Aliens (1986) (R)
It's impossible to emphasize the pop culture impact that "Aliens" had. Widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best sequel ever made; "Aliens" strayed from the simplistic (and effective) approach of its predecessor and made use of the movie's budget.
The difference in the first movie and the second could be the shift in director; it's interesting to note that of the four movies in the official "Alien" franchise, no two had the same director. It would seem that each man thought he had perfected the series and the mantel was passed on to the next one. From Ridley Scott to James Cameron—you'd be hard pressed to find two better directors than this. Even though David Fincher took the reigns from there...it's only "Alien" and "Aliens" that are worth anything in the series.
It could be the writing that forced the series into the ground, but why mess with near perfection? "Alien" had it all—it seemed like the kind of movie that doesn't demand a sequel; but leave it to James Cameron to silence the critics.
"Aliens" picks up right where "Alien" left off—Ellen Ripley floating out in space, waiting for someone to find her. Cocooned in a hyper sleep pod with her cat, Jonesy, she eventually flies into the path of another space ship.
From there, it's just a short trip to a hospital—Ripley is fighting nausea and bad dreams...not common side effects from hyper-sleep. But there's a reason for that, she's been floating around in space for fifty-seven years.
Since the Notromo incident, the Weyland-Yutani has become a strong force. They have started terra-forming, that is, making the air of foreign planets breathable in order to send settlers there.
Ripley, in a series of frustrating meetings concerning what happened with the Nostromo, finds out that the planet where she and her crew first encountered the aliens is being colonized.
Enraged at the idea, she condemns the corporation and tries to get on with her life.
Then there's Burke (Paul Reiser) who is the slimy corporation guy—he tries to convince Ripley to return to the planet when contact is lost with the settlers. He fears the worst and manipulates Ripley into coming with him. She makes it very, very clear that the only reason she is going is to wipe the creatures out. There will be no scientific experimenting here.
So Ripley gets loaded onto another ship going out to the derelict outskirts of civilization only to encounter a ravenous species with a special need for human flesh—or as Mr. Schwarzenegger calls it: "summer vacation".
With "Alien", Ridley Scott made it clear what kind of movie he was making: frightening, grotesque, and intelligent. James Cameron, on the other hand, ditches the "intimate" (for lack of a better word) approach that Scott used. In "Alien" there were only seven characters, plus a cat and the alien. In "Aliens" there are over twenty and each of them always carries around a high powered explosive making machine.
There is ten times as much action in "Aliens" than in "Alien". But in doing this, Cameron actually hurts himself. Although terrifically entertaining, "Aliens" doesn't measure up to the sophistication of Ridley Scott's movie. It begins to get somewhat mindless, though never to the extent of modern movies, such as "Man of Steel".
To be perfectly fair, "Aliens" has the same script as its predecessor with more guns and more explosions. It's virtually the same plot—people get trapped in an isolated area with the bad guy(s), there is no way to escape...let's blow everything up.
"Aliens" is much more about corruption than "Alien"...it's one of the few science fiction franchises that looks at future companies and the power they will hold.
This movie's impact, as previously mentioned, is huge—the knife game, "Game over, man", Ripley's stunning one-liners—they all show how big this movie was when it came out. "Aliens" won the franchise its second Oscar in special effects and the movie also saw Sigourney Weaver being nominated. It's hard to win the Academy's respect when you're an action star...it's a testament on how brilliant Weaver is as Ripley.
"Alien" bottled lightning, and "Aliens" comes really close. To be fair, I don't think that Cameron was setting out to create a great, smart science fiction/thriller. He was making pure entertainment...and with that in mind—"Aliens" is a smashing success.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones