Still, why mess with perfection? Alien was such an excellent, self contained and brilliant motion picture that the only way to go was down, right? Definitely! Unless you factor writer/ director James Cameron into the equation. If the man could make a movie about time-travelling cyborg Terminators and the renegade humans chasing them into a great film and make a movie called Piranha Part Two: The Spawning worth watching, he can certainly do "Alien II", right?
Well, he didn't! Instead of making any kind of "Alien II" (or, worse, "Alien 2"), Cameron forewent the "repeat" angle in favor of a completely different kind of film, less about unsuspecting space truckers, trapped in a dark ship with a hungry star-beast than about tough Marines and Corporate Greed facing off, not with an alien, but with... Aliens! Yes, Aliens more than lives up to its title with what appears to be an entire hive of the Xenomorphs we met in the first movie! While the old adage of "Less is More" is taken out back and beaten with a rubber hose next to the wood shed, believe me when I tell you that Aliens stands right up there with the original film as a very different, yet truly excellent Sci-Fi/ Horror film. It also stands right up there with The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather, Part II, Bride of Frankenstein and Cameron's own Terminator 2 as one of the very best sequels in movie history. Sorry, was that hyperbole? Then you haven't seen Aliens! It's harder than pressurized mahogany to discuss Aliens without a few superlatives laced throughout!
Naturally, Cameron didn't do it alone! He needed a great crew, including his wife Gale Ann Hurd joining producers Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill. He needed the basis for this film, being the characters created by Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett, plus the great moods and themes set up by Ridley Scott in the first film. He needed the incredible score by James Horner, the editing of Ray Lovejoy, the cinematography of Adrian Biddle and especially the special effects magic of the great Stan Winston! But mostly... he needed RIPLEY!!!
When we last saw Sigourney Weaver's amazing Ellen Ripley, the warrant officer had just defeated the title monster and was peacefully drifting off back to Earth in Hypersleep. She and Jones (the cat) were sure to be back home any minute, smokin' cigarettes' and watchin' Captain Kangaroo, but no... no... Cameron's screenplay (from the story he wrote with Giler and Hill) tells us otherwise. Fifty-Seven years have passed and Ripley is still catching a few Zs on the Narcissus when a salvage crew just happens to come along and save her. Unfortunately, a whole hell of a lot has changed in the past sixe decades, but Ripley's story isn't known. Thus she has a good deal of 'splaining to do about why she destroyed the Nostromo, which "The Company" (in this case, Weyland-Yutani) has placed a "substantial dollar value" on. Forty-Two Million in "adjusted dollars"? That's more than the whole film's 18.5 million dollar budget, kids!
So, while Ripley isn't going to jail for this, she can't exactly rejoin the ranks of the top Warrant Officers in the fleet, what with her raving about star beasts and the like and pissing off every corporate jackass with a Weiland-Yutani nametag on. After all, the planet she claims started all this, LV-426 has a colony full of happy families living on it, probably with Captain Kangaroo DVDs (and certainly with a ton of cigarettes). So Ripley takes to driving some (admittedly quite cool) Load Lifters for her bucks. But when contact with LV-426 is lost, suddenly smarmy little Carter J. Burke (played by Paul Reiser) is very interested in bringing her back onto the payroll! Luckily this time they don't just send her in... THEY SEND IN THE MARINES!
Fuck Yeah! The Marines! SOUND OFF!
That's a lot of Bug Stompers, just waiting to endanger some species... but will it be enough? Just imagine, not just one Alien... tons of Aliens... and the answer to that question of just what the hell laid all those Alien eggs? Winston's own Alien Queen!
The beauty of Aliens is that it not only avoids becoming a retread of the first film, but also paces itself beautifully and covers its own bases very, very well. Those who would point out plot holes here are probably not paying close enough attention! However, due to time constraints there were a good many parts (including an entire reel) excised. The story is full, rich and exciting without these scenes, but the astute audience simply knows that there is something more there. While the "Theatrical Release" gives us mystery and more of the unknown, and still works wonderfully, the later "Director's Cut" gives us much more of the story and backstory. The results are different from each other and both valid, excellent films.
Cameron also maintains a uniqueness in each Marine with their individualized armor and diverse personalities. This results not only in the audience caring more about these characters (in some cases as much as the leads), but also leads to some of the greatest quotable one-liners! The cast plays well off of each other, like old war buddies (most of the grunts actually went to basic training together in pre-production for this very purpose) but, as usual, Bill Paxton's freak-out acting takes the proverbial cake time and time again. Hudson is hilarious, yes, but he also truly conveys the terror that even a tough guy would face in such a situation.
On the flip side we've got your standard kiddo in peril in the form of cute little blonde chick "Newt" (Carrie Henn). Henn is excellent in the role and gives us a character in the first ten years of her life who has every right to be terrified (and is) but remains a brave survivor throughout. Bravo! Unfortunately, Henn has only appeared on screen in this film and programs relating to it. She captures the pathos of her scenes and does a brilliant job over and over again, regardless.
Newt's relationship with Ripley and the rest of the team adds an incredible human layer to what could have been an explosive action flick. Ripley is still the hub here and it is very much her story with Newt's role deepening the knowledge of what Ripley has lost (see the Director's Cut for more on that). In a very real way this is both a revenge plot with a gun-toting Action Hero named Ripley blasting away at her arch enemy (or enemies) and a terrifying tale of a lost woman named Ellen facing her demons. These naturally include the title monster, but also another spectre from her past in the form of the Android (or "artificial person") Bishop (supurbly played by Lance Henriksen)! Anybody who remembers Ripley's ordeal with "Ash" will understand why!
Yes, it's safe to say that Aliens is a great film and far from being overrated. The resulting movie was a box-office and critical success, to the point that it won two Academy Awards (Best Visual effects and Best Sound effects editing) and was nominated for four more, including Best Actress for Sigourney Weaver! These are only a few of the many awards and nominations the second in the Xenomorph Saga took home. The only draw back to this film's success was that it made all future sequels pale by comparison. While Cameron and Crew disproved the theory that there was nowhere to go but down after Alien... after Aliens no other sequel came close.
If you haven't seen Aliens or haven't seen it lately, do so as soon as possible. It's a rare sequel that avoids copying the original and succeeds in coming close to (and in some areas surpassing) its predecessor. It's a truly excellent piece of Sci-Fi/ Horror, worth something in the Sulaco hold of Four and one half Stars out of Five! Aliens, Androids, Decapitated Dolls, Cats named Jones, Marines, Armored Loaders, one big, bad Queen Mother and yes, oh, yes, THE BITCH IS BACK! See you in the next reel, Sweethearts!
Get away from her you BITCH!
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Actually, I dig that idea. Picture the Alien Queen
With a Laptop reading "WorldsGreatestCritic.com"
and just looking angry and confused. I like it!
Cold Spots! Man, I'm sure that Theo and Nell could have warmed each other up... Good Grief is Theo Hot!
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