’s question about the origins of the crashed derelict ship and the so-called Space Jockey…a long-standing question that’s about to be answered, in one way or another, via the upcoming Prometheus. At the time, however, Cameron didn’t seem interested in providing answers.
I have Ripley specifically telling a member of the inquiry board, ‘I already told you, it was not indigenous, it was a derelict spacecraft, an alien ship, it was not from there.’ That seems clear enough. Don’t ask me where it was from… there are some things man was not meant to know. Presumably, the derelict pilot (space jockey, big dental patient, etc.) became infected en route to somewhere and set down on the barren planetoid to isolate the dangerous creatures, setting up the warning beacon as his last act. What happened to the creature that emerged from him? Ask Ridley.
The entire piece is a fascinating look at Cameron’s thoughts and intentions at the time, and it’s definitely worth reading the whole thing over at AliensCollection. And one final Cameron quote, offered without comment, but with a sidelong accusing glance in the direction of Alien 3: “By the way, it’s not in the goddamed cat and it’s not in Newt, either. I would never be that cruel.”