"Get away from her, you bitch!"
After surviving the onslaught of Alien, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has spent 57 years in stasis, floating aimlessly through space. By chance she is picked up by a salvaging vessel and woken up from her deep sleep. Upon telling her story to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation she is met with scepticism and is reduced to working in a loading dock. Later she is visited by Burke (Paul Reiser) who informs her that Weyland Co has lost contact with colonists on LV-426 and he requests that she returns to the planet with a group of Colonial Marines to discover the fate of the colonists. Ripley reluctantly agrees and joins the expedition only to discover that the aliens have struck again, only this time on a much greater scale.
Unlike Alien which was a sci-fi/horror, Aliens is more of an action-adventure in the mould of director James Cameron’s recent super hit Terminator and reminded me a little of Predator. In the end the slight genre change had little effect on the final product as the film is in my view very close to as good as the original. The sets look incredible and realistic. I’m a big fan of a well designed and dressed set and those in Aliens are superb. The sets of 80s science fiction movies always look more impressive to me than those of today because you get the feeling that the actors are really there, interacting with their environment as supposed to being stood in front of a green screen and stepping over green boxes. The ships, vehicles, planet and colonist’s HQ all look great. The design of the guns is also very good. They remain grounded in reality but with a slight futuristic edge to them. The effects are a mixed bag with some looking as good as anything today but others looking noticeably aged.
The story is tense and offers a couple of surprises. The addition of a survivor was a nice touch and who they were added another dimension to the plot and interpretation of the themes. The somewhat Freudian themes of the original are replaced here with the subjugation of women, dangers of reliance on technology and evil corporations. One thing that I really like about both films is that they’re not simply content with blowing stuff up but have meaning behind them. Both films can be viewed on multiple levels. One thing that struck me was the cockiness with which the Marines approach the situation and their sudden meltdown when they realise they are in over their heads. Bill Paxton’s PVT Hudson character typified both extremes of the Marines.
I felt that sometimes the dialogue was a little too corny but that’s to be expected when you are following a squad of tough space marines. Overall the acting was fine but there were exceptions. Although I understand the reasons behind it, I thought that Bill Paxton went a bit OTT and the little girl was a bit wobbly, sometimes great but often not. Lance Henriksen was excellent as Bishop and Paul Reiser gave a much understated performance. Sigourney Weaver was very good but I was a little bit surprised to read that she got an Oscar nomination for the role. I’m not at all surprised to read however that the film won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for Special Effects. That accolade is very well deserved. The aliens themselves felt less awkward than in the original and as such were more of a threat. The fact that there were lots of them also added to the terror. The design of the alien queen was excellent and terrifying and set up an epic final battle with Ripley.
One area that the film let me down was in its subtle product placement. There was one brand which was given a couple of close ups and in the end was partially responsible for saving the day. I really detest product placement, especially in such a good film. You come to expect it in lesser films but it’s a shame when you notice it in an otherwise excellent movie.
Overall Aliens is a superb Science Fiction- Action movie which shows its modern counterparts what is possible. With recent crap such as John Carter and Battleship floundering it is nice to look back and remember how it should be done. The film stands up well after over a quarter of a century and matches Alien in most respects.