Success of a blockbuster of any genre in Hollywood leads to the studio, fans and audiences craving more for a return to that respective franchise. Alien is a huge success – director Ridley Scott created a bad ass action hero that happened to be a woman (we need more of that please), Scott also brought to life the next great sci-fi horror villain in the Xenomorph. A creature that is birthed from flower pod’s that faces hugs a human to create an embryo which then bursts through the hosts chest cavity and grows almost instantly into an adult slaking and killing machine because it feels threatened on its home planet.
Having the same director for a sequel can lead to the film feeling unoriginal using the same concepts. Aliens features a different director at the helm in James Cameron. Cameron and Scott are vastly different director’s, and their styles show it on screen. In Alien the film was more tense and anxious with feelings of claustrophobia and panic even if the Nostromo was a big ship. These feelings were executed successfully by Scott using a slower drawn-out pace while the first Xenomorph stalks its prey one by one from the shadows while we never get a full look at it.
In Aliens, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been soundly asleep in stasis for 57 years in an escape shuttle after she destroyed the Nostromo. She and Jones are rescued by her employer the Weyland-Yutari corporation who inform Ripley that colonization is currently happening on the same planet of exomoon LV-426 and are currently terraforming the planet. Contact has been lost with the colony but representatives of Weyland-Yutari don’t believe Ripley’s claim of the alien species. Ripley reluctantly joins the expedition on the spaceship Salaco where see meets her Marine allies and a new android named Bishop (Lance Henriksen).
“Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?”
Cameron taking over directing duties, the feeling and DNA of the film are instantly different than its predessor. Cameron (Terminator) is bolder and uses more action to drive his stories forward. The Xenomorphs are more pronounced and in your face instead of hunting in the shadows. Aliens also features big set pieces during the third act of the film. There are many explosions and F-bombs mixed with the toxic masculinity emitted from the marines. Cameron’s style makes Aliens feel fresh while still honoring the one true constant from the previous film: Ripley.
Sigourney, the only reoccurring actress to reprise her role turns in another strong performance in Aliens. She carries the film on her back in all aspects most notably in action and emotion. Weavers performance in Alienscements Ripley as a true action star who can go head-to-head with Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Her legend is just beginning to strike fear in all who oppose her. Her performance feels natural to the film’s genre while being the anchor for the franchise. Maybe it’s coincidence but Aliens gives Ripley more responsibility over another, acting as a surrogate mother to Newt (Carrie Henn) who is found to be alone on the alien planet. Their relationship grows exponentially throughout the film and that strength is highlighted in the third act of the film when Ripley rescues Newt in a totally bad ass sequence of events.
Cameron does borrow some stylistic choices from the first film – The tension is built up by the intelligent use of motion tracker’s that adds to the panic to the trigger-happy marines. Being told that they can’t use guns crippled all of their purpose on this mission. The Skepticism of the marines allows a bigger payoff when they find everything Ripley said to be true. Most of the marine’s screen time could have been cut. They are loud, abrasive and egomaniacal. The only ones who aren’t are Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Private Hudson (Bill Paxton). Everyone else is expendable and forgettable. Cameron’s use of a minimal color palette, fog machines and tight spaces allow the action to thrive in its creepy settings.
“I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine. This is an M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimeter with over-and-under thirty millimeter pump action grenade launcher.”
The films villain is in short spectacular. What Scott did in the first Alien is outdone in Aliens with our look at the Queen. It plays into the lore and history of these creatures. Cameron also highlights the life cycle of a Xenomorph from the ovomorph to the facehugger to the chestburster and the adult. Every stage instills a little more fear and confidence in Ripley as she is really the only one equipped to handle the situation presented to her when rescuing Newt. The practical effects of the queen are enormous and impressive. From the design to the maneuverability of the creatures it’s easy to see how well equipped Cameron is at handling action. The set pieces are legendary especially the final showdown between Ripley and the Queen. It’s these types of scene’s that showcase Cameron’s ability to pull off a set piece while showcasing Ripley’s status as one of the biggest sci-fi heroines ever thought up and portrayed on screen.
Cameron gets the best performances out of Michael Biehn and Sigourney Weaver. His loyalty toward them is special and it’s evident in this film.
As much as Aliens is different than Alien, a lot of it is the same. Sigourney Weaver commands the screen and steals the show with a powerful performance as the only reoccurring character from the previous film. It’s epic in scale and deserves all the accolades and praise it received. James Cameron brings a new flavor to the film while paying respects to what Ridley Scott accomplished before him. Aliens is bigger, badder and a roller coaster ride of a fun time. The action is beautifully sequenced giving fans of the franchise one unforgettable final battle. If these first two Alien films told us anything its to trust Ripley wholeheartedly, she knows what she’s doing.If I were to rate Aliens, I’d rate it a 5 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen Aliens and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Aliens is directed by James Cameron is Rated R and has an 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Alien was released on May 25, 1979 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 34 minutes. Aliens can be purchased by online retailers like Google, iTunes and Vudu.