Director – James Cameron
Cast – Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein
Release Year – 1986
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Seven years after Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien came out in theaters acclaimed Terminator director James Cameron brought us the next installment of grueling terror…Aliens. James Cameron defied horror logic and was actually able to produce a sequel just as good(if not better) than it’s predecessor with once again some of the same great elements used in Alien. These two films together are considered one of the best sequel-duos off all time right underneath The Godfather and it’s sequel The Godfather II.
This film takes place 57 years after the conclusion of Alien. Ripley(Sigourney Weaver) is found still alive and in deep sleep on her escape pod and after waking up she is told she slept for 57 years, instead of the 10 months she was supposed to sleep. She is brought in to answer questions for some of the “higher ups” involved in the Nostromo ship that she blew up at the conclusion of Alien. After finding no evidence to support that there was an alien on the Nostromo she is relieved of her command and forced to attend psychiatric sessions for six months. The planet that produced the alien in the first film has since been colonized, much to Ripley’s surprise. She keeps telling people that they saw hundreds on alien pods on the planet, but in the 20 years of colonization no one has come into contact with those pods…until now. A family doing independent research on the planet ventures to an unknown area of the planet and one of them gets attacked by a successful “facehugger” and well…you know that’s bad news. Contact with the planet has since been lost and a highly trained and heavily armed military team is being sent to the planet to destroy the aliens, and is asking for Ripley’s assistance. She is hesitant at first but realizes her potential as a consultant to the team and agrees to go. When they arrive on the planet they find it desolate, with no signs of human life at first. They then are able to locate some of the survivors via transponders they had implanted in them but this turns to be a very fatal mistake due to the survivors being used as cocoons to bring many more aliens onto the planet. As if things couldn’t get any worse, a firefight with the aliens leaves a nuclear reactor on the planet unstable and leaves the crew with only four hours to leave the planet and nuke the aliens, putting a stop to their terror once and for all.
This film benefits from an amazing screenplay and story by James Cameron. This film paces so perfectly and in a way that still allows for much character and plot development to take place. THIS is how great horror films are made, with the ability to develop the film without putting the viewer to sleep and still keeping them on the edge of their seat. James Cameron and Ridley Scott made this happen in these films and it’s a darn shame we don’t see more of this in modern day horror films. Mr. Cameron really focused on Ripley in this film and brought out more of her character than what was seen in the first film. We learn she had a daughter who died from natural causes during the 57 years that Ripley was asleep, which leaves her feeling desolate and emotionally unstable. In her recklessness she decides to go to the planet and by chance she finds a young girl named Newt(Carrie Henn) who managed to survive all of the alien carnage that went on. Newt’s family has been killed and she immediately bonds with Ripley, finding herself a new mother and Ripley finding herself a new daughter. With a new purpose to live we see Ripley transform from her slightly sissy, pessimistic self into a strong woman both mentally and physically, going into grave danger on several occasions to ensure the safety of her new “daughter”.
We get more main characters in this film that manage to make this plot quite colorful. Horror icon Lance Henriksen(famous for his roles in the “Pumpkinhead” series) stars a Bishop, an android much similar to the one that went haywire and caused a few deaths in the first Alien. This adds to Ripley’s character conflict because after the events she “recently”(in her mind) went through she has absolutely no trust for androids and quickly despises him. Surprisingly enough Bishop winds up playing a pivotal role in this film in a very intricately woven use of his character at the hands of James Cameron himself. We get to see another horror legend in this film by the name of Bill Paxton who starts as a colorful and loudmouthed soldier by the name of “Bishop”. You may remember him as “Severen” from the classic 80’s vampire flick “Near Dark” which also stars Lance Henriksen, or as the father in the religious horror film “Frailty”, which he also directed. Aside from Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton we get ANOTHER cast member from the film “Near Dark”(which released the following year after this film) named Jenette Goldstien. She portrays “Diamondback” in the film. In Aliens she portrays Pvt. Vasquez, a tough as nails and possible lesbian who carries a big gun and an even bigger attitude. I found some of her dialogue to be a bit silly, but for the most part she really nailed her character. The last bit of character conflict involving Ripley would be that of Carter Burke(Paul Reiser) who was the driving force behind convincing her to come on the trip and tagged along with her to make sure the mission goes smoothly and protects his client’s financial interests on the planet. He comes off as the typical money oriented sleaze ball and defies Ripley’s trust in him by attempting to bring some of the alien embryos home to sell to the highest bidding research center.
So how is the alien action in this film? Well…I can use one word to describe it, AMAZING! The first film only gave us one alien, and rightfully so given it had to develop the story. This sequel was able to take off from that and literally gives us HUNDREDS of aliens and lots of alien carnage. We are given numerous firefights with the aliens and some of the sweetest scenes I’ve seen in a horror film. My personal favorite would be how the aliens blended in with the walls so perfectly and would unsuspectingly move from the wall and kill their victim in violent fashion. James Cameron is a genius for working this already creepy notion into the film with a very creepy looking creature. We also get a “queen” alien in this film that seals the deal on this film’s very high rating. The ending sequence had me on the edge of my seat and in awe at the special effects involved in making these scenes with the queen happen. James Cameron rightfully opted for live action effects for all of the aliens in this film and somehow made this happen with the giant queen as well. This film would just NOT stop getting better! Every time I felt the film was going to end I was given another shocking scene that kept the film going with the intensity even higher. The final scene between Ripley and the queen will remain in horror lore as one of the greatest scenes in horror history.
Overall, this is another solid installment to the Alien franchise and manages to portray the same awesomeness as it’s predecessor. I recommend this film to all horror fans and movie fans alike. The alien carnage you see in this film will never be replace and put this film at the top of the list as one of the best, if not THE best horror/sci-fi film of all time.