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Aliens
1986 - R - 137 Mins.
Director: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn
Review by: John Ulmer
   
This is not supposed to happen. Sequels are never supposed to be as good as the original. It's unheard of. But as it goes, "Aliens" is just as good as its 1979 predecessor, one way or another.

If you recall what happened at the end of "Alien," you may have a larger sense of respect for this film. If you decide to keep reading, I'll let you in on what happened. I promise.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) was last seen escaping a doomed spaceship in an escape pod. Then, when the thrills came to an abrupt end, she found an alien in her escape pod. After blasting the alien (that killed her crew on a mining ship) into the outer realms of space, she went into hibernation for the trip home.

It's 57 years later. Ripley is still floating out there, asleep in the hibernation tank. Then a salvage crew find her, and take her to a hospital, where she finds out that she has been out for 57 years. Her daughter is dead. Her friends are dead. She must start a new life. Imagine the effects of waking up 57 years later. How would you feel? I think "Aliens" did a good job of showing these emotions after waking up.

She tells her story of the killer alien onboard her mining ship to a committee of old guys with bugs up their bums, who work for Weyland-Yutani Corp., and none of them believe her. In fact, they even tell her that the planet where John Hurt found the facehugger (which started the alien attack) has been inhabitated by humans for twenty years. They haven't reported a single species around there. So, thinking she's a loon, the committee takes away her license to fly on spaceships (or something like that). She's left alone. Until, by matter of coincedence, the planet, LV-somethingorother, loses contact with the mainland, and the committee offers to give back her license if she accompanies a band of marines to the planet to find out what's going on.

She finally agrees, and they go to the planet. And after over an hour of waiting, we finally see the first alien in a terrifying and truly terrific attack sequence. The aliens start their attack, and the marines start to disappear, one-by-one.

Wow. Lemme catch my breath. Compared to the original, this film has ten times more action per se. The first film had more of the "Jaws" technique of not showing anything, but "Aliens" does show the aliens, and manages to still keep the action AND suspense going. For the first hour it is slow and unmoving, building up the suspense. And then, all of a sudden, the aliens come, and it's non-stop action for the last hour-stretch, which includes a deeper look into the alien species.

"Aliens" had a lot of thought put into its production, so it's no wonder James "The Terminator" Cameron made it, two years after his low-budget first-hit. (And if I have to tell you what that movie was, you deserve not to know.) The budget for this film is quite considerable. Three cast-members from "The Terminator" joined Cameron for "Aliens." These three include Bill Paxton (the punk in the beginning of "The Terminator"), Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese) and Lance Henriksen (the cop).

I suppose this is because they all know Cameron is a thorough director. He takes everything seriously, and pays painstaking attention to detail. His ability to stay true to the original, but add on the action and aliens is the talent of a great and developing director.

"Aliens" is hard to compare to the original in terms of which is better. "Alien" was a breakthrough in cinema history, and had more overall horror and suspense, as compared to the action of the sequel. The sequel, instead of showing one alien, shows a few hundred, which is another mark of a director who knows what he's doing. The sequel isn't wasted, like "Jaws 2" or "The Lost World: Jurassic Park." Cameron realizes that the audience has seen one alien, and the only way to keep the suspense and thrills, while adding more action, is to somehow introduce MORE aliens. Which is exactly what he did. (And that is why I believe "Alien 3" was such a bad sequel--it went back to the technique of one alien, and after the audience has been shown hundreds, they don't want one.)

So that is why it is hard for me to choose favorites between the first two. A few days ago I would have said the sequel, but I just saw the original again and absolutely enjoyed it. So it's hard to choose, now. Don't ask me to, because I won't answer.

"Aliens" is an example of a teriffic sequel that builds upon the original. We've seen an alien already, so "Aliens" adds more. We've seen Ripley battle an alien before, so "Aliens" shows Ripley battle the Queen Alien (in a terrific display of action). We've seen "Alien," so make it "Aliens."

Everything is improved upon, and as I write this review, I have come upon the conclusion that these two films are as good as each other.

Rent them both, and watch them back-to-back. Or better yet, buy them.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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