Aliens (Extended Edition) starring Sigourney Weaver
James Cameron is a master at directing sequels to great films that end up being better than the original. He did it with Terminator 2. He does it here. Aliens loses the more survival horror based theme of Alien in exchange for a more action-based thriller/sci-fi/horror fest. It’s a hard film to categorize.
The plot? After spending 57 years drifting through space Ripley is rescued by a salvage team and returned to Earth, where she discovers the planet where they encountered the alien is now inhabited by a team of colonists, including families. After the colony drops out of contact company man Burke (Paul Reiser) convinces Ripley to accompany a group of overly macho colonial marines, led by the inexperienced Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) and tough as nails Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews), as an advisor. They discover the colony is deserted apart from a lone girl called Newt, who forms an attachment to Ripley. The marines end up far out of their depth and after an ambush by the aliens wipes the majority of them out it’s up to Ripley to destroy the aliens and get them all back to Earth alive.
Sigourney Weaver is arguably even better here than in the first film. It helps that Ripley is turned into more of a leader/action hero/surrogate mother to Newt as it gives her a lot more material to get her teeth into. Newt (Carrie Henn) forms a believable bond with her, and Henn is one of the best young actresses I can remember in films I’ve seen. Several of the marines make a lasting impression, especially down-to-earth Hicks (Michael Biehn) the terrified foul-mouth Hudson (Bill Paxton) and macho girl Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein). The score from James Horner is suitably tense, and the silence in places works better at keeping the tension than music ever would. The direction and set design is superb, and the special effects a welcome step up from the first film. The film spends a long time building tension, but I really connect with the characters (and care far more when they get killed), certainly more than I did with some of the Nostromo’s crew in the first film.
As with the first film, here’s what I consider the standout scenes;
Ripley’s Dream sequence with a chest-burster early in the film (a real scare).
The marines combat drop sequence (lovely scene to set up the marines).
The Sub-level 3 ambush (how many supporting characters can you lose at once?).
Ripley and Newt get attacked by face-huggers (terrifying).
The Aliens break into operations and the marines escape through the vents (so tense).
Newt is captured by the aliens and Ripley alone goes after her (how’s this for epic?).
The Alien Queen is revealed (well they’re f***ed now!).
What does the extended edition add? Well it adds a scene where Burke informs Ripley that her daughter died while Ripley was in stasis (nicely setting up the Ripley/Newt relationship later on) and a scene where Newt’s father is attacked by a face-hugger (keeping the tension in the slower first hour). It also adds a few scenes where the Marines use automatic turrets to try and hold the aliens back – these work great to add to the tension. Ultimately, the theatrical cut and the director’s cut both work brilliantly, it just depends how long you want to spend watching the film.
Overall, as close to flawless as it gets, arguably my favourite film.
Rating: 5 out of 5!