As of July 18 2016, this date marks the 30th Anniversary of not only one of the best sequels of a iconic franchise, but also one of the best Action Horror films, evah!
Fresh from coming off the huge success of his breakout film, (The Terminator) Director James Cameron along with his then wife Gale Anne Hurd, had begun work on a bigger film, not only in terms of budget and special effects, but pulse pounding action, suspense and survival horror. This highly ambitious project was to write, produce and direct the sequel to the classic Sci-Fi Horror, Alien. Cameron at the time was working on Terminator but manage to write a draft for the sequel and sometime afterwards, began production.
Aliens take place 57 years after the events from 1979’s Alien in which the protagonist Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) became the sole survivor of a Xenomorph attack on the cargo ship Nostromo.
Ripley’s escape craft has been seized and after drifting in space for over five decades in hypersleep, she has (finally) awakened into a new nightmare both literally and figuratively. To go back to the planet LV-426 which is now -Hadley’s Hope, a Colony inhabited by Humans and no surprise, the Xenomorphs! but this time, its war ! (As the tagline says.)
I was immediately impressed with the overall design of the vehicles, weapons, props, gear and of course, the practical mechanical effects courtesy of brothers; Robert and Dennis Skotak and of course, the late but so great, Stan Winston. Even the dramatic backdrop lighting during Ripley’s Power Loader entrance, was highly impressive.
The other “Special Effect” would be James Horner’s incredible soundtrack. Horner had captured the intensity of certain scenes with his score from the serene and calm of Ripley’s hibernation, the militaristic vibe of the Space Marines preparation and arrival on LV-426, and of course the high tense action and escape scenes with Ripley taking charge.
Cameron’s use of character development was aptly utilized especially when you weigh in an ensemble cast who each had their own distinct personalities. Vasquez, a Hispanic female (ambiguous Lesbian) was a cool character which had a few quotable lines such as “Let’s rock” and you can’t help but love the chemistry between her and Bill Paxton’s wisecracking Pvt. Hudson. was one of the few who really stood out among the cast of characters. At first, he came off a bit too cocky, then after experiencing the loss of his fellow comrades, became this whining bitch only to “Man up” during the third act even if it meant his unfortunate demise. It was unfortunate to see other memorable characters such as Sgt. Apone killed off within the first 30 or so minutes. However, the show must go on.
“Right, right. Somebody said “alien” she (Vasquez) thought they said “illegal alien” and signed up!”
Another supporting character who redeemed himself was the inexperienced Lieutenant Gorman whose attempt at rescuing Valdez was in vain but not without a final sacrifice. Corporal Dwayne Hicks blended in splendidly as the male action hero without the need for stereotypical tropes or cliches that were often presented during the 80’s.
I can go even further by mentioning Bishop the Android whose role served as an analogy of prejudice, Technophobia and to an extent; Racism. Ellen fearing Bishop because of her unfortunate experience with Ash, an “Artificial Human” who went rogue, is akin to a Caucasian Female being mugged or assaulted by one from another Race. Bishop not only garnered Ripley’s respect in the end, but practically was the real hero in this sequel.
“What do you mean *they* cut the power? How could they cut the power, man? They’re animals!”
One individual who is far from redemption was Carter Burke, a shill for the Wayland Yuitani corporation who after having his “grand scheme” exposed, planed on having both Ripley and Newt impregnated by the Xenomorphs for company research and of course, weaponization.
Which brings me to the obvious metaphors courtesy of Cameron’s script. Burke, being the unscrupulous corporate stooge uses not only Ripley, but the Colonists on Hadley’s Hope as a means in order to serve Wayland Yutani’s purpose.
This would be compared to how many soldiers have been squandered from previous wars being it Vietnam and especially the Gulf War. Or could it possibly stem from the corporate greed era of the 80’s?
“At least you don’t see them fucking each other over a goddamn percentage”!
The other metaphor would be the protagonist facing her worse fear and overcoming grief as displayed during three arcs of the film:
- In the beginning, Ripley with deepest regret, learns of her daughter’s passing along with reoccurring nightmares due to her horrific experience from the Nostromo incident.
- Ripley decides to finally face her fears by agreeing to go back to LV-426 as a means of therapy-like destroying the alien species.
- As the film progresses, she begins a close bond with the sole survivor of Hadley’s Hope- Newt, thus using her motherly instinct to rescue Newt after she has been taken by the Xenomorphs.
- In an epic scene, Ripley overcomes her fears and in doing so, rescues Newt, defeat the Alien Queen and the film ends with her sleeping peacefully without fear or concern of any Xenomorph danger.
But are her worse fears truly over?
What’s cool about Aliens, is that it has not aged poorly compared to a handful of Sc- Fi contemporaries from that decade of groundbreaking Pop Culture, the 80’s. And despite Cameron various reference, from the Vietnam War to Robert Heilien’s Starship Troopers as the film’s template, Aliens without a doubt is original and highly influential to other mediums; i.e. videogames such as the Contra, DOOM, Gears of War and the HALO series, to Animes like Blue Gender. Often duplicated in various films such as 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and prior to that the first Resident Evil movie. Sorry Zac and Weasel Shit, there can only be one, and that is James Cameron’s Aliens!
It was one of the few films that had a female butt kicking protagonist which continued to pave the way for action heroines in Sci-Fi cinema. In essence, it was the Feminist film one can be truly proud of as opposed 2016’s Ghostbusters. This was considered groundbreaking since Women from this genre were usually placed on the sidelines or for the most part, a supporting character.It was cool to see the character’s progression from a frightened Ship pilot, to an Ass kicking One Woman Army who took on a shitload of Xenomorphs.
“Rambolina,” Fuck the Worlds!
This is my favorite sequel next to Empire Strikes Back and of course, best James Cameron film
that didn’t need to be epic to land such a massive impact in cinema and for all you fans out there, I highly recommend the Director’s cut to experience Cameron’s true vision of this sequel.