In 1979, Ridley Scott released his horror classic Alien and changed the way science fiction movies would be made forever. His brilliant mixing of a razor-sharp script, brilliant performances, especially from Sigourney Weaver, and ground-breaking special effects all combined to deliver a spell-binding film that continues to impress critics and regular film-lovers alike. It must have seemed to be a daunting challenge for anyone to take all the impressive facets the film has achieved and deliver a worthy sequel. But, it is a challenge that director James Cameron not only accepted but excelled at. Through Aliens, Cameron further enhanced the story set by the original and added his own unique mix of special effects, witty dialogue, as well as space for his talented cast to deliver superb performances. That beautiful blend is what undoubtedly makes Aliens a great film.
The cast of Aliens
Aliens stars Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, as well as William Hope, and is directed by the visually-gifted James Cameron. The story takes place nearly six decades after the events of the original Alien (1979) where the previously-undiscovered planet is now colonized and filled with families looking to make life there possible. However, a well-equipped rescue team is deployed to the planet after a horrific incident takes place, looking to face whatever danger lurks within it. Aliens is an action adventure science-fiction motion picture that runs for two hours and thirty-four minutes.
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
Without a doubt, the powerful and influential performance Sigourney Weaver gives as heroine Ellen Ripley is a key factor in the success of Aliens. Reprising the role that made her a star in the original Alien (1979), Weaver is spot-on once again in this defining role that one cannot imagine the movie without her. Ripley, awoken some fifty years after the traumatic events aboard the “Nostromo”, is now a wounded and cynical woman who deeply suspects those around her. Weaver is able to transmit all of the conflicting emotions superbly and with such ease in a manner I find quite astonishing. She builds on her character's strength from the original film and manages to keep viewers transfixed in every scene. There are only a handful of great female heroines in cinema history and Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley is right on top of that list.
A still from Aliens
Weaver's Ellen Ripley is joined by a formidable and colorful supporting cast that make Aliens an entertaining adventure. There is the young and abandoned child Newt (Carrie Henn); the charismatic Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn); the sinister and conniving Carter Burke (Paul Reiser); the intelligent and calculating android Bishop (Lance Henriksen); and the energetic and sarcastic private Hudson (Bill Paxton). All of those characters are brought alive by the well-selected actors who, each in their own way, contribute in providing Aliens with a constant stream of enjoyable scenes. They, as with Weaver, help make this motion picture the beloved classic it is.
Ripley and 'Newt' confront 'Mother'
Perhaps the film's most valuable asset is director James Cameron. After all, it is Cameron who envisioned this unique and vastly different sequel to Ridley Scott's original. He has not only made the sequel a no-holds-barred action extravaganza, but also took the time to make sure he and his writing team develop each character, allowing audiences to fully connect with them. His pacing of the movie is incredible, specially on the extended version, as there are no moments wasted on side-plots or needless dialogue. Indeed, Cameron's control of Aliens is so tight and concise that one marvels at how easily the two-plus hours pass. A defining feature of any great classic.
Of course, one cannot also forget the terrific special effects at play in Aliens. Working with the visual effects team led by the legendary Stan Winston, James concocts disturbing and engrossing creatures that are not only beautiful to look at, but functional and aiding to his vision of Aliens. There are so many scenes that showcase the effects but if I had to choose one it would be the final showdown between Ellen Ripley and 'Mother', the breeder of the alien army. That entire scene is hypnotic and pure cinema magic that one will surely never get tired of. Needless to say, Winston and his talented team have given us marvelous visual effects that were not only before the days of computer-generated graphics, but are able to stand the test of time.
One of visual effects master Stan Winston's creations
Whenever one comes to think of the best action films that have graced the silver screen, James Cameron's Aliens is most definitely one of the first films that spring to mind. Featuring an exquisite mix of superb acting, top-notch directing, a tight script, and gorgeous visual effects, this sequel is a cinematic marvel, to say the least. Not only does it prove once and for all that sequels can equal the brilliance of their original, but also do the unthinkable by surpassing them. I greatly admire Alien and Aliens and enjoy each for quite different reasons, which is a wonderful thing. And like what Ridley Scott achieved, James Cameron has created a motion picture that ages gracefully, continuing to inspire awe some thirty years after it first premiered. And for that, it deserves to be called a great film.
- Sigourney Weaver (as Ellen Ripley)
2 hours and 31 minutes
Action / Adventure / Science-Fiction