Wednesday, October 21, 2009


(1986) *****

Picking up where Alien leaves off, Lt. Ellen Ripley is still floating through space when she is found and picked up by a salvage team. She has been sleeping we learn, for 57 years. She tells the story of the alien from the first film, but no one believes her, because a colony has already been set up on the planet. However, when "the company" tells the colonists to go investigate the site of alien eggs that Ripley speaks of, the company loses contact with the colonists. A rescue mission of space marines leads them back to the planet to either save the colonists or fight the aliens! It seems some controversy arose yesterday when I only gave Alien 4 1/2, so let me make it abundantly clear how much I love this film...

This plot description makes this film sound like a cheesy '80s starship troopers kind of thing, but, it's of course, brilliant. Aliens was a trailblazer for any film falling into the sci-fi/action/horror field. Low-budget and big-budget films alike have copied Aliens (everything from Starship Troopers to The Matrix 3). There are so many aspects to applaud here, but since this is Horrorthon, I'll focus on the Horror aspects.

I really think that James Cameron's strength is as a horror writer/director. His best films: Terminator, T2, and Aliens are all essentially horror films. His worst film - Titanic - had no horror whatsoever. Well, no intentional horror. The menacing aliens, which are able to be killed, yet attack silently and ruthlessly are everything a good monster should be - unstoppable. We know that Ripley and the marines are fighting a losing battle, and something about this film pulls the viewer in to really let him/her feel the desperation that takes over these characters. Plus, the film continues to hint at a greater monster - what is laying all of the alien eggs? This buildup is revealed at the end when Ripley confronts the Queen on a burning platform.

The characters are well-developed and complement each other perfectly. AC commented in his review a couple years ago that he thought the characters represented stereotypes. I respectfully disagree. Paul Reiser, who became an actor solely to play good-guy dads/husbands, sneaks up as on the viewer as the sleazy company man. The actress playing Vazquez set the bar for Linda Hamilton in T2.
Newt before
The lone survivor of the alien attack that Ripley and crew find, is Newt. Normally, when these types of films bring in a kid, that kid is really annoying. But here, Newt plays her part so well and so precociously, we almost get the sense that she is the real protagonist of the film. Little trivia - Carrie Henn, the actress playing Newt auditioned for the role in England, as her father was stationed there. She got the part. Aliens was her first and only film. She went to CSU Stanislaus, married a cop, and now teaches elementary school in central California.
Newt now


DCD said...

This will always be one of my all time favorite movies. Happy to hear Newt is doing well!

AC said...

hey, i love aliens too!

Jordan said...

I watched this again last year and had to grudgingly admit that it's much better than I had originally thought. It's a great Cameron action movie, and it definitely delivers the goods.

But what it really isn't, is a true sequel to Alien. I've already chewed through thousands of Horrorthon pixels expressing my reverence for Ridley Scott's masterpiece (although it's possible that Blade Runner is his masterpiece), so I don't have to elaborate here. But Aliens completely discards almost everything about the first movie that makes it so wondrous, starting with the quality of the acting (suddenly we're back in Hollywood "comic book" land after Scott's groundbreaking Royal Shakespeare Company approach to sci-fi casting) and continuing with the rich tonalities of Alien which are completely replaced with a gaudy, steel-pounding-steel Reagan-era mise-en-scene.

Also, the aliens themselves aren't nearly as good; there are more of them, but they lack the excellence and terror of Scott's original. Nobody bothered to hire H.R. Gieger back (they just copied his designs), and nobody was casting African ballet dancers to play the aliens (the way Ridley Scott did).

I felt better in 1993, when David Fincher took over. His movie isn't anywhere near as good as James Cameron's, but he did work very hard at re-creating Ridley Scott's dark vibe (and, being David Fincher, mostly succeeded). I remember walking out of the theater after seeing Alien 3 and saying, "Well, it took fourteen years but I finally got to see a sequel to Alien."

JPX said...

Wow, Newt grew up to become Chastity Bono!

Jordan said...

Another thing: David Fincher got so much grief for killing Newt and Hicks immediately. People were so angry: "How dare he," etc.

I was like, are you people crazy? That's like horror movie 101. I don't want to spoil any Eli Roth movies but that's exactly the kind of nasty maneuver that we applaud most of the time. The entire Newt autopsy scene in Alien 3 (and the excellent death freezeframe of Hicks, who did not die painlessly) were totally excellent.

Jordan said...

I mean, yeah; it sucks that Newt dies after all that. But this is the Alien franchise! Nobody's having a good time.

Trevor (Tami's friend) said...

Oh Jordan, I feel a feud coming on... yes, Alien 3 is much closer in feel to the first Alien film, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good thing. Aliens carries on the story from the first film. They go back to the same planet, 57 years later, to find that it has been colonized.

As for the terror of the aliens - please re-watch the scene where Ripley stumbles on to where the queen is laying eggs, aliens come in, and Ripley essentially bargains with the Queen to make the alien troops withdraw. Listen to her snorting like a dragon and then revisit the assertion that these aliens aren't as "wondrous".

As for the sequel thing - I still think Aliens is primarily a horror film. If you look at other big action films out these days - Star Trek, Dark Knight, Transformers, none ellicit the sense of dread and fear that Aliens does as Ripley tries to rescue Newt and escape.

I should stop now, I sense another lengthy critique when I post the Alien 3 review soon.

Jordan said...

See dead Newt and Hicks here on my website.

Yeah! That's the stuff. They both suffered terribly. (Hey, these are horror movies.)

Jordan said...

I'm familiar with the scene in question. It's good. I watched the movie again recently and like it a lot more. It's great stuff! It's just not the "true" sequel to Alien that I wanted.

I still remember the first time I saw it, watching the "Marines waking up" sequence with that awful guy saying "Look into my eye" and all the jokes about "Vasquez thought they meant 'Illegal alien" and thinking, Jesus Christ, what happened? When we left off we were in a rarefied sci-fi know, like adults would watch...and now, seven years later, they've turned it into a brightly-lit comic book with, like, bad jokes. (And Ripley's a very different character: she's become maternal and flirty and womanly as befits the Reagan era anti-feminist backlash.)

But I got over it. The action sequences are outstanding, and the whole thing is a terrific adrenaline rush.

Catfreeek said...

You just can't go wrong when Lance Henriksen is in a film.

Jordan said...

Yeah you can! Johnny Handsome (Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Lance Henriksen; 1989).

Octopunk said...

I love Aliens. I saw this movie by myself at Showcase and I smuggled in a big D'Angelo's sandwich. When that final action sequence starts aboard the ship I thought "nooo, it's time to rest now."

Anonymous said...

I, too, am repulsed by the death of Hicks and Newt, especially that of Newt. But then, again, this is a horror film, and Alien 3 was not the first film to kill a child. Frankenstein (1931) did it, and so did Salem's Lot (1979).

I have to give David Fincher credit for his handling of Ripley's death. Initially, he did not want the scene in which an alien queen burst out of Ripley's chest, but he was pressured to do so by Fox. He included the scene, but still had her die peacefully. We, thankfully, do not see her screaming like John Hurt did in the first film.

I don't think I'll ever like Alien 3, but I don't dislike it as much as I did when it first came out.

As Carrie Henn put it when someone remarked about the death of her character: Life goes on.