Aliens

[This review contains spoilers.]

Aliens is a perfect sequel, if there is such a thing. It's bigger, glossier, a bit longer, and it did an exceptional job building on the original story.

There are a number of parallels to the original. The story begins with Ripley waking up, and ends with the survivors going into cold sleep. The characters are again only known by their last names; even Newt has a very non-little-girl nickname. There's a huge explosion at the end, but the alien still manages to make it aboard the "lifeboat" to wreak more havoc. There's an android on board who ends up in pieces. Best of all, like Ridley Scott did in the original, James Cameron spends an entire hour setting up the story, and successfully pays it all off during the rest of the movie.

There are a number of differences, of course. Instead of "truckers," we have a crew of badass marines. There are many aliens instead of just one. The cast is twice as big and the stakes are higher, too, since there were sixty-some families on the "shake-and-bake" colony.

But we still have Ripley, and she is several levels of awesome. This is the movie where Sigourney Weaver proved to the world that a woman could be an action hero. She was terrific in scene after scene, from her tirade in the conference room at the beginning, to the pulse-pounding Ripley-in-the-loader versus the alien queen battle at the end. I've always loved the way she took over and drove the tank to the rescue, and the sequence in the lift where she loaded up with many, many, many weapons on her way into the queen's lair to rescue Newt. Sigourney Weaver was nominated for best actress for this movie, and she absolutely deserved it.



I also loved Michael Biehn as Hicks. He and Ripley were on the same wavelength throughout the movie. I particularly enjoyed the "nuke the planet" exchange, and the one where he showed her how to use that massive assault rifle. Ripley and Hicks were made for each other. I really wanted Ripley, Hicks and Newt to end up together as a family, maybe with Bishop as the weird uncle who sleeps on the couch. Maybe in Alien fanfic. Is there Alien fanfic?

Paul Reiser gave a wonderfully slimy performance as the Company rep. Very smart, casting a comedian, since this is a character that we expect to be evil, but the fact that it's Reiser makes us think we might be wrong. Bill Paxton is wonderfully annoying as the cowardly Hudson, and I loved that he went out in a blaze of glory. Newt is likable and has courage; she's not a cutesy kid at all, and Carrie Henn certainly had a greater acting range than Jonesy the cat. And I always liked that Bishop turned out to be the opposite of Ash, since we expected him to be just as bad. Especially since he was played by the master of evil, Lance Henriksen.

My favorite supporting actor in this one, though, is Jenette Goldstein, who is a standout as Vasquez. Hard to remember so long ago, but when this movie came out, women didn't serve in combat. Vasquez made a very strong impression on me. And I loved that Gorman redeemed himself by going back for Vasquez. Their scene in the air duct always gets to me.

Unlike most of my favorite movies, I saw Aliens in the theater. It was an unforgettable movie experience, literally edge of your seat. I remember actually feeling mildly nauseous. (That's when you know they got you -- when your audience wants to throw up.) Aliens doesn't hold up quite as well as Alien does, in my opinion, but it's still an outstanding movie. I always watch them together. Like I said, pretty much the perfect sequel.

Bits and pieces of androids:

-- The action takes place 57 years after the original. The planet got a name, or more accurately, a designation: LV426.

-- Alien and Aliens always makes me think of two of my other favorite movies, Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It's not surprising, since the two franchises share James Cameron and some of his favorite actors: Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein and Bill Paxton.

-- Bishop explained that Ash was a Hyperdyne Systems 120-A2 model, and a bit twitchy. (You'd call what Ash did in the original movie "twitchy?") And that the more recently manufactured androids are subject to Asimov's rules. Hyperdyne always makes me think of Cyberdyne.

-- There are several shots of Ripley's feet and she's wearing Reeboks. Really fun product placement that didn't detract from the story at all. I usually hate product placement.

-- James Horner's music is memorable, and effectively heightens the tension. Like it needed more heightening.

-- Dan says that Alien is a cold movie, and Aliens is a hot one. I thought that was an interesting observation.

