It’ll Be Dark Soon, and They Mostly Come at Night … Mostly.
Continuing onward in the series that should’ve lead up to Prometheus and I’m coming to realize that I have a bad memory. Okay, I realized that a long time ago, but I’ve forgotten that by now. When I got to thinking about the Alien series, I could only remember the vaguest of feelings towards them. I remembered that I liked the first one, and I’m pretty sure that I liked the second one. But when I got to thinking about it I began to think that the sequel may have just been pretty much a remake of the original, but this time with a bigger budget. But that couldn’t be right, could it? We’ll find out today in my review of Aliens, written and directed by James Cameron, and starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, William Hope, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston, and Colette Hiller.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is found on her rescue vessel after drifting for 57 years in stasis. Being one of the only survivors of the destruction of the space freighter, the Nostromo, after its invasion by an alien creature – the other survivor being her cat – is something to be proud of, but her employer, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, quickly deflates her with tales of how her daughter died already (at the ripe old age of 66) and that she’s losing her flight license because they don’t believe her nonsense about aliens. They start believing when a terraforming colony on LV-426 comes across the Xenomorph eggs and subsequently disappear. A representative of the company, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), and a Colonial Marine, Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope), approach Ripley to get her to join them in investigating the distress signal from the colony, but are met with a detailed instruction manual on where to sit, what to sit on, and which direction to spin. Realizing that her nightmares will never relent if she hides from her fear, she begrudgingly agrees to go, so long as their mission is to kill the creatures and not study them.
Aliens is definitely the best movie in the Alien series. And I was wrong: it’s not just a remake of the first movie, but this time with more money. It’s similar in the basic idea, but it’s amped up and infused with plenty of things that set it apart. It kind of changes its theme a little bit. Alien was a sci-fi horror movie, and this one is more of a classic sci-fi action movie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Especially when the movie goes full throttle for the greater majority of the movie. It starts off with the basic setup, which is necessary because you would desperately need to answer the important question: Why would Ripley allow herself to be taken back into this situation? It gets answered with Ripley’s own desire to put her nightmares away by facing her fears so she doesn’t have to wake up sweaty and rubbing her boobs every night, and with her need to show that she wasn’t imagining the situation to the company that revoked her license. Probably a little bit for the safety of the colony too. This first part of the movie is a little slow, but it’s entirely acceptable. Setup is necessary in the movie, so you really didn’t need to throw in the scene of Ripley dreaming that she was having one of the creatures burst through her chest, just to get a bit of an easy thrill in the early stages of the movie without actually having to commit to anything by making it a dream. But then she gets on the ship with the roughnecks and the movie remains on a steady stream of awesome all the way through. The look of the movie maintains its quality, and indeed amps it up in most parts. When looking at some of the CG, I was reminded of talks when the movie Avatar came out about how some of the vehicles in that movie looked so much like the ones in this movie, those critics apparently forgetting the fact that the movies were written and directed by the same guy. I would say one criticism I had for the look was the automated turrets. I can understand that all movies have limits to their budgets to work around, and that might make them show exciting action scenes where turrets are blasting down hordes of aliens by only showing us the ammo count on a computer screen, but it’s also entirely possible that the movie would not have changed much at all if you just left the scene out entirely.
The performances in the movie were good, but I didn’t necessarily like all of them. Sigourney Weaver is well on her way to making Ellen Ripley the super badass that she becomes. She’s still not quite reached her badass potential yet though, as she still seems terrified as she’s doing the badass things she’s doing. On the other hand, for a character to be afraid but still do the badass stuff could potentially be more badass. Of course, she never reached the level of fear that other characters (namely Bill Paxton) did, so it’s still a cool contrast that the woman character is stronger than most of the male characters. They also have Jenette Goldstein, who is practically a man, and I’m pretty sure she must’ve been Michelle Rodriguez’ mom or something. And I just found out that Weaver got nominated for an Academy Award for this movie, which is just awesome, even if she didn’t win. I also love me some Michael Biehn, and he’s the male protagonist of the movie. This guy has had some career, even though I wouldn’t consider him a household name. The guy was Johnny Ringo, he was the sperm behind John Connor in the Terminator franchise, and he was a couple moments of downtime away from knocking boots with Ellen Ripley. Carrie Henn was also a great character as Newt, the little girl who survived the Xenomorph infestation. She was naïve and cute when we were supposed to be growing attached to her, but she was also more mature than her age would suggest because of the things she had seen, like when she told Ripley that her doll couldn’t have dreams because it was just a piece of plastic. Paul Reiser was a very unlikeable character, but that’s what he was supposed to be. He was likeable on the surface, but a giant piece of shit underneath, and I was thrilled that he got what was coming to him.
Though the first movie was great for its minimalist approach, Aliens takes the same premise and pushes it over the top with some great action, great characters, and the fantastic performances to pull it off. I would say this movie is easily the best movie in the Alien franchise, which says a lot because Alien was a great movie itself. Both Alien and Aliens are required in any respectable movie collection. Aliens gets “My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are” out of “I like to keep this handy … for close encounters.”
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