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There is, based on my experience, a long-running argument as to whether Alien or Aliens is the superior film. I’ve heard valid arguments for both films, but the fact is, you can’t compare them to each other. At the end of the day, Alien is first and foremost a horror film (albeit one set in space) while Aliens is firmly set in the action genre.
I have a confession to make about Aliens: I can’t watch the beginning of the film. Learning that Ripley has been in stasis for 57 years and no one believes her story about the alien is just too painful, for lack of a better word, to watch. I don’t know if it’s just subconscious frustration on my part (because we know Ripley’s telling the truth) but I just can’t watch the opening; I usually just skip to Burke’s visit to Ripley’s home.
Issues with the opening aside, I love Aliens; I love the set up, I love the characters and I love the various plot twists. In summary, Ripley unwillingly returns to LV-426 after a colony established there goes radio silent. She’s accompanied by a squad of colonial marines, Bishop (another android, but one more advanced than Ash) and Burke, an executive who is definitely as slimy as you think he is. In predictable fashion, everyone except Ripley completely underestimates the gravity of the situation, resulting in the marines walking straight into an alien nest (though granted they don’t realize that’s what it is at first). This is one of my favorite scenes in any science fiction film because you just know from the start that most of these characters are going to die, and since it’s an Alien movie, it’s not going to be pretty. After the initial massacre, the plot focuses on Ripley working with the survivors to escape back to their ship, while also bonding with Newt, the lone colony survivor.
The biggest difference between this film and the original is that the first film only had ONE Alien on the loose; Aliens has several hundred and it’s also responsible for introducing the Alien Queen to the story. And speaking of the queen….what a terrifying creature she is! Until Jurassic Park, the Alien Queen was the largest animatronic/puppet of its kind, requiring over a dozen people to operate at any given time. Technical details aside, the scene introducing the queen is terrifying, I love how the camera only shows bits and pieces before suddenly pulling back and showing the creature in all her scary glory.
Another sub-plot I want to highlight is Ripley’s relationship with Bishop. Given that the last android she knew tried to kill her, Ripley understandably wants nothing to do with Bishop at first. But as time goes on and Bishop proves himself time and again, Ripley comes to respect the android and the feeling is mutual.
James Horner’s score is a big part of why Aliens is so great: there are hints of the horror/suspense that Goldsmith created in the original film, but also moments of full blown action (notable example: when Ripley charges in to rescue the surviving marines, the score goes into overdrive).
Few more random thoughts:
-Burke’s comeuppance is one of the greatest things you will ever see. My only regret is we don’t get to see more (a lot of it is left to the imagination).
-Since it is the 80s, if you look carefully you can see the wires manipulating some of the Alien puppets (the most obvious one comes when an Alien surfaces out of the water right behind Newt, you can see it attached to the tail).
-That scene where the facehuggers are loose in the medical lab is downright terrifying, but they move so realistically you can’t really tell they’re puppets.
At the end of the day I highly recommend both Alien and Aliens as they’re both great films (just for their own reasons). Let me know what you think of Aliens in the comments below and have a great day!
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