Wednesday March 3, 2010 17:45

Movie #0015 – Aliens (1986)

Posted by Michael


Directed by: James Cameron
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton
Second Viewing

Synopsis: A rescue team is called in after a group of colonists find themselves under attack from a recently-hatched group of aliens.

I’d seen both of the first two Alien films before watching them for this blog, but it had been a while and my memory of both of them was fuzzy. While watching the first one, I was taken with how good it was. Of course, I had remembered it being a good movie, but it was just such an expertly constructed and visually dazzling film, and I thought “there’s no way that Aliens could top this.” Boy, was I wrong. While I’m not sure if Aliens is the better film, it’s easily just as good.

Thanks to his almost absurd success with Avatar, James Cameron is currently the man of the moment (and will likely be taking home another Oscar come Sunday). Say what you will about Cameron, but he has a pretty much flawless track record (the only film of his I haven’t seen is the Abyss, but I’ll just assume that it’s good). I don’t think there are any directors right now who can direct action quite as well as James Cameron, and Aliens is probably his best film.

The thing about Aliens is that it may just be the perfect sequel — it takes everything that was great about the first film and cranks it up to eleven. It also manages to be different enough so as not to be seen as a mere rehash, trading in the more slow-paced eerie suspense of the original in favour of a surfeit of riveting and exciting action sequences. The other nice thing about Aliens is that, like the original, it’s not in any rush to get to the action, and gives us time to really get to know the cast of characters, which makes the action-heavy second half all the more effective. I watched the director’s cut of this film, which is just over two and a half hours long, and the film was completely entertaining from start to finish; it absolutely never feels like it’s overstaying its welcome.

And then there’s the action, which is amazingly intense, and probably the best work that Cameron has done. A couple of highlights include the scene in which a couple of characters find themselves locked in a room with a facehugger, and the final confrontation between Ripley and the alien queen (including the incredibly bad-ass moment in which Ripley emerges in the robot suit and utters the now-classic line “get away from her, you bitch!”). Good stuff.

If I were to compose a list of my favourite action films, Aliens would definitely be right near the top (if not on top). It’s that good.

Buy the movie at Amazon

1 Response to Movie #0015 – Aliens (1986)

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Chris

July 18th, 2011 at 2:42 am

Aliens (the original theatrical release) is, in my opinion, the best movie ever made. That sounds like hyperbole but what other statement will do if its what you believe? Cameron is at the very top of his game here in every respect. Within a minute of the sleep chambers opening (as the Sulaco arrives in orbit around LV426) Cameron has sketched in the basic outline of each new character. Like the artist that he is he then fleshes out those characters carefully and deliberately as the action moves to the surface. His command of action sequences is, as you note, complete. I don’t think there’s anyone working in film today who can match him. He understands that for an action scene to work the viewer has to care about the characters involved. And we do.
The film exists on at least a half dozen levels simultaneously: first rate action flick, war movie, visionary sci-fi, old-school special effects bonanza, horror movie and redemptive tale while all the while churning toward its primary thesis about the transcendent power of family.
For my money the Director’s Cut doesn’t add anything to the conversation and only serves to bog the story down. Cameron spends 10 minutes or more showing us how the alien nest was found and the genie let out of the bottle, when in the studio cut we learn the same thing in 10 seconds of dialogue between Ripley and Burke.
That said Aliens should be required viewing for any aspiring film maker. Just a great great movie start to finish.

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