Aliens Movie Review
More focus on action, cranking up the cheesy dialogue, yet never compromising on the suspense. This sequel is one of the best sci-fi flicks out there!
Genre: Action / Horror / Science Fiction
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, William Hope & Al Matthews.
Run Time: 137 min.
US Release: 18 July 1986
UK Release: 29 August 1986
German Release: 13 November 1986
Welcome to my review of Aliens, the only worthy sequel in this franchise until now, as well as the only review I will write, before the release of Alien: Covenant. Directed by James Cameron, coming right after his success with The Terminator, this sequel was another hit for the director and a box office success!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
After Ellen Ripley’s close encounter with the reptilian alien creature, she is called back to help a group of highly trained colonial marines fight off against the sinister extraterrestrials after taking over a colony on the moon LV-426. Yet, when the colonial marines are called upon to search for the deserted space colony, they find out they are up against more than what they bargained for. While the Marines try to defend the perimeter, Ripley must protect a young girl who is the sole survivor of the wiped-out space colony.
Cameron, who co-wrote the script together with David Giler and Walter Hill, maintained the creepy atmosphere plus winding tension that Ridley Scott established in his 1979 original. However, instead of using the confinement of a spaceship, the setting was switched to the moon LV-426, where the crew of the Nostromo found the alien spaceship, with the Xenomorph eggs. Cameron switched the entrapment of a closed-off area, with an overwhelming number of deadly enemies.
The plot also expands on the Weyland-Yutani corporation lore, which was only named as “the company” in Alien, as well as establishing the alien queen in Xenomorph mythology. Instead of a slow burner, Cameron oriented his story more toward faster-paced action, transforming the narrative into a rescue mission with colonial space marines. The director did not want to recreate the masterpiece that Alien was, but produced something of his own and mastered it in every sense.
The dialogue is more light-hearted plus fun, including incredibly cheesy lines. However, it also is way over-the-top at times, bordering on straight-off goofy. This clashes with the overall tone of the movie at times, making it a little uneven.
Sigourney Weaver returned as Ripley, who was in stasis for over 50 years, after the events of the first film. Weaver needed to be convinced several times to return, as she wasn’t sure the sequel was being produced exclusively for financial reasons. Weaver absolutely crushed it once again as Ripley, adding more layers to the characters and fleshing her out further. Weaver has amazing chemistry with Carrie Henn and Biehn, as well as Paul Reiser.
Having just finished his job for Cameron in The Terminator, Michael Biehn was reunited with the director when he was cast as Corporal Hicks, an accomplished colonial marine. Biehn nailed his persona, adding character traits of Kyle Reese to the character. Compared to his comrades, Hicks is less of a meat-head, more tactical and analytical. Biehn himself gave the character charisma and a specific likeability.
Due to her face and expressive eyes, Carrie Henn was chosen to represent the child-survivor Newt. Although lacking acting experience, Henn gave an overall good performance and sold the fear and shock of her character’s state. Her daughter-mother chemistry with Weaver was on point.
Paul Reiser was cast as Burke, the slimy corporate Weyland-Yutani representative and secret villain of the plot. Intent on bringing an alien embryo to earth, he believes the corporation can make millions by turning the Xenomorphs into bio-weapons. This was Reiser’s first major theatrical role.
Given the fact of how bad things were on set, due to the lack of respect for Cameron as director, it is a miracle that this sci-fi flick looks as good as it does! First DP Dick Bush was fired, due to ignoring the director's requests. He insisted on using bright lights to film the hive, a terrible idea that would have cost cinematography some points. The dark, damp and moist environment, made for a perfect setting for suspense!
The effects used for Aliens are mostly purely practical, using miniatures for the colony setting and spacecraft, as well as costumes for the aliens. Stan Winston replaces Giger, from the first picture, to design the different Xenomorph looks. Cameron himself was involved in the design of the queen. The effects, even if a little dated, still look great today and have a specific look, which gives this feature an original note.
James Horner took over as composer from Jerry Goldsmith, with only three weeks to create a full score for the movie. He built on Goldsmith’s score using part of the original soundtrack but modified it to make it suitable for Cameron’s envisioned action-packed sequel.
Verdict: James Cameron’s sequel to Scott’s original sci-fi horror of 1979, is considered among many fans the superior flick. On the other hand, I still think that Alien has the upper hand, even if just by a smidge because Aliens is a damn worthy sequel. The narrative perfectly extends the Alien legacy and feels like a natural extension of the ‘79 end. Then there is the shift in genre, to a more action-oriented category that Cameron is so well known for. The cheesy dialogue, while being fun, clashes with the original’s serious tone. Sigourney Weaver plus Michael Biehn, have great chemistry together and are pretty much perfect in their roles. This is one of the best sequels in a franchise, fully deserving a 9.0 out of 10.
Are you more of an Alien fan or do you prefer Aliens? Look out for my Alien: Covenant review in the next couple of weeks. Thank you for reading!
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