Overview: Ellen Ripley gets to say “I told you so” when her employers lose contact with a colony on LV-426. 20th Century Fox; 1986; Rated R; 137 minutes.
A Different Beast: If there’s ever another sequel like Aliens, I will figuratively eat my own shoe. That’s not to say there won’t be another sequel that feels radically different from its predecessor, but Aliens lands in an entirely different genre from its original chapter. Alien was a beautiful combination of horror and science fiction. Aliens is a three-way marriage between action, science fiction, with some horror elements sprinkled in to build suspense. The narrow hallways and motion trackers still come into play when tension tightens like a guitar string just waiting to snap. Only now when it snaps, it actually explodes in a foray of gunfire, explosions, and foul language. When the action kicks up, it provides so much visceral excitement that lines such as “Let’s rock!” don’t even feel cheesy as the marines open fire on hordes of Aliens.
Gone are the everyman space truckers of Ridley Scott’s first movie; they’re replaced here with space marines brought by sequel and special effects master James Cameron. With their raging biceps and heavy weaponry, Schwarzenegger’s Predator team would be envious of this crew. The marines are more caricatures than characters, but they’re the definitive caricatures. Every loudmouthed space marine in a science fiction action movie has probably stolen a few lines or mannerisms from Bill Paxton’s Hudson. The most astonishing thing to me is that they marines aren’t assholes. They’re just trying to survive. We all like to imagine we’d be a Ripley or Hicks in this situation. We’re also all idiots so we’d most definitely be stupidly shouting “Game over, man! Game over!” at the top of our lungs.
Game Over: Even with all the vast differences between this film and its predecessor, it also feels like a natural continuation of Ellen Ripley’s journey. Sigourney Weaver is again fantastic here as the no-nonsense Ripley. Of course, now she’s haunted by the events of the first movie but we thankfully don’t have to spend time with Ripley moping around. She’s on a mission to prove these creatures exist and is willing to do whatever it takes to stop them. The real meat of the story begins back on the colonial settlement where Ripley finds a young girl, nicknamed Newt, and begins to share a motherly bond with her. Add a heartfelt relationship in the middle of a sensational action climax and you have an iconic final boss battle. I won’t spoil it (You’d be surprised how many people still haven’t seen this movie) but it’s one for the ages.
Final Thoughts: Aliens isn’t a staple of the horror genre like Alien. It’s an expertly crafted action movie with the most horrifying creature science fiction has to offer.