-- While looking up quotes, I discovered that James Remar (Dexter's father) was originally cast to play Dwayne Hicks, and was later replaced by Michael Biehn. I hadn't known that. I can't imagine this movie without Michael Biehn. I absolutely loved him in the first Terminator movie.

-- As with Alien, there is an extended version. I prefer the theatrical release. But the extended version gives more weight to Ripley's need to save Newt; Ripley had a daughter.

-- For me, the story ends with this movie. I'm not fond of the other sequels. One of our writers has offered to review them, though, and if he does, I'll very much look forward to reading them.

(By the way, there has been news that Neill Blomkamp is working on an Alien sequel for release in 2017 that will star Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn. I'm trying not to get too excited about it. My hopes have been dashed before.)

Quotes:

Ripley: "Did IQs drop sharply while I was away?"

Gorman: "Look, we can't have any firing in there. I want you to collect magazines from everybody."
Hudson: "Is he fucking crazy?"
Frost: "What do you expect us to use, man? Harsh language?"

Ripley: "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
Burke: "Hold on a second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it."
Ripley: "They can bill me."

Ripley: "Look. No bad dreams there."
Newt: "Ripley, she doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic."
Definitely Carrie Henn's best line. And she delivered it beautifully.

Newt: "My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones. But there are."
Ripley: "Yes, there are, aren't there?"
Newt: "Why do they tell little kids that?"
Ripley: "Most of the time it's true."

Ripley: "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."

Ripley: "Get away from her, you bitch!"
I remember the audience cheering that one.

A worthy sequel to an excellent movie. Four out of four M41A pulse rifles, ten millimeter with over-and-under thirty millimeter pump action grenade launchers,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.

6 comments:

Mark said...

Another wonderful review to read.

I watch "Aliens" all the time, "Alien" only twice. Probably I'm usually in the mood for a "hot" movie instead of a "cold" one.

Good point about this being a very different film, but still having a lot of similarities with the original. That's what a sequel should be. (And probably what frustrated me about the third movie, Fincher et. al. threw away so much in the first few minutes, instead of building on it.)

I also love that your list of quotes from the film didn't include any Hudson-isms, which I use all the time. Just shows how entertaining the movie is, even when there isn't an explosion.

You mentioned the several levels of awesome for Ripley. What I'd like to add are interviews where Cameron said he made a very deliberate and realistic point to have Ripley unwilling to go to the planet (without additional inducement). And having cold sweat nightmares. Helps to ground her, before she went action-figure.

Billie Doux said...

All good points, Mark. And of course, action figures don't get Oscar nominations. :) I think my favorite quote is "They can bill me."

Jess Lynde said...

Another fantastic film and a great trip down memory lane, Billie. I might love this film more than the first. I guess pulse-pounding action is more my speed than horrifying thrills, although there were still plenty of those in this flick.

Small correction: It's Lance Henriksen, not Hendrickson. Whenever I see him in anything, I always think of Bishop. We recently re-watched The Right Stuff, and my first thought upon seeing him as one of the original Mercury 7 was "Hey! It's Bishop!"

And Bill Paxton will always be Hudson (and Chet from Weird Science) to me. I know he's gone on to wider acclaim for Big Love, but I'll always remember his early buzz cut days.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks for the spelling correction, Jess. It's fixed. I like Henriksen's work a lot, too.

HellBlazerRaiser said...

One of my top ten favorites of all time.

I've been reading all of your recent movie reviews and I'm pretty psyched that you like so many movies that I do.

I've watched ALIENS over a hundred times and it never bores me and I still get knots in my stomach during the final act.

The deaths of Gorman and my beloved Vasquez gets me every time. I want to cry just thinking about it.

My favorite line (and one I use [even when it doesn't fit the situation] all the time in my best Newt voice) is "they mostly come at night....mostly."

Carcharodon Megalodon said...

If any sequel could be better than the original, its this one. I only wish they didn't have to ruin the franchise with Alien 3. That depressing abomination should have never been made. Even the director disowns that film. I really wish they had either ended the franchise with Aliens or made a better sequel starring one of the other characters (a Newt-centered sequel would be interesting).