Aliens (1986)

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“The moon from Alien (1979) has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough?” — IMDb

I don’t think I really need to describe how awesome this movie is. It grossed $180 million worldwide. It was nominated for seven (seven!) Academy Awards (won two). It won eight Saturn Awards. But, ya know, I will anyway. 🙂

If you’ve seen the original Alien, you know that at the end, Ripley (the utterly fantastic Sigourney Weaver) winds up floating through space in stasis. When Aliens opens up, they’ve (quite accidentally) found Ripley (and her kitty, Jonesy), and, to her absolute disbelief, it’s been 57 years since the terrifying events aboard the Nostromo. She is debriefed about what happened (by many skeptical and condescending men) and, to her horror, finds out they have colonized the moon where they originally found the alien eggs, and are in the process of terraforming. When they lose contact with the colony they fear the worst and — naturally — ask Ripley for her help. She reluctantly agrees and all of her worst fears are realized as they explore the moon.

The set-up for the feminist undertones in this movie begin when Ripley is just outright dismissed during her debriefing. She tries to tell them about what happened and about how dangerous it is on that moon, and she’s basically just shrugged off.

But BIG SURPRISE, suddenly they lose contact with the colony and they are in need of her expertise. She initially has no qualms about rejecting their request, but after some intense nightmares she agrees to come along, under one condition: that they kill the alien, no bringing it back home. Her courage to face this creature who downright terrorized her during the last mission is just the first of many examples of her badassery.

They waste no time getting acquainted, and after some exploration of the station, they find members of the colony cocooned and serving as incubators of sorts for the alien offspring. The woman they find — who utters “please, kill me” — is particularly disturbing, especially when the baby alien bursts out. Shudder. It’s basically just nonstop action from here on out, and freaking AMAZING action at that. Aesthetically, the entire movie is a sight to behold — it’s dark and sleek and futuristic, all deep metallics and brilliant use of light and shadow. Some of the early concept art was done by Syd Mead (who previously worked on Blade Runner and the original Tron), with Adrian Biddle directing the photography (he went on to work on Event Horizon, no surprise there).

The most satisfying scene in the whole movie might be when Burke (Paul Reiser) is killed, not long after it’s revealed that he intentionally set the whole plan in motion hoping to get rich from capturing some of the aliens and having the specimens used for research into biological weapons. I mean, really, fuck that guy.

The only person in the movie who comes close to being as badass as Ripely is Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein). While she’s a bit concerning at first with her absolute zeal over killing, she just rocks the house throughout the movie, my favorite moment being when she pins an alien’s head to the ground with her combat boot before she shoots it point blank.

There’s this growing intimacy forming between Ripley and Hicks (Michael Biehn), at no time more apparent than when they learn each others’ first names. I really loved how that whole thing was played out, not as a blatant romance or even anything overly prominent, but just this subtle forming of mutual respect and admiration.

Director James Cameron is just as brilliant with his moments of silence as he is with nonstop violence — when Ripley stumbles upon the room of alien eggs and the queen, your heart stands still. Though, to me, it’s almost sad in a way… she is simply defending her eggs and her young, she’s not TRYING to be murderous just for fun. It doesn’t diminish their need to save themselves but it’s heartbreaking in a way to think about it.

Ripley’s relationship with and mothering attitude towards Newt (Carrie Henn), the little girl they find when exploring the station, is also heartbreaking, knowing that she never got to continue raising her own daughter because of her experience aboard the Nostromo and her subsequent time in stasis. But it gives Ripley an invigorated desire to escape, and to escape alive, knowing she has this girl depending on her for her own survival. The CLASSIC line that takes place when Ripley has her standoff with the queen — “Get away from her, you bitch!” — is Ripley’s staunch refusal to let anyone or any thing, massive alien queen included, stand in the way of her saving this child. For all the violence and bravado, it’s also an extremely tender moment.

I have HUGE affection for Bishop (Lance Henriksen) — no surprise considering how much I love Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation — so the scene where he is ripped in half nearly DESTROYED me until you remember oh, right, he’s not human. WE SHALL REBUILD HIM. But his body flapping around in the breeze when the airlock is opened is… memorable. On the flip side, the award for most obnoxious character is graciously bestowed upon Hudson (Bill Paxton). OH MY GOD MAN.

Also, hilarious, but much of the Aliens score is basically ripped from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (which James Horner also composed, of course). You can hear one of the most glaring examples here. It’s not entirely unsurprising considering Horner himself admitted he was extremely strapped for time when scoring Aliens due to some delays in filming and editing… but it was fun to re-watch and hear all of the similarities (and straight up duplications).

But all in all, without a doubt, one of the best and most intense movies out there. Nearly freaking perfect!

Rating: 9/10 | Director: James Cameron | Writer: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill | Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein

 

 

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