Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Aliens Film Review


Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, William Hope, Paul Reiser.
Series: Alien
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 137 minutes

(Spoilers for the previous film, Alien, are below).

It’s hard to believe how different this film is from its predecessor, Aliens hardly feels like a sequel but rather a different type of film all together.  Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley, and accompanies an entirely new cast and director as the Alien franchise shifts genres from science fiction horror film to science fiction action film.

Amazingly this transition of genres works, making it nearly impossible to compare Aliens to Alien, and allowing Aliens to avoid the critical pitfalls often associated with film sequels.  Although there is some hokey dialogue and acting, even by action movie standards, Aliens manages to build an even more engaging story than its predecessor, but personally I felt it was not better than the original.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is rescued 57 years after escaping the Nostromo and putting herself in stasis.  The company that employed her is skeptical of her story regarding the alien and the destruction of the Nostromo and decides to take away her flight license.

During her time in stasis the company that employed her managed to begin colonizing the planet where Ripley and her crew made contact with the Alien species.  Shortly after Ripley’s resuscitation, the company loses contact with the colony and Ripley is asked to go with a group of marines and company representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) to investigate what happened to the colony.  Ripley agrees to go to retrieve her license and under the agreement that if aliens are found, they are to all be killed.

James Cameron, as the new director of this film, does an excellent job of making Aliens his own, while still managing to pay tribute to Ridley Scott’s original vision.  There are a number of scenes that pay tribute to the original including a few extended scenes with creepy silences and various images and references to the crew of the Nostromo.

Whereas Alien was a tale of individual survival, Aliens is a war for survival.  This time around, there are many aliens, but the humans this time are technologically prepared.  Unfortunately human technology isn’t enough to give the marines an edge, and the subsequent battle between the technologically advanced humans versus the biologically gifted aliens resembles a battle between biology and technology.

Action scenes are fast paced, full of explosions, one liners, and lots of alien gore.  The film transitions from these action scenes to scenes of anticipation that pay tribute to the creepy silent set ups in the previous Alien film. Violence is one of the first things I think about after seeing the film, the other thing I immediately think of is Bill Paxton.

Bill Paxton plays the marine William Hudson, and he delivers so many lines in such a ridiculous manner I find it impossible to tell whether or not this was a character that was supposed to be genuinely empathized with or a character the audience was supposed to laugh at.  Either way, nearly every line uttered by this character has become engrained in movie culture and has been parodied relentlessly ever since.

Despite the over-the-top performance from Bill Paxton, the film can still be taken seriously and that is largely due to Sigourney Weaver, who carries this film as Ellen Ripley. Her performance in Alien held the movie together, but her performance in Aliens elevates the performances of everyone else, and is all around one of the best lead acting performances for a science fiction film ever.  Weaver adds a much deeper versatility to Ripley’s character whether it’s as a nurturing mother figure to Newt, or to being able to exercise a position of unquestionable leadership, or to being a gun wielding badass.

Her supporting cast doesn’t give her too much help within the quality acting department.  The only notable exceptions there belong to Paul Reiser as the corporate profiteer and Lance Henriksen as the marines’ android.  Both characters ambitions are ambiguous and the film plays these roles out well.  The rest of the marines are your generic movie soldiers – they talk tough and nearly every verbal statement is a sarcastic remark.

Aliens lacks the amount of innovation Alien had, but overall it’s a movie that is more fun to watch.  Most people would rightfully debate which of the two films is better.  I lean towards the first because there are a lot of new ideas that were brought into that film, and I’m able to take it more seriously.  The supporting cast of Alien was excellent and helped make the film feel more serious in tone, whereas Aliens is able to maintain a serious tone, but its supporting cast often undermines the seriousness that it seemed the film was going for.  Both films are excellent and Aliens proves to be a great addition to the Alien franchise.

I’m going to conclude this review with another video.  As a fan of the game Starcraft, I’m sure many people who have played the game have noticed that a lot of the Terran units use dialogue from this movie.  This is most apparent with the Terran dropship which uses the exact same dialogue as the marine who is driving the landing craft in Aliens.  Below is a video mash-up of the two.

Score: 9

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