Superior Firepower: Making Aliens is a 2003 documentary directed by Charles de Lauzirika that details the production of the 1986 film Aliens. Created for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, it uses extensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, as well as a wealth of behind the scenes footage and imagery, to examine all aspects of the development, filming and release of the movie.
- 1 Overview
- 1.1 57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
- 1.2 Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
- 1.3 Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
- 1.4 This Time It's War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
- 1.5 The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
- 1.6 Bug Hunt: Creature Design
- 1.7 Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
- 1.8 Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
- 1.9 The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
- 1.10 The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
- 1.11 Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film
- 2 History
- 3 Enhancement Pods
- 4 Availability
- 5 Trivia
- 6 References
The documentary is divided into eleven separate chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Aliens' production. As with all of Charles de Lauzirika's documentaries on the films in the Alien series, it features no formal narration but instead relies on newly-filmed and archive interview clips to tell the story of the film's development, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage and images.
57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
The first chapter covers the initial stalling of a sequel due to a change in management at 20th Century Fox shortly after the release of the original movie. It goes on to cover the revival of interest in a follow-up, and the subsequent recruitment of James Cameron to the project. Also discussed is the pay dispute with Sigourney Weaver that at one point jeopardized Ripley's inclusion.
Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
The second chapter covers the hiring of the film's key concept artists and their work on the designing the film's sets. Cameron's own involvement in the design of the film's technology is also discussed. The construction of the sets is covered, including the conversion of a second-hand British Airways airport tug into the Colonial Marines' APC.
Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
The third chapter covers the casting of the film's supporting roles, including the need to conduct exhaustive testing of every American actor registered to British Actors Equity as a result of the union's rules. The documentary also mentions the boot camp training program the Marine actors went through in preparation for their roles, and the personalization of their combat uniforms.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, actors Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Mark Rolston and Christopher Henn, Peter Lamont, and casting director Mary Selway, as well as archive interviews with actors Paul Reiser, William Hope and Al Matthews, and stunt coordinator Paul Weston.
This Time It's War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
The fourth chapter looks at the start of filming at Pinewood Studios and Acton Lane Power Station. In particular, it details the significant tension that existed on set as a result of cultural and working differences between the British film crew and director Cameron — including the firing of the film's original director of photography and an incident with a trolley of sandwiches that almost shut down production entirely. The late casting of Michael Biehn is also discussed.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, David Giler, actors Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jennette Goldstein, Mark Rolston and Jay Benedict, Alien effects creator Stan Winston, special effects supervisor John Richardson, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, effects artists Alec Gillis, Joss Williams, John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan, and makeup supervisor Peter Robb-King.
The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
The fifth chapter covers the creation of the Marines' weapons, from concept (by Cameron) to construction (by armorers Bapty & Co.). Several cast members discuss their previous experience handling weapons, while Sigourney shares her personal dislike of firearms and discomfort at working with them. The documentary then covers the filming of some the movie's action sequences, including several incidents and accidents that befell the shoot.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Mark Rolston and John Richardson, as well as archive interviews with Al Matthews, Paul Weston, and armorer Simon Atherton.
Bug Hunt: Creature Design
The sixth chapter focuses on the development of the Facehugger, Chestburster and Drone designs, and how the practical effects used to show them were modified or developed from those seen in the first film. Particular attention is paid to the design of the various Facehugger puppets sued to bring the creatures to life like never before.
Includes interviews with Michael Biehn, Jennette Goldstein, Stan Winston, John Richardson, effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr., John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan and Richard Landon, as well as an archive interview with James Cameron.
Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
The seventh chapter covers the close bond formed between Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn during the shoot, particularly after the rest of the cast members had left the production, their scenes complete. It also touches on the concern some felt for involving a nine year-old girl in the production of such a violent and scary film, and the efforts taken to minimize its impact on her.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn and Peter Robb-King, as well as an archive interview with Paul Weston.
Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
The eighth chapter focuses on the development and construction of the 14' Alien Queen puppet, starting with a crude proof-of-concept model built and tested in a parking lot in Los Angeles, before looking at at the rigors of filming with such a revolutionary animatronic. After detailing the effects trickery used to realise the scene in which the Queen impales Bishop and rips him in two, the documentary moves on to her climactic battle with the Power Loader, the design and construction of which is also covered.
