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Aliens (1986)


In Aliens – the sequel to the 1979’s Alien – Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Lt. Ripley. In the first film, she was the soul survivor after her crew discovered deadly aliens during a space expedition. At the end of Alien, she expelled a creature through the air lock and put herself into hibernation. Aliens opens 50 years later, when a ship crew discovers Ripley sleeping in deep space. She’s awakened and returned to Earth, where she learns that her daughter, who was 11 years old the last time she saw her, has recently died of old age.

To her astonishment and horror, Ripley also learns that a multi-billion dollar human colony has been established on the alien-infested planet from which she escaped. When the colony loses contact with Earth, Ripley tries to tell everyone about the aliens, but, naturally, no one listens to her. A crew of heavily armed soldiers, technicians, and scientists set out on another space expedition to investigate. After being told that the soldiers intend to destroy the species, Ripley decides to tag along as well. Once the ship arrives at the colony, however, all hell breaks loose.

Aliens is as obvious as they come. We know from the beginning that another crew will travel to space, and, for whatever reason, something will go horribly wrong, and all but a few lucky souls will end up dead at the claws of the breed of deadly monsters. It happened in the first film, and we know it will happen again, not only in this film, but in the concluding films in the quadrilogy as well. The fact that the films are routine is irrelevant, however, because it’s the ride to the inevitable that is all the fun. Aliens is one of the few films that can be predicted perfectly, but it’s so well crafted – and so damn exciting – that we just don’t care. The destination does not matter just as long as the journey is entertaining… and Aliens is very entertaining.

The film owes a lot to Sigourney Weaver’s performance, which is the thread that holds everything together. She portrays Ripley not as a hard-boiled alien commando, but as a multi-layered human being. Weaver puts her heart and soul into Ripley, and provides her with a lot of empathy and depth. She injects vulnerability and tragedy into Ripley that shows, yes, she’s a tough broad, but not out of choice. The supporting performances are also impressive and, from Paul Reiser to Bill Paxton, it’s fun to see so many recognizable faces so early in their careers.

Because of the terrific creature effects, Aliens is remembered as gorier than it actually is. Gore can provide a horror movie with unforgettable moments, (I will never recover from the scene in Alien: Resurrection where a creature gets sucked through a hole the size of an apple), and there are plenty of gruesome opportunities in Aliens, but they are not always seized. For instance, there is a lengthy sequence in which the soldiers search an abandoned building for aliens. Of course, the aliens ambush the soldiers. Director James Cameron shows the attack through cameras in the soldiers’ helmets and brief snippets of footage. In a way, this is a wise choice; Cameron knows it’s what we don’t see that scares us. But I would have given anything to see the aftermath of that attack, or at least a little more blood and guts. Aliens is a great roller coaster ride as it stands, but leaves a little too much to the imagination at times.

James Cameron’s original, extended version of the film highlights the DVD’s vast arsenal of special features. The additional scenes are not like most films’ deleted scenes, which often deserve the cutting room floor. These scenes provide the film with insightful detail, most notably, about Ripley’s daughter. And, in case you aren’t sure what’s new, a non-intrusive deleted footage marker helps you keep track. The disk also includes commentary from just about everyone involved and their grandmothers, nine featurettes, Cameron’s original treatment, and much more. This DVD is a gold mine.

The Alien Quadrilogy includes a total of nine disks: all four Alien films, each with a separate disk of extras, and an additional bonus disk complete with a Q&A with Ridley Scott, a UK documentary on Alien, original theatrical trailers to all four films, a DVD-ROM ‘script to screen’ comparison feature, an anthology of 11 issues of the Dark Horse Alien comics, and more. These materials will give you a whole new appreciation for the Alien films.

He prefers the term ‘artificial person.’