Isn’t it typical? You wait around for one Alien movie to be re-released on the big screen, and two come along at once!
Yep, joining Alien as it returns to UK cinemas this month is the 1986 sequel, Aliens! The sci-fi action movie – directed by James Cameron – is being re-released between April 21st and April 26th, as part of this year’s ‘Alien Day’ celebrations.
Aliens stars Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn, and Lance Henriksen, and follows the continuing story of Ellen Ripley, the sole (human) survivor of the Nostromo. The movie picks up decades after her first encounter with the mysterious alien creature that wiped out her crewmates, before promptly placing her in close proximity to more aliens.
In the film, it has been 57 years since Ripley fought the alien creature that killed her fellow crew mates, and within this time she has remained in stasis aboard an escape shuttle. That is until she is discovered by employees of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, who retrieve and revive her, before they question Ripley about what happened aboard her ship.
When Ripley relays the events that transpired, not everything she says seems to add up. The moon where her crew mates first encountered the alien life form (as depicted in Alien) is now home to a human colony, and there has been no reports of any such creatures.
But when contact is lost with the colony, Ripley is asked to join a team of marines to journey to the moon to investigate. From here it’s not long before Ripley finds herself having another deadly alien encounter, but this time with more than just one creature.
It’s fair to say that many sequels to classic movies are absolute dog’s dinners – often messy affairs that just exist and nothing more. It’s also fair to say that Aliens isn’t one of them.
Unlike most sequels, which copy what the original did, and end up as pale imitations, Aliens does the exact opposite. It takes key elements from its predecessor, then jettisons everything else, to try something new.
Whereas Alien was a slow burn horror story (essentially a slasher in space), Aliens is a very different beast and presents itself as a fast-paced action movie. And as its title suggests, while Alien concentrated on one adversary, Aliens (plural) ups the ante by focusing on a whole swarm of the beasties.
Aliens is also very keen to move things forward, rather than retread what came before. A new cast of characters are introduced, who are very different to the crew of the Nostromo; Ripley gets to embrace motherhood with the arrival of orphaned newcomer ‘Newt’; and the life cycle of the alien creatures is explored, with the debut of an alien queen.
What director James Cameron does with Aliens is create a picture that not only compliments what came before, but arguably enhances it. He approaches the Alien mythology from a slightly different angle, puts his own spin on things, and creates a bloody brilliant extension that some audiences would argue is even better than the original.
Would I argue this? On some days, yes. But to be honest, I continually flit back and forth between the two movies, never quite coming to a definitive conclusion about which is the best.
In truth, I believe they are equals. Sure, one will edge out the other, but in reality Aliens is as strong as Alien, and vice versa.
From its ballsy attitude, to its atmospheric aesthetic, and from its memorable cast of marines, to Ripley’s final showdown with the alien queen (and the immortal line ‘Get away from her, you bitch’), Aliens is simply a marvellous picture. The film is filled with action, suspense, and tension, and it never misses a beat.
Similar to its predecessor, Aliens draws its audience into its world with its imaginative, yet realistic design, then refuses to let go. It deepens the mythology in organic ways, offers a fair few scares, with plenty of sci-fi spectacle, and sets out a transfixing story.
Weaver is (once again) fantastic as Ripley, taking things up a notch from her previous performance, and the support cast are all on fine form – especially Paul Reiser as duplicitous corporate shill, Carter Burke. And then there are the bug-like aliens (aka the Xenomorphs) who are creepy and far more menacing this time around, despite still getting limited screen time.
All-in-all, there’s plenty to like and not much to fault. Aliens has endured for decades because it was built on sturdy foundations and it continues to impress thanks to everyone’s commitment to the picture.
Should you wish to view Aliens on the big screen, either for the first time or the 51st time, the movie will be popping up in select UK cinemas alongside screenings of Alien. The film is back for a very limited time, and only at select cinemas, so check with your local picture house to see what’s available.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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