THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
written by Dominick Cappello
Best sequel ever? You can make a strong case for it and it’s definitely one of the best sequels directed by someone other than who directed the first film. James Cameron taking the reins from Ridley Scott. Most of the great sequels which come to mind had the same director as the original. “The Godfather, Part II,” “The Road Warrior,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (I’m showing a lot of love for James Cameron here), and “The Dark Knight” all from the original’s director. The only other great sequel I can think of with a different director would be “The Empire Strikes Back” directed by Irvin Kershner and not George Lucas.
“Alien” was gothic horror set in space whereas “Aliens” is action / adventure. I think it was brilliant to switch up the genre. With “Aliens,” just like “T2,” you don’t need to have seen the original to enjoy the sequel, so kudos to James Cameron. Both “Alien” and “The Terminator” were before my time, but “Aliens” and “T2” played on cable frequently when I was kid, so I became obsessed with the sequels before I tracked down the originals on VHS.
“Aliens” is set 57 years after “Alien” and that’s how long Ripley was in hyper-sleep. She has a nightmare about the chest-burster and tries to explain to bureaucrats how an extraterrestrial creature which bleeds acid killed her shipmates. If you saw the first film, it’s good continuity. If you haven’t seen the first film, then it’s nice way of establishing the xenomorph. Ripley is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and agrees to accompany a squad of Colonial Marines back to the planet from the first film (now called LV-426) to investigate a possible attack on a colony of terraformers by the xenomorphs.
“Aliens” has been copied as many times as the “Alien,” so it’s an influential franchise. What was copied most from the original was the xenomorph. What was copied most from the sequel were the human characters. Ripley set the standard for female protagonists in sci-fi and horror movies. Hicks, Newt, Bishop, Hudson, Vasquez, and Burke all became archetypes for these types of films. The bond between Ripley and Newt is the heart of the story. Their lives have been destroyed by the xenomorphs, but they find solace in each other as Ripley becomes a surrogate mother to Newt. The director’s cut reveals that Ripley’s daughter died while she was in hyper-sleep. The loss of this scene doesn’t hurt the theatrical cut, but seeing it adds another dimension to Sigourney Weaver’s performance.
The xenomorphs in this film are easier to kill than the one in the original, but it doesn’t matter how much firepower the marines are packing because the xenomorphs overwhelm them. James Cameron wanted it to be an allegory for the war in Vietnam. Soldiers with advanced weaponry losing to an enemy whose tactics they can’t fully comprehend. Almost all the marines are killed in their first encounter with the xenomorphs. Ripley becomes de facto leader of the group even though Corporal Hicks is the highest-ranking marine still alive. Hicks is played by Michel Biehn, who was Reese in “The Terminator.” Whereas he and Sarah Connor fell madly in love, he and Ripley only share a few flirtatious glances. Michael Biehn was the sensitive 1980s action hero. Hudson is like Lambert in the original. A bundle of nerves. Ripley doesn’t trust Bishop the android after her experience with Ash in the first film, but Burke is the real snake in the grass. He’s the one who ordered the colonists to investigate the derelict spaceship from the first film. Deleted scenes reinserted into the director’s cut show what life was like at the colony before the attack and how Newt’s father was the first to have a face-hugger attach itself to him. Good scenes, but like the scene with Ripley’s daughter, the theatrical cut isn’t hurting without them.
Burke is such a slime that he traps Ripley and Newt with two face-huggers and (allegedly) planned to kill the others by sabotaging their cryo-tubes during the trip back to Earth. What an asshole. The xenomorphs get past a barricade and everyone is killed except for Ripley, Newt, and Hicks. Newt is taken to be cocooned. Hicks is then burned by acid blood, so Ripley must drag him along the same way Sarah Connor did in act three of “The Terminator.” Ripley goes back for Newt and encounters the Alien Queen. Hats off Stan Winston and his team for creating a 14-foot tall hydraulic puppet. Even though the processing station where the Queen is nesting is going to self-destruct in a matter of minutes, Ripley’s had enough of these damn xenomorphs and torches the Queen’s eggs. The film teases that Bishop will betray Ripley, but he returns in time and flies everyone to safety in a drop ship before the explosion.
All’s well that ends well? No, because the Queen hid in the landing gear of the drop ship and breaks Bishop in half. Ripley jumps into a power loader goes round for round with the Queen. “Aliens” did everything that “Alien” did only it did it on a larger scale. The Queen is sucked out into space and Ripley reunites with Newt.
Sigourney Weaver was so amazing in this film that she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. It’s nice to see a monster movie getting a little recognition. So, I guess Ripley, Newt, and Hicks returned to Earth to be a family? No? “Alien 3” killed everybody? Well, is that not a kick in the pants?
– Dr. Jelly