Aliens (1986)

2009-11-25 15:23
 
Aliens (1986)

"What do you mean, 'They' cut the power?” Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) screeches at the news of his unit’s impending doom. "How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!"


Animals they may be, but they are driven by a ravenous nature that cannot be rationalised with, and will not be converted. Very much like James Cameron’s other iconic creation The Terminator, whom Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, again) describes to Sarah Connor thusly: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

This is probably why Aliens works, despite it being a sequel to one of the greatest horror fantasy films ever made. Whereas Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) felt more like a "beast" or "monster" – you didn't ever really see the damn thing - Cameron’s action film projects them more as "animals".

They are more akin to humans in a biological and social sense. There is now a purpose behind their bloodlust. Only they are driven by a less compromising natural compulsion - less compromising even, than the "bad-ass marines" that are dispatched to LV429 to find out what happened to the settlement colony there.

Also, like in Cameron’s other film, is the presence of a female hero – one that at first refuses involvement, but is eventually driven to being the saviour of the day. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), rescued by chance from a 57-year cryosleep, is told not only that her story about an all-powerful alien with acid for blood is bogus, but also that her life as she knew it is no longer relevant.

Her daughter has died, and her career had been destroyed by the company review board. She degenerates into a depression haunted by nightmares of her ordeal, which seems to her to have been incredibly recent. (It’s been seven years for us, the audience, incidentally.)

Fast forward to the end of the film, when Ripley is drawn into a teeth and claws (and tail) battle with a Queen "bug". It’s no accident that the character Newt is central to Ripley’s willingness to fight. In effect, the battle between Ripley and the Alien Queen is about the will to continue a species. Humans can identify with a mother wanting to protect even its surrogate young, let alone its biological offspring.

Give that mother a pulse rifle, a flame-thrower and an iron will, and you’ve got Ripley. Make that mother 12-feet tall, give her 10-inch teeth, a razor-sharp tail and acid for blood, and you’ve got problems.

Aliens is one of the great action films not only of the eighties, but of the entire pre-digital era. The craftsmanship, miniature work and in-camera technical achievement is second-to-none. Ably acted, superbly directed, and ingeniously scripted, it is a masterwork that should really be regarded higher than The Terminator in James Cameron’s body of work. 

To whit: A film that teases for any vaguely feminist reading of itself, and then punches you in the head with the ultimate pay-off line deserves its place in cinematic history. Ripley interrupts the Queen’s attacking of Newt by emerging from the hold in the cargo loader. The camera angles in on her face as she approaches and delivers… "Get away from her, you bitch!"

You can almost see the alien throw its attitude with a "Uh-uh you d’int!" neck swivel. 

And at that point, children, it’s on!

Trivia (from IMDB.com)
:

* During Hudson's boasting monologue aboard the drop ship (special edition only) he talks about some of the weaponry of the Colonial Marines, mentioning a "phased plasma pulse rifle" - the pulse rifles the marines carry are ballistic, not "phased plasma", but the line references The Terminator (also directed by James Cameron, and featuring Paxton in a minor role) in which the terminator asks a gun store clerk for a "phased plasma rifle".

* 14 to 16 operators were needed to bring the alien queen to life.

* There was talk of bringing H.R. Giger back for the second movie to do more design work, but James Cameron decided against it because there was only one major design to be done, that of the Alien Queen, which Cameron had already done some drawings of.

* Michael Biehn's character gets bitten on the hand by another character. This happens to him in every James Cameron movie he's in - see The Abyss (1989) and The Terminator (1984).

* In both the standard and special edition versions, the fifteen minute countdown at the end of the film is indeed fifteen minutes (in real time).

* Four actors from this movie appear in various Terminator movies: Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton in the first Terminator movie, and Jeanette Goldstein in the second Terminator movie.


Memorable quotes:

Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No. Have you?

Bishop: I'm afraid I have some bad news.
Hudson: Well that's a switch.

[The marines are all hard at work, preparing for the drop]
Ripley: I feel like kind of a fifth wheel around here, is there anything I can do?
Apone: I dunno, is there anything you can do?

Ripley: You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.

* Anton Marshall hosts SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL classic music parties, every Saturday at Speedway 105 Café in Gardens, Cape Town.


A 12-feet tall creature with 10-inch teeth, a razor-sharp tail and acid for blood gives Ripley a new set of problems in James Cameron's masterful sequel.

John 2009/11/22 7:34 AM
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Awesome movie. One of my favs. Got the special edition DVD.
Goda 2009/11/24 11:00 AM
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I watched this at the old 3 Arts when they had those R2.50 triple feature specials, sandwiched between a terribly dubbed exploitation/kung fu flick, with a friend who screamed all the time. She had bony fingers.
CTheB 2009/11/24 12:43 PM
Wow, how did Aliens get classic status? It's an ok action movie leveraging off a much better movie, one far more deserving of classic status.
William 2009/11/24 12:58 PM
Classic movie! Loved the scene that you posted in the pic
Nazmo 2009/11/24 1:21 PM
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Best sci-fi movie, ever. in my top 10 movies list. they mostly come at night, mostly.
TheBurg 2009/11/24 2:05 PM
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one of my all time fave movies....and yet you didnt even mention one of the most quoted lines ever.... "Game over man...GAME OVER!"
uZ 2009/11/24 2:09 PM
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@CTheB Agreed, Alien is more of a cult than Aliens. This, however, is the classic movie section? Personally methinks Aliens had more of impact on the Generation X.2 as opposed to the late 70s, early 80's alien-loving Gen X's. Its more of an action flick than Alien, has amazing special effects and introduced cinema to a whole new concept: using hordes of multiple monsters in one movie, something unheard of previously.
Alfie 2009/11/24 3:03 PM
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This movie is a classic in its own right - apart from Alien. With its awesome scope and vastness in all-out action it influenced all subsequent space/alien movies. Just compare it to The Terminator created two years earlier. Yes, Alien is unsurpassable in its original atmosphere and blowing the sci-fi genre wide open in 1979, but Aliens do have its place among the classics as well. Great review.
cbr 2009/11/24 9:32 PM
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My favourite Sci-Fi by a long shot. "Ripley, Casey doesn't have bad dreams because she's just a piece of plastic".
Lynn 2009/11/25 7:40 AM
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Loved this movie - have watched and rewatched it, especially the extended version. Great characters, scary moments - what's not to like!
HR 2010/01/06 12:41 PM
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James Cameron knows how to improve on an already great movie: He did it with Terminator & I'll be damned if he didn't do it again with this too - When are sequals ever as good or even better than their originals? When JC's the director, that's when!
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