Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) survived the destruction of her ship, the Nostromo, but it took almost sixty years for anyone to find her escape pod. When she awakes from her space sleep/hibernation, she learns that nobody believes her story about the alien that killed her crew; with the Nostromo destroyed, she has no physical evidence, and the higher-ups in the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (AKA "The Company" from the first film) imply that they believe she is making up her story as a defense for blowing up one of their expensive ships. Why would Ripley even need physical evidence? Because the species she encountered has never been observed by humans --- at least, none who survived. In fact, the planet where Ripley's team found the alien is now a terraformed colony, and none of the colonists have ever encountered such a creature. Naturally, not being believed doesn't make Ripley very cheery. When you combine that with the fact that she has now outlived all her loved ones, including her child, you get some serious Captain America-style angst.
|On the bright side, she gets to work with mechanical crab-hands|
|It's called "The Carrot Top Defense"|
As I mentioned before, there is a huge shift in tone from Alien to Aliens. Instead of trying to recreate the suspense of the original film, director James Cameron made a bad-ass action movie. Sure, one alien is scary if you have no weapons, but how about a hundred aliens against a metric ton of guns? That choice makes Aliens a lot less scary than Alien, but it is also a hell of a lot more fun to watch. If there is one thing that James Cameron has always had a handle on, it is how to portray spectacle on the big screen. An entire colony filled with alien xenomorphs is so over the top when compared to the quiet desperation of the first film that it cannot be described as anything but a spectacle. Well, I suppose you can also describe it as "totally awesome," too.
|Suck it, Rambo|
This time around, it is clear from the start that Ripley is the main character, so Sigourney Weaver's acting becomes more crucial. I'm not the biggest fan of Weaver, but she gives an otherwise emotion-free script some humanity. It's also nice to see her character evolve some of the traits shown briefly in the original film; when she takes command, the marines listen because she's saying sensible things with authority. That couldn't have happened before this story, but it still makes sense within the character's progression. I have to admit that I really enjoyed Paul Reiser's slimeball company man role. I've never found Reiser particularly funny, so having a reason to dislike him was very cathartic for me. It helps that he does a great job playing a despicable character.
|Even in the future, the "popped collar" is a sign of douchiness|
|Game over, man! Game over!|
|"You're just too bad, Vasquez"|
James Cameron's style lends itself well to big-budget action movies, especially ones that don't spend a lot of time with emotions or thoughtfulness. Yes, there is a little bit of commentary of corporate greed here, and I love that Paul Reiser was essentially more evil than the xenomorphs, but Aliens is definitely a movie that is best enjoyed by turning off your brain and just enjoying the show. Some of the production values have aged poorly in the past twenty-six years (pretty much anything on the surface of the planet), but this movie still looks pretty great on the whole. As much as I think that the majority of the acting in this movie is ridiculously over-the-top, I have to admit that it fits the characters and works well within the framework of this story.
|Where are all the quips now, tough guy?|
|Cameron math: More, bigger monsters > one monster|
The most amazing thing about Aliens, to me, is that it works. As much as I enjoy the original film, I cannot deny how much fun this one is. In fact, until I sat down to watch both back-to-back, Aliens had been my favorite entry in the series for years. It's got cool monsters, a few minor scares, and a whole bunch of can-do action movie goodness --- what's not to like? Well, aside from having to go fetch the little girl at the end because she's a plot device. And the fact that Bill Paxton's character pulls the "I'm ___ days away from retirement" bit. And this is the second movie in a row that has a surprise fourth act. And nobody kills Paul Reiser. Despite all of that, though, Aliens is a ton of fun to watch and still stands up there with Star Wars as one of the most enjoyable action/sci-fi movies ever made.
|Enjoyable for most people, that is|