Includes interviews with Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Stan Winston, John Richardson, Pat McClung, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Joss Williams, John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan and Richard Landon.
The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
The ninth chapter covers James Horner's work on the film's soundtrack, including the drastically truncated time period he was allotted to complete his score and the resultant souring of his relationship with Cameron. Finally, Horner explains his subsequent reconciliation with the director on the production of Titanic. The importance of the movie's sound mix in creating tension is also addressed.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, composer James Horner, and sound mixer Graham Hartstone, as well as an archive interview with James Cameron.
The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
The tenth and longest chapter covers the extensive miniature model work involved in making the film. Among the miniatures detailed are the derelict ship (for which the original model from Alien was used, recovered from the collection of Bob Burns), the Hadley's Hope colony, the Hive foreground miniature and the Sulaco model. Particular focus is given the shooting of the dropship crash sequence, the charge of the APC inside the Atmosphere processor, and the miniature effects used during the Queen/Power Loader battle.
Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film
The final chapter covers the release of the film, including the acclaim it won and Weaver's nomination for an Academy Award, which was unprecedented for an actress in a horror movie at the time. Many of the cast and crew reflect on their own personal opinion of the movie, and also share stories from their experiences seeing it in theaters.
Includes interviews with Gale Anne Hurd, David Giler, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jennette Goldstein, Mark Rolston, John Richardson, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Peter Robb-King, as well as an archive interview with James Cameron.
Originally presented in a 4:3 full screen aspect ratio for the Alien Quadrilogy box set, Lauzirika elected to "rebuild" the documentary for the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set as a 16:9 widescreen presentation. This conversion essentially entailed the cropping of the interview and vintage on-set footage to the new widescreen format, while the various title graphics were replaced with newly rendered equivalents.
For the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set, several previously-unreleased "Enhancement Pods", essentially deleted and extended scenes from the main documentary, were made available for the first time. These cover a wide range of topics, many of which are already mentioned in the documentary itself, and provide additional detail and trivia. Unlike the main documentaries, the interview footage they contain did not undergo conversion to a widescreen aspect ratio.
A single Enhancement Pod planned for the Anthology set, titled "Dailies: James Remar as Hicks", was removed from the Blu-ray late in development at the request of Lightstorm Entertainment (James Cameron's production company). Had it been included, this would have been the first time footage of Remar playing Hicks was released to the public.
- "Without Sigourney Weaver"
- "Origins of Acheron"
- "Building Hadley's Hope"
- "Cameron's Design Philosophy"
- "Finding an Unused Power Plant"
- "Cameron's Military Interests"
- "Working with Sigourney Weaver"
- "The Importance of Being Bishop"
- "Paul Reiser on Carter Burke"
- "The Paxton/Cameron Connection"
- "Becoming Vasquez"
- "On Set: Infiltrating the Colony"
- "Props: Personal Light Unit"
- "Simon Atherton Talks Weapons"
- "Prasing Stan Winston"
- "Test Footage: Chestburster"
- "Fighting the Facehugger"
- "Test Footage: Facehugger"
- "Stan Winston's Challenge"
- "Test Footage: Queen Alien"
- "Stan Winston's Legacy"
- "Cameron's Cutting Edge"
- "Sigourney Weaver's Triumph"
- "Re-Enlisting with Cameron"
- "From Producer to Stunt Double"
As well as the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set for which it was created, Superior Firepower can also be found on the Aliens: Collector's Edition DVD set. It has subsequently been included in the Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set, as well as the Prometheus to Alien: The Evolution box set.
- Most of the archive interview clips that appear in the documentary were originally filmed for a series of Aliens promotional featurettes, while additional archive interview clips featuring James Cameron were taken from HBO First Look: Alien Resurrection - Behind the Scenes.
- The title of the second chapter in the documentary, "Building Better Worlds", is a reference to Weyland-Yutani's corporate slogan.
- Similarly, the fourth chapter's title, "This Time It's War", is a reference to the tagline for Aliens.
- The fifth chapter's title, "The Risk Always Lives", is a reference to what is written on Private Vasquez's armor chest plate in the film, "El riesgo siempre vive".
- The sixth chapter's title, "Bug Hunt", is named after a quote from Private Hudson in the film.
- "The Digital Bits - Blu-ray Review: Alien Anthology". Retrieved on 2016-01-11.