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Aliens Movie Review

ripley cameron private film

1986 – James Cameron –

Whereas Ridley Scott's original Alien was a moderately paced, dark, almost melancholy film deriving much of its mood from the isolation and entrapment of its characters, James Cameron's Aliens propels its story forward, retaining a certain dark atmosphere but taking the tale in a new direction by emphasizing action and by turning the cat-and-mouse hunt of the first movie into a full-scale war. Aliens picks up fifty-seven years after the end of the previous film, as Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) wakes from a cryogenic freeze and discovers that a human colony has been established on the planet where she and the crew of the Nostromo discovered the vicious alien predators almost six decades before. However, communication with the colony has been cut off, so Ripley accompanies a team of marines to find out what has happened. They soon realize, of course, that the colony has been destroyed by the aliens, and before long the team is trapped on the base with the creatures. The intensity of action that follows as Ripley and the band of soldiers battle the aliens does not let up until the end of the movie, and neither does Cameron's skill at creating memorable images—many of them dark and dreadful—and at manipulating the emotions of the audience. For sheer excitement and terror, the last fifty minutes of this film can hardly be matched.

As in Alien, Ripley becomes an almost mythical hero who finds herself in a seemingly unbeatable situation but manages to use her wits and considerable physical prowess to rise above the occasion. After her horrible experience on board the Nostromo years before, Ripley has no desire to go back to the planet where the aliens were found. Initially, she simply goes along for the ride, to offer advice to the military team since she is the only one with knowledge of the aliens, but eventually she must take charge and help lead the fight. Ripley also becomes a mother figure as she protects and nurtures Newt (Carrie Henn), the young girl the team finds alive on the colony. Cameron effectively utilizes the scenes between the two of them to create another level of human interest and suspense. In fact, motherhood becomes one of the major themes threaded throughout the story, not only in Ripley's relationship to Newt but also in the unveiling of the queen alien, a previously unknown creature that sends her brood out to kill and to find hosts for the alien embryos. Ultimately the film becomes the story of two maternal beings battling to survive and to protect their “children.” Thus Aliens merges two of the most basic forces that have driven the course of humanity throughout history: motherhood and war.

The scenes in which the alien creatures attack and pursue the doomed humans are unrelenting in their effort to keep the audience on edge. The barrage of suspense, violence, and kinetic energy as the humans, the aliens, and the camera itself move and confront one another is at times almost exhausting, but the film achieves what its makers set out to do—unsettle, scare, and thrill the viewer. Fortunately, the fast-paced action is complemented by interesting characters (particularly those of Ripley and Newt) that in some respects are better defined than those of Alien. Perhaps the only unfortunate thing about the success of this action thriller is that it sets up a pattern that the next two movies in the series attempted to imitate but failed to do so with originality. One can only tell the story of decimating the cast in so many ways. With Aliens, Cameron found a good way to do so.

Cast: Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), Carrie Henn (Rebecca “Newt” Jorden), Michael Biehn (Corporal Dwayne Hicks), Paul Reiser (Carter Burke), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), William Hope (Lieutenant Gorman), Jenette Goldstein (Private Vasquez), Bill Paxton (Private Hudson), Al Matthews (Sergeant Apone), Mark Rolston (Private Drake), Ricco Ross (Private Frost), Colette Hiller (Corporal Ferro), Daniel Kash (Private Spunkmeyer), Cynthia Scott (Corporal Dietrich), Tip Tipping (Private Crowe) Screenwriter: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill Cinematographer: Adrian Biddle Composer: James Horner Producer: Gale Anne Hurd for Twentieth Century Fox MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 137 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1986: Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects; Nominations: Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Art Direction/Set Decoration, Film Editing, Original Score (James Horner), Sound; Golden Globe Awards 1987, Nominations: Actress—Drama (Sigourney Weaver) Budget: $18.5M Box Office: $81.8M (domestic gross).

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