“Get away from her you bitch”
Aliens, directed by the great and powerful James Cameron, is the sequel to the highly acclaimed science fiction film Alien, released in 1979. The story of Aliens picks up 57 years after the first film. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is awoken from her hyper-sleep after being rescued by a deep space salvage team. She finds out that the human colonizers of LV-426 (the alleged home of the Xenomorphs) have lost contact with the rest of civilization; she fears they might have been harvested by the Xenomorphs. Ripley teams up with a savage group of space marines to go back into LV-426 to establish contact with the colonizers.
Aliens is a very different, yet impressively unique science-fiction film. While its predecessor was a more self-contained, “thrilleresque” movie, focusing on the horrors of an unknown alien species gradually (literally) tearing apart the crew of an un-suspecting space-craft, Aliens is an all-out blockbuster action movie. I liked that James Cameron chose to go his own route, instead of mimicking/replicating Ridley Scotts’ work. While there are some similar elements between the two films, such as the gradual buildup of suspense towards a death, Aliens stands firmly and confidently on its own two feet.
The soundtrack of this movie, is very minimalist, but does its job. James Horner frequently utilizes beepers and sirens to elucidate a feeling of urgency and restlessness from the characters. As audiences, we notice the gradual buildup of these sounds to indicate the closing in presence of the Xenomorphs. I found this technique very effective in building up suspense. The set design and use of engineering to create futuristic mechanical technologies and spaces was also impressive. Some specific highlights include the loader used to move heavy objects and the set of the Xenomorph egg storage space (see below)
Other positives of Aliens include its bad-ass female lead and comedic timing. Sigourney Weaver is the perfect casting for this character and once again does a phenomenal job. In the first film, I was not expecting her to be the sole survivor, but I was pleasantly surprised. In this movie, Ripley is better trained and takes down Xenomorphs like a boss. The comedy in this film was also genuinely enjoyable, with each character having his/her own time in the spotlight.
On the negative side, some of the action was a bit choppy. Though the Xenomorphs were well designed and got a wider range of movements than in Alien, I still felt that something was lacking. Whenever there was a physical conflict between the humans and the Xenomorphs, there were too many cuts between characters; the action was sometimes hard to follow. The Xenomorphs also seemed weaker in this film. They were easily torched and killed with single shot; their weaknesses were way too obvious for my liking.
In summary, Aliens is a complete departure (stylistically) from its predecessor. It features incredible set designs, effective sound mixing and likable characters. Though some of its action was a bit choppy, this film was still way ahead of its time and is a worthy inclusion in the science-fiction movie hall of fame (if there exists one).