Directed by James Cameron.
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn, and Bill Paxton.
After her warnings about the monstrous creatures that killed her crew go unheeded, Ellen Ripley, the sole survivor of the Nostromo, is recruited by the military to return to the cursed alien planet when a human colony on the planet suddenly goes quiet. Upon arrival to the hostile planet, Ripley and her new allies are confronted with a whole army of the acid-blooded creatures that quickly threaten to wipe them out unless a way to escape the planet can be found, and fast.
Horror films have a knack for making sequels that suck. For every good film like Halloween, you’ll normally get about a dozen mediocre or terrible sequels. However, this is not always the case.
Having kicked off this year’s October Horrors by looking at Ridley Scott’s iconic 1979 classic Alien it only makes sense that we rejoin Ellen Ripley as we take a look at James Cameron’s brilliant Aliens, possibly one of the best sequels ever made.
Sigourney Weaver returns to the role of Ellen Ripley in what I feel is her best performance as her signature role. What makes Weaver’s performance as Ripley in this film so brilliant when compared to her other turns as the character, is mainly down the character arc and changes that she undergoes through the film, which is possibly the deepest and most fascinating of the entire series.
Ripley begins the film alone and isolated in a world she doesn’t recognise, with her losing her job, faced with the passing of her daughter in her absence and worst of all, finding her warnings about the titular creatures ignored or regarded as lunacy.
However, as the story progresses, Ripley transforms from a traumatised victim of the aliens, into their greatest threat, blasting them to pieces en masse and tangling with their queen face to face, with her maternal instinct returning with a vengeance thanks to her relationship with fellow survivor Newt.
That shot of Ripley carrying Newt in one hand and a machine gun in the other, is surely one of the greatest images of 1980s horror cinema, and I feel that this image more than any other, truly shows why Ellen Ripley, and thus Sigourney Weaver (who incredibly received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance in this film), is undoubtedly one of the greatest heroines in the history of cinema.
While Weaver might enjoy much of the glory for the film, her supporting cast is equally in terrific form. From Paul Reiser’s seemingly nice guy turned corporate villain, Lance Henriksen’s five finger fillet champion android to the late Bill Paxton’s cocky corporal Hudson, all the cast are on top form.
It is a bit weird watching the film when you realise that the bad ass Latino marine Vasquez was played by the very not Latino Jenette Goldstein. I guess in space no one can hear the whitewashing. Although in fairness to Goldstein, she does give pretty badass performance despite her questionable casting (it was a different time after all), especially when she tangles with an alien up close.
Most of the praise though I feel should be awarded to young Carrie Henn in her first and only acting performance, with the young one-time actress being absolutely brilliant in the role of Newt. I especially like some of the gestures she makes which I feel add some much-needed brevity to a mostly bleak film, my personal favourite is that rather nonchalant way she gives a thumbs up after a rather intense and terrifying encounter with the aliens.
Much like its predecessor, the film is brilliant at building tension and suspense with the first half of the film being very much like the original in terms of its slow pacing, with much of it devoted to letting us get to know the characters. However, the film sensibly cuts a different path from its predecessor which I feel is one of its greatest assets. Whereas Ridley Scott was making a horror film with Alien, James Cameron instead decides to give us a pulse-pounding action film, with the second half of the film being a relentless barrage of gun battles, explosions, and acid-drenched mayhem. This is not just horror, this is war and it’s fantastic.
Led by a Sigourney Weaver in one of her best performances and brilliant pacing that builds the tension to boiling point before unleashing a torrent of terrifying and explosive action, Aliens is without a doubt one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time and my personal favourite of the entire franchise.
While not as scary as the first film (although the film does have moments that make even me crap myself), Aliens is still a damn terrifying close encounter with some of the nastiest monsters in the galaxy.
If you’ve never seen it, get it watched now, otherwise, it’s “GAME OVER MAN! GAME OVER!”
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★