So remember, even if you ain’t got time to bleed, in the Video Vault no-one can hear you scream…
Tracy Ladd looks back to see if it really is Game over man, game over.
Nine years after Ridley Scott directed the incredible Alien, James Cameron took the reigns and decided to make it’s sequel, Aliens. Taking the characters originally written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Cameron, along with David Giler and Walter Hill crafted a whole new story centered around Ripley, the lone survivor of the first film.
When Aliens was released, the tag line read “This time, it’s war.” Those four words gave the audience a promise that this was not going to be your typical sequel. The “In space no one can hear you scream” tag line of the first film gives the impression that it’s more along the lines of a horror film. Which it was in a slow burn sort of way. Cameron’s story combined the best of what he is known for. Action set in a science fiction setting. He was able to marry both genres perfectly and create what I consider a masterpiece.
Aliens picks up 57 years after the events of Alien when a deep space salvage crew finds Ripley still in hyper sleep after her ordeal in the first film. Once she’s rescued she finds, to her horror, that the planet where her nightmares began is now inhabited by colonists. After she finds out that communication with the colony has been lost, Ripley reluctantly accompanies a squad of Marines to the planet in an attempt to hopefully exorcise her demons and put her chest bursting nightmares to rest. Of course things go south quickly and she finds herself fighting for not only her life, but the lives of the Marines as well as a young girl who is the only remaining colony survivor. Things go from bad to worse as Ripley comes face to face with an enemy that is worse than she imagined.
Reprising her role as Ripley, Sigourney Weaver showed that women are just as capable of carrying an action movie as men. Ripley is a strong female character that doesn’t take any lip and tells it like she sees it. With Ripley came a new breed of action hero. She tested her mettle in the first film, but really showed what a force she was in this film. She set the bar for future female action stars and to this day that bar still remains pretty high.
This was only Cameron’s third feature at the time, but looking back on the film and the cast, you can see several actors who would become staples in the Cameron canon. Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein are all on hand here and each makes their presence known. Aside from Ripley, I have to say that my favorite character has to be Bill Paxton’s Pvt. Hudson. Hudson serves as the films cheesy machismo factor as well as it’s comic relief. His dialogue provides so many quotable lines, I can’t even keep track of the ones I’ve used in every day conversation.
Michael Biehn plays the role he’s so good at. His Cpl. Hicks is the good guy trying to save everyone while finding a way off the planet. Biehn and Weaver had great chemistry together but only a fraction of it came across in the theatrical cut which is unfortunate. However, the spark is still visible thankfully because without it, their roles would have suffered.
I remember when Aliens first premiered on network TV. There was a write up in the TV Guide stating that it would be aired with 18 additional minutes of footage. I was outraged. I couldn’t believe they were going to show all this new footage, but the whole film would be hacked up with commercials and edited for prime time television. For several years that was the only way to see this version. Finally Cameron released the directors cut that had all 18 minutes restored and edited back into the film. As with any Cameron cut, the new version expands the story and answers questions. You find out why Ripley is so driven to protect the little girl, Newt. It shows even more of the relationship that builds between Ripley and Hicks. To top it all off you get to see some pretty cool new weapons as well. This is the version I recommend watching.
For me, Aliens was, is and will always be a favorite. As I said before, it’s a perfect marriage of science fiction and action. Two things which Cameron is known for and does successfully each time. Once Aliens hit the movie channels after it’s theatrical run, I watched it over and over again. Each time I found myself white knuckling my way through it and getting stressed out even though I knew what was coming next. That’s a sign of a good film.
This is a film that builds a slow crescendo from the get go as we see Ripley get rescued and try to resume something resembling a normal life. Through her nightmares and acceptance of the fact that she has to go to the planet to hopefully put her demons to rest. The tension and action picks up a beat as the Marines meet the aliens and from there it takes on the rhythm of a heartbeat. The action spikes, then there’s a bit of calm, then it spikes again. All of this leads up to the Ripley’s tension filled power loader scene and one the greatest quotes ever. One my Dad has even quoted.
If you love science fiction and action, Aliens is the movie for you. The Blu Ray release is fast approaching and I can’t wait. I’ve seen some stills comparing the regular DVD to the Blu and it’s going to look like a whole new movie. It’s definitely worth the money and time. If there is any movie I pray and wish for a theatrical re-release (aside from Jaws) it’s Aliens. But until then, I’ll happily watch the Blu Ray version with white knuckles.