“It’s not often that a sequel can be hailed as just as good or even better than the original, but I think Aliens is one of those times.”
57 years after battling an alien, losing her entire crew, and going into cryogenic sleep Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) floating ship finally gets discovered by a passing salvage crew. Now, technically in the future, everybody laughs at Ripley’s retelling of the scarring events that happened to her many years ago mainly due to the fact that LV-426, the planet from which the alien came from, has been inhabited for two decades with no sign of incident. The laughs however stop when all communication is lost with the colonizers on LV-426, and Ripley is asked to accompany a group of marines as they travel to the planet and find out what went wrong.
Many people, myself included, compare Aliens to Alien by saying that Aliens is an action movie, whereas Alien is a horror film. While I do understand the thought, after watching Aliens again last night I have to concede that it isn’t really a true comparison. I do agree that Alien is much scarier that Aliens, and Alien is a more “traditional” horror movie, but calling Aliens an action movie is kind of insulting to the obvious care that went into crafting an experience that was simultaneously about capturing the spirit of the first film as well as presenting a new experience for the viewers. There are a few scenes that come to mind when I think of this argument, like the “first encounter” sequence or the scene that takes place in the medical bay, but there are many more smaller instances where the horror in Aliens really shines through. I think this was a brilliant decision because if Aliens was an action movie through and through, there would be very little connecting the two movies. This way Aliens manages to build off of the horror that was presented in the first Alien, and then give us a more action-oriented experience. I think a huge part of this is Alien follows a crew of people who just fly a ship, whereas Aliens follows a crew that are trained to fight. By no means are the marines prepared to fight hordes of Xenomorphs in Aliens, but at least they know how to fire a gun; hell, at least they have guns. This gave us, the audience, a different set of goggles to view these creatures through. Sure they are still terrifying, but at least the film is less a game of cat and mouse and more a game of cat and mouse, but this time the mouse has a machine gun. Now something that I found really interesting about Aliens is the fact that the Xenomorphs felt really weak compared to the last film. Now of course this can be explained away with literally everything I just wrote (preparedness, weapons, etc.) but it was a strange to see the main antagonist from the first film essentially be multiplied, but still have trouble killing those humans. Now obviously this isn’t a knock against the film in any way, I feel that the sheer number of Xenomorphs made up for how tough they were and the fact that all of the people on the base were “killed” proves that numbers will prevail, but it was a very interesting direction for the franchise to go. There were a few scenes where the Xenomorphs once again had power (namely the med bay scene), but for the most part they were there to get fucking torn apart by anything and everything the marines had at their disposal. And that’s another thing I want to quickly mention, I loved how gory this film was. Aliens isn’t gory in the traditional sense because the characters who were getting mutilated were fictional, but still seeing an alien get its head crushed by a vehicle or watching an alien get blown away much like Scarface was very satisfying.
Moving on from the story elements of Aliens lets get into the more specific things about the film. First of all I want to express how glad I am that Aliens stayed true to, and expanded upon, the wonderful universe that was created in Alien. The set designs, the costume designs, the attitudes, everything was so great to see again. Sure the universe isn’t all that different even though 57 years has passed, but even still it was great to see that just as much care went into every aspect of Aliens as the original film. Aliens was also great because we got to see the military side (read: weapons) of the universe as well. There was nothing truly mind-blowing to me, but I absolutely loved the designs of all of the weapons and armour. To build off of that I want to praise the effects in Alien as well. I appreciate that practical aliens were used instead of digital ones, though I doubt the technology was there yet even if they wanted digital aliens, and the same goes for literally every other aspect of the film. Everything in Aliens looked wonderful, and that just did all the more to immerse me into this universe. One thing that was a little shaky at times was the flying effects, mainly when the ship was in space, but even those scenes are gone in the blink of an eye and then quickly forgotten. Finally I want to discuss the acting in Aliens. The first film was great because all of the characters felt real. The same can be said about Aliens, but for different reasons. Aliens had a kind of ‘Vietnam” vibe with it’s marines in that they all distinct personalities and cool stuff drawn on their helmets. This was great because it gave what could have been a faceless mound of firepower some ability to connect with the audience. These marines laugh, they cry, they complain, and all of that makes them more human to us. I can’t really go through and name every one of them, but just know that they all did fantastic jobs. Then you have newcomer Newt, played by Carrie Henn, who is able to deliver a wonderful performance despite being a child. She showed us how scared she was, she conveyed the trust she had for Ripley, she made me believe that her character was real; and that is truly impressive. And last but not least I want to mention Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Ellen Ripley. In the first film I praised Weaver for playing a badass female protagonist, and she doesn’t lose that in this film but we do get to see a different side of the character. Ellen Ripley is a woman who has seen some shit, and we really get that sense with Sigourney Weaver’s wonderful performance in Aliens. Screaming herself awake, jumping at the smallest of noises, these occurrences, no matter how small, felt so real. Of course someone like Ripley would have these terrible fears and nightmares, but that’s a side that you don’t usually see from movies. Luckily Aliens decided to be the exception, and Sigourney Weaver was able to pull it off her with unbelievable talent.
Overall Aliens is a great movie, and a fantastic sequel to Alien. Though it is not completely horror-centric, there are still some pretty terrifying scenes that do a good job of connecting Aliens to the original film. On a technical level Aliens is just as good as the first film with great performances, wonderful effects, and amazing set/costume design. It’s not often that a sequel can be hailed as just as good or even better than the original, but I think Aliens is one of those times.
I give Aliens an A