- Directed by James Cameron
- July 18, 1986
Ellen Ripley is found in outer space having been lost for 50 years. With a colony now established on the exomoon LV-426 and communications having stopped, she must return to where her nightmare began.
Aliens is one of the best sequels to any film ever. Perhaps the best sequel ever. They did something completely different here from the first but managed to remain true to the original. The first film was a horror film in space while this was more of a militaristic science-fiction shoot-‘em-up action film. Completely different yet both fit nicely in the Alien world.
Sigourney Weaver returned as Ellen Ripley. She was tougher and more of a butt kicker here than merely a blue-collar stiff struggling to survive an extraordinary situation. She was clearly damaged by the events of the first film and that trauma motivated her here on out. Carrie Henn makes her only film appearance here as Newt. Apparently, she decided to not pursue acting and decided to become a teacher. I am curious how that works out when parents or students discover that bit about her biography.
Michael Biehn joined the Alien universe as Ripley’s love interest Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Supposedly he was cast after filming had already began and replaced original Hicks choice James Remar. I think he worked out better than Remar would have. There was real chemistry between Biehn and Weaver. Biehn was also in the first Terminator and The Abyss (two VERY big movies) plus this yet he never really achieved a high level of stardom. Conversely Bill Paxton as Private Hudson, despite an annoying performance here, I dare say made it bigger than Biehn. They even were in The Terminator together though neither shared a scene.
Who knew Paul Reiser could play a scumbag so well? He is amazing here as the villainous Weyland-Yutani Corporation representative Burke. What he did here is something he brought to his role in the second season of Stranger Things. The man does not get enough credit. I knew him from the 80s sitcom My Two Dads before I ever saw this and I was like “Holy cow!” The guy has talent.
Lance Henriksen shows up here for the first of two appearances as the android Bishop. This and his role as Detective Vukovich in The Terminator are significantly lighter than most of what he is known for or has done since. I would think he would have received lighter roles and not have been always cast so seriously.
Jenette Goldstein shows up in her first Cameron film here as Private Vasquez. She would go on to show up as John’s foster mother Janelle in Terminator 2, and as a mother in Titanic. As long as her first two Cameron collaborations have been out it should be surprising that people do not realize they are the same actress, but she looks completely different between the two. It is a universe of difference there. I still find people surprised that they are the same person. I guess that is a sign of good acting.
Aliens is a solid action film. No doubt about it. It has plenty of “Oh, crap!” moments but nothing scary like what was in the first film. There is nothing to shock you or that will get you to jump. The gunfights are thrilling and edge of your seat, but the firepower and cool toys are not the driving factors. The inexperience of Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) in the initial encounter and his paralysis by fear create the tension. The fear and unease are upped as the cast is pushed further back by the advancing menace that is not dissuaded by the auto-guns. And that moment with the Aliens being discovered in the ceiling is classic. Good stuff.
This film also continues with the theme of corporate greed being the motivation for all the problems. And honestly it kind of makes sense for Weyland-Yutani to give it a second shot at capturing another one of these creatures but after this movie it would seem rather illogical for anybody to want to try and catch one given that they wipe out everybody whenever it’s tried. Unless bioweapons are a huge business, I cannot see the amount of resources expended worth it. I am arguing fictional economics. Geez…
Aliens also managed to expand upon the mythology begun in the first film without altering it or sending it in some illogical direction. In the previous movie the eggs were just there in the alien vessel. You could assume this was some type of cargo for the vessel or that they had a reason to be hauling them and nothing more. Here they introduce the Alien Queen as the creature that laid all those eggs. It was an explanation that made sense in the context of already present information and was not forced in.
The character of Newt should have introduced the cute kid element into the film but instead she introduced a sense of menace to the story as well as a means to aid the assorted characters. She provided them with a little bit of information. She did give Ripley a little something else to fight for besides just her own survival so it was kind of the cute kid thing but not quite. Cute Kid 2.0 maybe? No matter what the character is, Newt never slowed the story nor added out of place adorability like cute kids usually do.
Rather than try to create another horror film, director James Cameron instead decided to make this a militaristic action film. While that produced a great film here it unfortunately was more or less the trend that moved through the next two sequels. It is something that worked once but does not work again and again. Once is creative but with each successive iteration it just became hack writing. Aliens also started the trend of the directors of these films showing the creature right out. There is no surprise. There is no build up to the big reveal. There is no investment of the audience in the movie when it comes to the creature. Do not give away the milk for free! Make us wait!
Yes, we all know what the creature looks like now. Even at that point most knew. And we all want to see it but if you make the audience wait to see what they came to see then they are invested more in the film. I had hoped that they would return to some of the previously mentioned elements with Ridley Scott returning to the series but that did not happen.
Aliens is an exciting story. It is a great movie and quite possibly one of the best sequels ever put on film. If you do not like this, then you do not like good movies.