Movie of the Year: Aliens 1986

Welcome folks to episode six of our weekly “Best of the Year” series in which we examine our favourite movies dating back from 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark to 2015’s not sure what yet…But prob Star Wars.

Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen
Writers: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill
Budget: $18 500 000
Worldwide Gross: $183 000 000
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror

Aliens is a sequel to the very frightening 1979 film Alien directed by Ridley Scott.  Set almost six decades after the events of the first film, Ripley (Weaver) after putting herself into hibernation has finally been found by a salvage ship. Now dealing with the realization of knowing that everyone she ever knew is now dead, she is asked to accompany a unit of marines back to a human colony on the planet where the alien from the first film was found.

Ripley is tasked with lending her expertise on the aliens to the marines since she is the only human who has come in contact with an alien and lived to tell the tale.  The marines are a unit of unique characters from the inexperienced Lt. Gorman, everyone’s second favourite android, Bishop (second to Data), the strong and confidant Pvt. Vasquez, the loose cannon Pvt. Hudson to the 80’s coolest action hero and James Cameron Regular Cpl. Dwayne Hicks (Biehn).

We are given the proper amount of backstory to establish the characters that walk us through the film, just enough suspenseful scenes to keep us anxious and unlike the first movie (which was great) we get a whole cargo ship load of action! and not action for action’s sake but meaningful and arresting action.  The claustrophobic confines of the colony with a dark and rainy atmosphere leads the viewers to an almost white knuckled state as aliens converge on the soldiers from all angles as they scurry underfoot and in the ceiling.  

Some scenes are quite horrific such as the slightly decomposing bodies of living colonists as they are glued to the wall with whatever substance the aliens attached to them while they are incubating alien larvae in their chests.  One of the many things Cameron is great at is not pointing out or drawing attention to heavy elements in his films but instead leaving it unspoken and making you use your imagination and instead think.  For instance after they rescue the little girl Newt, as she sits with a blank expression and pursed lips one is left wondering what horrors she must have witnessed after being the last survivor on a planet overrun by aliens…aliens who have killed her family in a horrific way.  Or the people who are stuck to the wall begging for someone to kill them as they know death by a gun is the easier way out since they have seen others in their same position have aliens burst out of their chests causing a painful and violent death.

There are so many iconic scenes in this movie, mostly from the way Cameron was able to shoot it close and tight and often low to the ground looking up.  Great set pieces were also a key factor in the greatness of this movie with parts of the facility being converted into an alien hive.  Weapon props seem just futuristic enough to be believable as well as look crazy cool and too this day some of the best space ships to have ever flown across our screens. 

As the alien silently stood behind Newt as she clutched her doll still sends chills down my spine, the sweet innocent child about to be taken by a mysterious, dangerous predator is every parents nightmare…that being said, Cameron made sure everyone felt the gravity of this scene as well as every other one.  The final fight between the queen alien and Ripley in the walking forklift power loader thing was so awesome, not so much the action but the imagery. Special effects weren’t quite there yet when Cameron filmed this movie but instead of scrapping the scene he made every inch count so that we could almost smell the stink on the aliens breath as it was inches from Ripley.

Alien and Aliens unfortunately spawned two more ho-hum sequels along with some face palming but sometimes fun Alien vs Predator movies as well as an awesome prequel in Prometheus…Shame on those of you who don’t like it. Next up for the Alien series is a film by photorealistic director Neill Blomkamp who will bring his unique style and most likely Sharlto Copley in 2017’s untitled Alien movie and rumours are…I think they are still rumours is that his movie will ignore everything after Aliens and continue with a scarred up old Hicks, a Ripley and a Newt.

I know this came off as a fluff piece for James Cameron and if you didn’t like it or him please avoid next weeks “Favourite Director” countdown since to me he is king and has never had a misfire.

Thank you very much for spending the time to read my review of Aliens and I hope you enjoyed it and it got you wanting to either re-watch it or watch it for the first time…Brandon “Thunder Lips” Taylor.