Aliens (1986)

Aliens (1986)

“We’d better get back, ’cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.”

The sole survivor (Sigourney Weaver) of an alien attack travels back to the planet where it took place, in hopes of warning its new residents.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Aliens
  • Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Sigourney Weaver Films
  • Strong Females

James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is, as many have noted, a rare instance in which a sequel matches its predecessor in both quality and entertainment value. In a cleverly conceived scenario, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) — who has been in a “sleep coma” for over fifty years — is accidentally discovered by a salvage crew (whose first reaction, notably, is one of disappointment for losing its potential commission; this is a future universe in which greed rules all). Against her better judgment, she’s bullied into returning to the planet where aliens annihilated her crew, and where a settlement of humans is now (supposedly) thriving. We’re also given a bit of a back-story, learning that Ripley was the mother of a young girl who has since aged and died — thus nicely setting the stage for Ripley’s fierce protection of a young girl (Carrie Henn as “Newt”) she finds hiding on the planet. Finally, the nameless corporation which put the entire crew of the Nostromo in harm’s way in Alien is given a face (Paul Reiser) this time around, allowing audiences to palpably hiss at a known (human) enemy.

The sets and special effects in Aliens are just as effective as before, though everything feels (appropriately) amped up a notch. While Alien was essentially a slow-moving thriller punctuated by bursts of seat-jumping violence, Aliens possesses many more non-stop action sequences — and yes, there are more aliens this time. Surrounded by a crew of ultra-macho Marines (including a couple of remarkably buff women), Ripley is no longer alone in her battle against the beasts — though she does (infamously) face off alone against “Mother” (the mother alien) at one point. Henn (who left movie-making to become a teacher and a mother) does a fine job as Newt, and is given the film’s most memorably campy line (quoted above, and infamously spoofed on “South Park”). This kid is placed in some seriously dangerous situations, yet remains refreshingly realistic about it all — she’s got both excellent luck and plucky determination on her side.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sigourney Weaver as Ripley (nominated by the actual Academy as Best Actress of the Year, but not by Peary in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Gruesome special effects
  • Many genuinely heart-thumping action sequences

Must See?
Yes. This sequel is a worthy follow-up to Alien, and should be seen by all film fanatics.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


3 thoughts on “Aliens (1986)

  1. Agreed; a must-see for all film fanatics.

    I rather vividly recall the first time I saw ‘Aliens’ in a movie theater – in Tokyo, on what was an immensely large screen. I was in the front balcony and – with Cameron’s concerted effort to make *full* use of the screen – it was an unforgettable and scary-as-hell experience.

    I had, of course, enjoyed ‘Alien’ (and had seen that in its initial release as well). But, compared with its sequel, ‘Alien’ seemed the slightly inferior film. It was still powerful, in its ‘slow burn’ way, but it also had things like one major ‘scare’ in which (I swear) the alien clearly looked like a stunt man in a rubber alien suit. Um, why? 😉

    ‘Aliens’ had no such obvious gaffes. ‘Alien’ was admirable on a number of levels but ‘Aliens’ clearly was increasing those levels as well as complicating them.

    An even bigger thrill came with the DVD release of Cameron’s Director’s Cut. To my way of thinking, it is one of the few times that a director’s cut has improved on what is already a dynamite film. (Not everyone agrees with me.)

    Peary’s film fanatic book concludes with titles from around this period, so we don’t get his take on David Fincher’s follow-up to Cameron’s work. My understanding is that many fans of the Alien series really hate Fincher’s take on the material (and they seem to hardly mention ‘Alien Resurrection’ at all). As a result, I think many of them may have not even bothered with Fincher’s own Director’s Cut – which is a considerable improvement over what the studio originally (butchered and) released.

    For the record, I also liked Ridley Scott’s return to alien territory, ‘Prometheus’, which many others also apparently disliked.

    And it now seems we’re getting more. Two more (at least):

  2. ⭐️⭐️

    This is a clunky, corny film in which the military characters are pure corn and portrayed as mostly idiots. How much more effective would it have been had they been an ace, crack military unit that did everything correctly and still got their asses handed to them? The extended edit ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Is an improvement because it gives a face to the colonists so we get a sense of the tragedy when they’re all dead.

  3. The Aliens were all stuntmen in cheap suits and look it in this film, especially on the Blu-ray.

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