Aliens may be the perfect sequel. The Empire Strikes Back, while certainly a better film than Star Wars, was more a polished segment in a longer story than a stand-alone adventure. But Aliens is the model for each and every sequel-maker that is potential it connects irrefutably with all the events for the original (even to the stage of starting exactly where the drama left off, albeit 57 years later) and expands on most of the ideas and themes while simultaneously differentiating itself. Exactly the same, yet entirely different. Perfect.
It stands as testament to your unwavering vision and icy nerve of James Cameron (here directing only his third movie). Utilising the bombed out skeleton of Battersea Power Station to create the vast colony/hive that is industrio-grim for events, he had been faced with a veteran British crew who had labored on Alien and worshipped the ground Ridley Scott walked on. What could this Canadian punk kid know? Well, for beginners that in this case more is, indeed, more. Not merely a single, ruthless, unbeatable killing machine but an army of those. On home turf.
Writing as well as directing, Cameron posited a premise that is simple.
The planet LV-426, where in actuality the Alien that is first was discovered has been colonised because of the Nostromo’s mother company Weyland-Yutani. And today communication has been lost. Time to send in a crack team of space marines and enlist the help of a traumatised Ripley. There you have got it ??” Marines (plus the ever resourceful Ripley) versus Aliens (plus mum). It was genre splicing a la carte: the war movie fused inextricably with science fiction. A factor highlighted by Cameron’s hardware fetish ??” he drools lavishly on the technology that is future of.
The director was also captivated by Ripley and understood right away this is her story. It really is her resourcefulness and capability to rationalise the crisis that enables survival (Newt is a junior that is perfect ??” someone who has survived by her wits). Courage, for Ripley, is an acceptance of fear and dealing with it with intelligence. Weaver deservedly got an Oscar nomination.
What also counts here is execution. Cameron accepted Scott’s (and, of course, H. R. Giger’s) design ethic ??” gloop, scaly bits, loadsa teeth and long, dark, dingy, dripping corridors ??” but reinterpreted them as a battleground in the place of a house that is haunted. The idea he grasped right away is that you can not win from this foe or the stigma, the terror that is sheer this endomorph engenders will be lost. You are able to only escape. He replaced Scott’s “behind-you!” tension with a muscular fury, unrelenting, sweaty-palmed, pant-filling movie intensity. Nothing before or since has locked the viewer in with such an sense that is all-consuming of (audiences and critics actually complained of physical discomfort even illness upon exiting the auditorium).
Ripley is just one of the strongest female characters in movie history.
Thematically Aliens also expounds the set-up further. Central is a continuation of Scott and Dan O’Bannon’s (the original screenwriter) bogey man hypothesis ??” what if a lifeform was so attuned to survival it became the perfect killing machine and as such garnered a qualification of Darwinisitic respect, even form its prey? Ash in Alien, lunatic android you don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage!” Then it really gets going: Alien as giant phallus (and now there’s a whole army of them) versus feminist heroine though he was, praised the monster for its “purity”, even Ripley, confronted by the duplicity of company man Burke (Paul Reiser), has to admit that. The feminist subtext is hardly “sub” at all, Ripley is amongst the strongest female characters in movie history.
Closer to Cameron’s heart, and a theme that recurs throughout his work, may be the preservation for the family that is nuclear. With Newt rescued and Ripley taking on the role of surrogate mother we only need add Hick’s gentlemanly (but by no means dominant) father to perform our model of perfect family unit (one other survivor, the android Bishop, well, he is either a kindly uncle or the pet dog or something like that). This whole notion is finally boiled right down to an amazing battle of maternal instincts Ripley defending her child Newt; the queen Alien defending (or, at the least, avenging) her children summed up memorably in Ripley’s battle call: “Get away you bitch! from her,”
The biology of the species has been developed towards the true point where empathy if you don’t sympathy is acceptable. And should you want to keep this up there is the ‘Nam in space metaphor: unseen “gooks” mounting stealth attacks therefore the retreating Yanks totally undone by a tactic and mindset they cannot comprehend (a metaphor for US foreign policy?). Yet none of such noodling that is academic ever at the cost of the thrills. Cameron understood fundamentally the foundation here was a gut reaction. Aliens‘ construction of action pay someone to do your research paper scenes, its build-up of tension and its own final execution of combat is a marvel to behold: the film literally provokes a physical reaction.