Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Favorite Era: Aliens (1986)

The sequel to Alien does the remarkable and ends up being just as fantastic, only in a completely different way.  Whereas Ridley Scott went for drawn out suspense, James Cameron delivers the suspense with gut-wrenching intensity and speed. It's got a great cast, great f/x and a great soundtrack.  Let's take a closer look.
  • As with the first film, the title of the film is gradually revealed as the opening credits roll.  It's a pretty neat visual.
  • Love the nightmare sequence that re-introduces us to Ripley.  Sigourney Weaver is great as usual (hell, she scored a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars for this), giving Ripley not only a great badass attitude, but also a soft maternal side, both of which get a damn good workout.  It's a real good piece of physical and emotional acting.
  • Also good is Paul Reiser as Burke, the slimy rep from The Company who ends up joining Ripley as she goes after the aliens when a colony is lost and turns out to be just as deplorable as the monsters themselves.  Reiser, who is generally a pretty likable and funny guy does a fantastic job of playing a huge, colossal scumbag.  It's actually pretty impressive given that all of his other work is mainly comedy.
  • The group of Colonial Marines Ripley hooks up with is fantastic, James Cameron's script gives most of them enough personality so that you actually sort of care when they become alien chow and there is not a bad performance in the entire batch.
  • My personal favorites are Hicks (Michael Biehn), Bishop (Lance Henriksen), Hudson (Bill Paxton) and Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein).
  • Biehn delivers a nicely laid back performance, though given what I know about his acting technique I'm sure his intensity level was through the damn roof.  Henriksen is his usual reliable self and Goldstein is fun as a badass soldier but the real fun comes from Paxton.  Hudson starts off as your typical cocky jerk but as the situation gets worse he slowly begins to go nuts.  And believe me, when Bill Paxton is told to go crazy in a scene, the dude abides.  The dude abides.
  • The last cast member I want to mention is Carrie Henn as Newt, the lone survivor of the colony.  She manages to be one of the few child performers in film history to not turn in a shrill, annoying performance.  
  • Cameron does a fantastic job keeping things moving, this might be the most relentlessly paced 137 minute long movie I have ever seen.  Like Ridley Scott, he puts an emphasis on suspense only in this case, he abandons Scott's subtle approach in favor of grabbing the audience by the throat about forty five minutes in and not letting go until the end credits roll.  It's a hell of a thrill ride with frantic shootouts, huge explosions and general mayhem.  Hell, I still jump at one or two of the scare moments (alien facehugger in a jar suddenly moving, gets me every time).
  • The last twenty minutes or so are awesome as Ripley goes Rambo on the aliens, it's a real stand-up-and-cheer sequence.  the finale with the alien queen and Ripley in a power loader is a great way to end the flick.
  • Stan Winston delivers maybe his crowning cinematic achievement with his aliens, especially the alien queen.  Just fantastic work all around.
  • Also good is the score from James Horner, hell every facet of the film's production works perfectly.
  • The extended 154 minute cut is equally strong, though a good deal of it is not entirely essential as one of the things that makes the film work is just how relentless it is.
Aliens is one of the few sequels that manages to be just as good as the original in an entirely different way.  While Lethal Weapon 2 was just as good as the first, it was still pretty much the same film.  In the case of Aliens, it excels at sledgehammer suspense and terror in much the same way that the original excelled at a slow build.  If The Terminator got James Cameron noticed, Aliens really got him noticed as he does a great job (even with his massive social ineptness at the time) and gives the audience one hell of a roller coaster.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.