Alright, let’s get started with a solid film, as we reach the middle of this week’s Alien marathon with the second film and second best in the series, Aliens.
This film is the best at something. It’s not the best Alien film. It’s not the best film of the 1980’s. It’s not the best science fiction film. Instead, it is James Cameron’s best. While this may be debatable, especially with the Terminator films, I personally feel that this film is his best because he took what he knew about filmmaking and completely reinvented a film while being respectful of its origins. Aliens almost feels like a cover song by a good artist. Have you ever heard a cover song that sounds exactly like the original, adding nothing to the song’s legacy? Of course you have. Have you heard a cover song that changes everything up whilst still being that same song in the end? Now that is much harder to find. Aliens is that hard to find sequel. Usually sequels are doomed to begin with, let alone with a different director or even a different genre. Sure it’s still a science fiction film (I’m waiting for the installment where Ellen Ripley is wrapped up in a love triangle with Tom Selleck and John Travolta, oh wait, no I’m not), but, as I have said a number of times, this second film is less of a horror film and more of a sci-fi action one. The third and fourth films were a bit stale because, even if they did have an original idea, their roots were the exact same concepts as the first two films. Nothing was added to the story of significance, and it just didn’t seem realistic (even if it does take place in space). With Aliens, we have Ripley back after a horrifying mission. She is full of courage that she did not possess in the start of the first film. She wasn’t timid, but she wasn’t exactly running the show until she had to. In this film, she feels like a leader the entire time, and it’s perhaps the best Ripley of the series.
This small detail is one of two things that, I feel, would make Aliens a bigger favorite to some than Alien because, let’s face it, many people have trouble picking a better film (not I, but that’s not the point). The other detail, I find, would be how perfect the relevance of the “age” of the film is. I’ll explain what I mean by this. See, you’ve probably seen a movie that looked so old because of how dated it is with its effects and styles. Then you’ll have modern films that look ridiculous because they either look under produced for that time or over produced and overly fake. Alien Resurrection was campy and corny and clearly not kept up with its time. What Alien and Alien 3 have is a bit different. They both seem like the future, which is clearly where the movie takes place. However, even though Aliens is in the future as well, it seems so current in the 80’s. It kept up with the films at the time and it just blended amongst them through style and through effects, of which are till fascinating even today. Now I prefer the mind blowing ahead-of-its-time sets and effects that Alien had, but I can completely understand why someone would prefer Aliens’ sense of being current.
This film is the most victorious feeling of the bunch. It is almost as if you are watching Braveheart in space, save for the huge amounts of cheese (oddly enough, a science fiction movie with the line “Game over, man! Game over!” isn’t that cheesy. Huh.). The stories are obviously different, but that same sense of triumph and power is all there. Aliens has remained in the thoughts of so many movie goers because it is one of the few action based films that treats its audience with sincerity and seriousness. It doesn’t rely on gimmicks or “what should be in an action movie” (although it does contain a little bit of both. Hey, it’s a genre for a reason).
The sole problem I have with this movie is that it seems to be, well, a little bit too much fun. Now before you start slamming your keyboard and wishing I was eaten by a rhinoceros, hear me out. I’m not one to say “everything must be serious” although I may seem it. However, with a film of this nature, there were moments of danger, but it kind of felt like you knew what would happen. Even with a plot that had a lot of twists and turns like this one does, there is just this Hollywood-esque shroud covering the film, ensuring that main characters had safety. Of course having fun is a good thing, but there isn’t enough dread or enough worry mixed in there. Compared to the first film where you had no idea what was going to happen next, in this one you follow Ripley not just because she’s a great leader, but because you know she’s that unstoppable force. This kind of thing has been done far worse before, believe me, and the ending of Aliens kinds of stirs up this idea, but it still exists in the end. Maybe that’s what makes people love this film so much. They know they don’t have to worry and so they can just enjoy the ride.
I wouldn’t call this movie flawed. I’d just say that it’s usually not the type of movie I usually enjoy. However, I still really like this film. I can see why it has a gigantic fan base, and I can see why it spawned a third film. If you are wanting to watch this, you should. It’s quite a roller coaster and very much a worthy installment in the series.