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Aliens Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

James Cameron’s sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi/horror classic Alien is a whole different kind of film than its predecessor. Instead of focusing on the scares, this film ratchets up the action 100 percent. After a lengthy exposition, the film kicks it into gear and never lets up. I was left breathless for nearly two hours. Directors, take note. This is how you do action.

Picking up over 50 years after Alien left off, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the lone survivor of the Nostromo, a commercial towing vehicle whose crew was killed by a dangerous species on the planet LV-426. Ripley is shocked to know she has been asleep for these 50 years. Her daughter has died of old age, and the world around her has changed. While being investigated for improper conduct aboard the Nostromo, Ripley discovers that engineers have formed a colony on LV-426 and are in the process of making the planet livable for humans. Little do they know the aliens have different plans.

When the company loses all contact with the planet, a team of Marines, accompanied by Ripley and company executive Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), goes down to investigate. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and soon, a small group of survivors, including a little girl, Newt (Carrie Henn), is forced to do whatever they can to evade the aliens and escape the planet.

The exposition is lengthy, but necessary. During it, we are introduced to all the important characters, but unlike the original Alien, we actually grow attached to them. Even the Marines are more than sterotypes. There’s the quiet leader Hicks (Michael Biehn), the showboat Hudson (Bill Paxton), and the tough-as-nails Vazquez (Jenette Goldstein), as well as the “artificial human” Bishop (Lance Henriksen), who is much deeper and more interesting than Ash—the android in Alien. They might not be the most three-dimensional characters, but they are far less cookie-cutter than most action films. And if you throw Ripley, Newt, and their incredibly close bond, and you get a very emotionally involving action film—a real rarity nowadays.

But after the exposition, it’s all action all the time, and it doesn’t stop. Seriously, there’s not a break for nearly an hour. The pacing is brilliant, and the tension remains high throughout. Several scenes stand out, but perhaps none more so than the final showdown with the Queen Alien. Here, we get to see two films worth of fear and anger taken out on the most monstrous of the creatures. We also see the intense pain she feels over the loss of her daughter and the potential loss of Newt boil over, upping the emotional quotient.

Sigourney Weaver ups her game from the first film. She was good in Alien, but she’s great here, earning the Oscar nomination. Ripley is a shell of her former self when the film begins, but she sees a chance to get some closure and start anew. Once aboard the ship, we see her go through a number of changes—from terrified to seemingly fearless, from protected to protector, and from ordinary woman to the Ellen Ripley of film legend. She becomes a fully realized character, and Weaver deserves as much credit as Cameron for getting her there.

The rest of the cast is also quite good. Cameron regular Michael Biehn plays Hicks, probably the least dynamic character of the bunch, but one of the most likeable. Another Cameron regular, Bill Paxton, is brash, but kind of a baby. Hudson is a bit pathetic, but we like him also. Then there’s Jenette Goldstein. Vazquez is one of the more entertaining characters. She’s tougher and less scared than the other men aboard the ship, just adding to the feminist overtones in the film.

Apparently, the Alien series just goes downhill from here. Alien 3 is, by most accounts, David Fincher’s worst film by far (I’m much more favorable, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this film). And the fourth and final(?) film in the series, Alien: Resurrection is rarely mentioned among the classics of sci-fi. But no amount of poor sequels can take away from the brilliance of the first two films in this series, especially Aliens—one of the two or three greatest action films of all time.

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