Pros: Intense action, thrilling terror, humanity and some humor.
Cons: None for me. Some might find it too intense (their loss)
Do you like both movies and films? Do you like films that have a lot of action yet also take time to establish their characters? Do you like films with strong protagonists? Do you like films that have great special effects yet don’t forget to include humanity?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then Aliens is your film.
Aliens is of course the 1986 sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien. Now Alien is a classic, no two ways about it. It’s easily the scariest sci-fi movie ever made and is one of only a handful of movies that has ever actually succeeded in getting me to jump out of my seat.
On Aliens, the directorial reigns were passed from Scott to James Cameron who had just broken through with the original Terminator. Cameron wrote the script as well as directing the film itself and the change is apparent. While Scott’s film was pure sci-fi horror, Cameron’s is pure sci-fi action with an element of horror and just the right amount of human drama. Thus it joins the original at masterpiece level. The only drawback is that the huge financial success of this demanded two increasingly pointless sequels.
When we last met Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) she had just ejected the killer Alien from the ship Nostromo after it made mincemeat of the rest of her crew. Upon escaping from the ship, she spent the next 57 years in a state of hypersleep before being rescued. Upon rescue, she’s informed by her bureaucratic employers that they do not believe her story and her pilot’s license is revoked. She also discovers that her daughter died during those 57 years (a point that wasn’t shown in the original theatrical release of Aliens yet is shown in the director’s cut on DVD).
So Ripley has now gone from one nightmare to another when Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), an executive at Weyland-Yutani, the corporation she was working for, comes with an offer. The planet LV-426, where she and the Nostromo crew originally encountered the alien, has become a place for terraforming. However, contact has been lost with the colony. So they’re sending up a platoon of Marines to investigate. Since Ripley is the only one to have first-hand experience with those outer space monsters which the company does not believe exist, they want her to go along with them. At first Ripley refuses. But then agrees after extracting a promise from Burke that they will destroy any of the aliens they find. Lying through his teeth, Burke agrees.
Upon arriving, they discover that the colony has been totally decimated, aside from one brave young girl nicknamed Newt. This time, it’s not just one alien, it’s a whole colony. The aliens are soon making mincemeat out of everyone and it’s a desperate fight to make it off the planet alive before the monsters get em or the nuclear reactor blows.
Aliens takes a little while to get going. But once the action arrives after the 35 minute set-up, it never lets up. This is one intense movie.
That does not mean that this is just mindless blow s*** up action like the truly noxious Transformers movies. There’s plenty of humanity here, most notably in the scenes between Ripley and Newt. There’s also scenes between Ripley and Marine corporal Hicks (Cameron regular Michael Biehn). Most of the humor comes from one liners by Private Hudson (Bill Paxton). Some of his most famous ones include “Game Over man! Game over!” and “We’re on the express elevator to hell, going down!”.
Burke is your classic evil corporate baddie, the one who puts bucks ahead of human lives. Ripley gets an accurate line later on in the film when she observes of Burke vs the aliens: “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them f****** each other over for a goddamn percentage”. When he gets his, you’ll find yourself cheering.
Of course, I can’t not mention Lance Henriksen (also a Cameron regular) as android Bishop. He manages ot bring a certain sense of humanity to this cyborg. Carrie Henn gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by a child actor. She chose not to make a acting her career, deciding to become a teacher instead. But this performance rocks.
Like I noted previously, while Scott was making a horror movie set in outer space, Cameron’s prime focus was on making an action one. He succeeds totally. Which is not to say that this one doesn’t have some terrifying moments.
Alien was a great film. Aliens takes what it does well and multiplies it by 10. The result is my pick for best sci-fi film of all-time. You can keep Titanic and Avatar. This is James Cameron’s masterpiece.