January 31, 2015


Aliens (1986). Director James Cameron gives Alien the blockbuster treatment, pumping it full of action and his signature brand of dumb, occasionally successful humor. Cameron brings back Sigourney Weaver, the survivor of the first film, this time accompanying a squadron of Marines to the planet where her ill-fated crew discovered the alien eggs in the first movie. That planet has since been colonized by humans, blissfully unaware of the lurking danger. The expected aliens vs. people action ensues. There’s not as much subtlety this time around, and the film works you over pretty thoroughly. But Cameron also humanizes Ellen Ripley by awakening her maternal instinct: she discovers an orphaned girl (Carrie Henn) hiding from the aliens in an air vent. As big and dumb as much of it is, Aliens is an effective thriller with at least a few terrific little nuggets of dialogue; its shortcomings (including a murkiness that sometimes makes it impossible to tell what’s happening onscreen) are bolstered by Sigourney Weaver’s command of the screen. And the film ratchets up the distrust of capitalism that the first film introduced, by introducing a corporate sleazeball (Paul Reiser) who wants the mission to salvage some of those slimy aliens for profit. (Weaver gets to say the film’s best line to him: “I don’t know which species is worse: you don’t see them trying to f*** each other over for a percentage.” With Michael Biehn, Henriksen, Jeanette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, and William Hope. Written by the director. Music by James Horner. Produced by Cameron’s Terminator collaborator Gale Ann Hurd.

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