ALIENS (1986) 

Sigourney Weaver
Carrie Henn
Michael Biehn
Paul Reiser
Lance Henriksen
Bill Paxton
William Hope
Jenette Goldstein
Al Matthews

James Cameron



Time: 154 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Science Fiction/Action

Won Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects. Nominated for Best Actress, Art Direction, Film Editing, Score and Sound.

I have to say that this is one of my all time favorite action movies. James Cameron was never better than when he directed this film and THE TERMINATOR. I had not seen the original film when I was dragged to ALIENS by friends in college. It scared the bejesus out of me and made me an immediate fan of the series. I happen to think this film is better than ALIEN, but it's somewhat unfair to compare such vastly different styles. The original is all about the details, establishing this world and the characters and creatures therein. Setting up the pure horror of the situation. In ALIENS, it's clear that survival will not be an option for most of the cast. This is take-no-prisoners action at the highest level. Not only does it have great acting and special effects, but a story with heart. Ripley learns how to love again, regaining her humanity...while kicking the crap out of the aliens.

In this film, the Company begs Ripley to join a team returning to the same planet from the first film, which has been colonized over the past 50 years, while she was floating around space in suspended animation. It seems that they've lost contact and need someone to go there to find out what's going on. Ripley, of course, tells them where they can shove their request. Her life was destroyed on that rotten planet and there's no way she's going back, especially since she's just been rescued and returned to the land of the living. They believe the colonists ran into the same creatures she and the crew from the Nostromo did, and she's the only one who knows exactly what they could be dealing with. Her guilt over surviving and knowing first hand the horror the colonists could be encountering, causes her to give in and join the mission as an advisor. The rest of the crew, mainly made up of Marines, give her a wide berth, not sure what to make of her.

Once they reach the planet, it quickly becomes clear what the motives of the Company were for this mission. Sure, they want to know what happened to the colonists, but the crew discovers the Company sent them to the abandoned ship with the full knowledge of what they would encounter. Only one of the colonists has managed to survive, a young girl named Newt (Henn), who immediately forms a bond with fellow survivor Ripley. Both of them have seen what the Aliens are capable of and it's a nasty lesson soon learned by the marines. Even their superior firepower is not enough to defeat these clever and brutal creatures. With their numbers dwindling rapidly, Ripley has only one plan, regardless of what the Company wants, and that's to get everyone off the planet alive and to destroy the aliens. In the end, she comes to grips with her nightmares and faces them woman to woman, by taking on the Alien Queen. Both of them are trying to protect their "children" and only the strongest will survive. Since there are 2 additional films in the series, it's obvious who the winner is. Sort of.

Ripley: "I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them f**king each other over for a goddamn percentage!"

Cameron's regular cast of supporting characters – Biehn (Terminator, Abyss), Henriksen (Terminator), Paxton (Terminator, Titanic) and Goldstein (T2, Titanic) – are cast here as the kick-ass marines who learn a little too much humility for their own good. Each gives their character something different and memorable. They happen to be part of the final ragtag crew and you are desperate to see all of them make it out alive. Paul Reiser distinguishes himself as the one person you're actually happy to see get killed. His character Burke is one of the slimiest on record and places the group in grave danger just to make a little extra cash. This is not the lovable comic you've come to know. Who knew he had it in him. Carrie Henn gives an amazing performance for a child. She's never been in another film and I can understand why. Even though you know it's fake, filming this would have given me nightmares for years.

What can I say about Weaver? She received an Oscar nomination for this role, which just goes to show it has more depth than your typical action hero. The role of Ripley, at least in this film, is a once in a lifetime part and she gives it everything she's got. Her fear oozes from every pore and muscle, as does her determination to beat these creatures. There is no other option. Cameron seems to really understand how to create well-rounded, strong female characters. For that, and his obvious prowess in filming out-of-this-world action sequences, he usually gets my butt in the seat every time. When he concentrates as much on story and character as he does on the special effects, you get a great film like this one or THE TERMINATOR. When he doesn't, you get bloated affairs like T2 and THE ABYSS, which have their cinematic pleasures, but little heart. I guess you can't have everything.

If you want to see what all the hubbub is truly all about when talking about Cameron, this is the film to see. A perfect marriage of all the best elements. Yes, the ending goes on a little bit long – 15 minutes is never as long in reality – but the payoff is well worth waiting for.

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