ALIENS can be summed up in the come-and-get-it declaration of a certain Colonial Marine grunt named ‘Vasquez’—“LET’S ROCK!”
If only all sequels measured up to the one James Cameron stunningly fashioned in 1986, putting Sigourney Weaver’s ‘Ripley’ back in the pile-driver seat to battle bugs like an Amazon, with firepower & wisecrack help from a squad of memorable comrades. The plural in the title serves notice there’s more than one acid-blooded xenomorph with a serious overbite out there, hungry for human hosts and in no mood for diplomacy.
“Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!”
2179. Having escaped from the Nostromo and spending 57 years in stasis/suspended animation, Ellen Ripley is reluctantly persuaded to return to exomoon ‘LV-426’, where the faceplanting stowaway came aboard in her last voyage. Now the heedless ‘Weyland-Yutani’ corporation has placed a colony there, and they’re in some sort of distress. Prodded into going by company sleaze ‘Burke’ (Paul Reiser), Ripley’s backed by a team of cocky Marines, armed-to-extinguish. Bravado bumps the beehive, bullets run out before targets do, and ‘Game on’ becomes “Game over, man, game over!”
Brash and driven, James Cameron proved his smash The Terminator was no fluke: Aliens is paced to thrill, laced with quotable lines, cast to a tee, stoked with tension, bursting with furious action, propelled by James Horner’s exciting music score. Weaver expands on her take-no-guff heroine with gravitas sufficient to earn an Oscar nomination as Best Actress. Michael Biehn’s ‘Hicks’ is a sturdy compatriot, Reiser is splendidly vile as the human villain, Lance Henriksen appealing as sympathetic android ‘Bishop’. Jenette Goldstein buffed up bod & ‘tude for her buttkicking Vasquez, and the much-missed Bill Paxton earmarks immortality as ‘Hudson’, whose panic may be unhelpful but is certainly logical (and hilarious) given the Custer’s Last Stand scenario.
“Maybe we got ’em demoralized.”
Part of the pop culture landscape, Aliens has enough detailed material about the making of the film available online to fill a starship, and enough labored explanations of what its subtexts to base a degree curriculum on the script. We’ll spare you. It’s a classic sci-fi action epic intended less to make you detect, reflect and subject than to have you gasp, laugh and cheer.
Besides Weaver’s nod, Oscar nominations came for Music Score, Film Editing, Art Direction and Sound, and wins were bestowed on Visual Effects and Sound Effects Editing.
Produced for $18,500,000, in the ’86 cash zone it took 7th place. Inconsistent box office figures range from $131,000,000 to $183,000,000. Depending on the cut, 137/154 minutes: go long or go home. With Carrie Henn (‘Newt’), William Hope, Mark Rolston.
“Get away from her, you BITCH!”