This week I have decided to cover the unjustly derided vehicle known as the sequel. This is Second Verse Same as the First week. Aliens is currently available on instant Netflix.
WATCH: Aliens (1986) – Rated R.
“In this acclaimed sequel, the only survivor from the first film, Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), finds her horrific account of her crews fate is met with skepticism — until the disappearance of colonists on LV-426 prompts a team of high-tech Marines to investigate. This special edition features an introduction by director James Cameron, commentary by cast and crew members and both the theatrical and special edition versions of the film.”
“Game over man, game over.”
Please note that the description refers to the disc version. The instant version is the theatrical release.
Alien and Aliens are two of my all-time favorite films. While Alien is the better film (by just a smidge), it takes a long time to set up the story and mythos and even once the action starts, the movie moves in fits and spurts. Aliens with its extreme emphasis on action is the more enjoyable film.
James Cameron is an incredible director. He made three of the best action films ever made (Aliens, Terminator, and Terminator 2) as well as the blockbusters Titanic and Avatar. Every thing he touches since Piranha 2: The Spawning is apparently made of gold.
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) completes her transformation here from Alien. Besides being the main character of a wonderful ensemble, she is also central to the theme woven throughout the film. Cameron visits and revisits aspects of motherhood throughout the production (more so in the extended version). There is a wonderful initial scene of the face of a sleeping Ripley that fades into a scene of the planet Earth.
Comedian Paul Reiser plays wonderfully against type as friendly corporate representative Burke. Genre veteran Lance Henriksen is genuinely creepy as Bishop. This is the only film child actor Carrie Henn appeared in and she is quite good (she is a schoolteacher now).
The soldiers are all great. The underrated Bill Paxton has a field day as the panicky Hicks. Michael Biehn is the quiet but ultra-competent Hudson. Jenette Goldstein steals many a scene as the uber macho Vasquez. Even William Hope is good as the hapless Lt. Gorman.
While all of the film is impressive, I think the thing Cameron does best is that he knows how to properly pace the film. After a lot of buildup (and a couple false scares to keep us interested), Cameron brings us to the best action setpiece in the movie. It is an incredibly tense confrontation between the marines and the Aliens.
The important part is that right after that is over, there are a few character beats so we can catch our breath before the next action sequence. After the following sequence, we get some very humorous dialogue especially from Hudson and then more buildup as the survivors prepare for a siege.
It is hard to believe that Cameron only had a half-dozen alien suits to work with. It seems as though there are a never-ending swarm of aliens, particularly in a sequence involving the auto sentries in the extended edition.
Well it can hardly be a surprise that I heartily recommend one of my favorite films of all time. While Cameron does spend some time setting up the story, it is like the long climb of a roller coaster before you go over the top. Once you hit the peak, the ride is utterly thrilling all the way to the end.
Thankfully Netflix presents this movie in HD. While not without flaws, the 720p image looks so much better than my DVD. This has me eagerly awaiting the 1080p Alien Blu-Ray box set due this fall.
Trivia: Kathryn Bigelow, first female to win a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker, directed Near Dark. Near Dark features Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Bill Paxton (Hudson), and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez) from Aliens as vampires and in one scene, the movie Aliens is playing in the background. It is an interesting film – just ignore the ridiculous new cover they gave it to make it look like Twilight.
People Watch: Mark Rolston, who plays Drake here, played Dan Erickson in Saw V and Saw VI.