Aliens (1986) Director: James Cameron
“You’re going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back, but to wipe them out?“
Aliens is a remarkable action film. In some ways it is James Cameron’s radical departure from the classic original Alien (1979) which was directed by Ridley Scott. By all accounts it should have been a cheap, sophomoric effort but Aliens is a surprisingly powerful roller-coaster of a sequel. Beset by roadblocks and lawsuits, a sequel to Alien was delayed for some seven years.
Aliens picks up 57 years after the original. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been floating through space while in stasis and she happens to be picked up and returned to members of her company at the “Weyland-Yutani Corporation.” She explains to them what happened to the Nostromo, but the leadership do not believe her story about an alien race on the abandoned moon of LV-246. There is now an expensive and successful colony at that same location called “Hadleys Hope.” Ripley meets Carter Burke, a suspicious representative for the company who tries to earn Ripley’s trust.
However, all contact is soon lost with the colony. The company asks Ripley to join a band of marines to investigate the situation since she has experience with the planet. She agrees only under the condition that the company agrees to destroy any aliens they discover. Burke reassures her. En route Ripley quickly develops a rapport with Corporal Hicks (played by Michael Biehn). She also learns there is an android on board named Bishop (played by Lance Henriksen) -Ripley remembers the betrayal of the previous android on the Nostromo. upon arrival the marines find a derelict colony. As they venture further they discover the remaining humans being harvested by the aliens for reproduction. During a lapse of leadership Ripley assumes command and rescues the marines in duress. She also rescues a girl named “Newt.” Hicks orders a rescue operation but the rescue ship is attacked by aliens. Thus the marines must barricade themselves in the colony.
Overnight the aliens break through the barricade. The core of the colony is damaged causing the imminent destruction of the whole colony. Bishop volunteers to remotely pilot a rescue ship to the surface. Meanwhile, it is soon discovered that Burke is in fact a sleazy corporate representative who is intent on using the aliens for profit as weapons. He attempts to stage an alien attack on Ripley and Newt, however he is killed when the aliens attack along with the remaining marines. During the escape Newt is captured by the aliens and a heavily armed Ripley ventures deep into the alien queen’s lair to recover Newt. Ripley and Newt narrowly escape with Bishop and Hicks, but the end of the anxiety has not abated. The queen has somehow snuck aboard their vessel and she tears Bishop in two. As in the first movie, Ripley battles the queen and jettisons her through the airlock. Ending on a note of hope for Ripley, she, Newt, and Hicks all escape together and they enter hypersleep “stasis” filled with optimism about their prospects.
In the end, the audience is left with a deeper appreciation for Ripley as a maternal hero, a rescuer, and now as a lover of her new beau, Corporal Hicks. The contrast between Ripley with Newt, and the alien queen whose offspring are being massacred is made starkly apparent. In all Aliens is a wild and entertaining ride, though it lacks some of the brilliant pacing and psychological horror of the original.
Apparently production for Aliens was a tumultuous affair. It was mostly shot in England which is known for having a slower pace of business than in Hollywood (for example, frequent time was allotted for tea breaks). At the time director James Cameron was relatively unknown -he was a former truck driver who hit it big with The Terminator and the script for Rambo First Blood Part II. He got into frequent disputes with the crew. Remarkably it was completed on time and on budget. Aliens was the first collaboration between James Cameron and James Horner -Horner’s score was recorded at Abbey Road with the London Symphony Orchestra.