Should I Watch..? 'Aliens'

Updated on June 21, 2018
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin has been reviewing films for over ten years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!

Poster for the film
Poster for the film | Source

What's the big deal?

Aliens is an action sci-fi film released in 1986 and is the sequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien. This time, the film was both written and directed by James Cameron and sees the survivor from the first film Ripley return to the alien planet with a squad of marines in order to exterminate the alien threat. The film sees Sigourney Weaver return as Ripley and also stars Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn and Bill Paxton. Unusually for a sequel, the film was released to near universal acclaim from critics with many declaring it the greatest sequel ever made. It was also a success at the box office with global takings of $131 million and earned Weaver her first nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, something that was considered a major achievement given the historic lack of recognition for sci-fi and horror films.

Enjoyable

4 stars for Aliens

What's it about?

Having survived the alien encounter on board the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley is picked up and rescued by representatives of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation after drifting through space in statis for 57 years. Debriefed by her employers, Ripley is distraught that not only is her story not accepted but the location of the alien species, the moon LV-426, has now been colonised. However, when contact with the colony is lost, Ripley is persuaded to accompany a squadron of marines to the surface in order to locate and exterminate the alien threat, if present.

After arriving at LV-426, they discover obvious signs of a struggle as well as several indications that there is an alien presence nearby. After rescuing the sole survivor of the colony, a little girl called Newt, the marines begin their tactical assault on the compound to destroy the creatures once and for all. But it soon emerges that their mission has a deadly ulterior motive, one which places everyone in grave danger.

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Sigourney Weaver
Ellen Ripley
Michael Biehn
Corporal Dwayne Hicks
Paul Reiser
Carter Burke
Lance Henriksen
Bishop
Carrie Henn
Rebecca "Newt" Jorden
Bill Paxton
Private Hudson
William Hope
Lieutenant Gorman
Jenette Goldstein
Private Vasquez
Al Matthews
Sergeant Apone

Technical Info

Director
James Cameron
Screenplay
James Cameron *
Running Time
137 minutes
Release Date (UK)
29th August, 1986
Genre
Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Academy Awards
Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nominations
Best Actress (Weaver), Best Set Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
* story by James Cameron, David Giler & Walter Hill, based on characters created by Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett
The film turned Ripley from a survivor to a fighter and created an iconic role for Weaver in the process.
The film turned Ripley from a survivor to a fighter and created an iconic role for Weaver in the process. | Source

What's to like?

I reckon most people I talk to prefer this movie to the original and I understand why. Aliens is a more visceral experience, pitching us headfirst into a full-on military conflict against a mostly hidden and unknown enemy. It feels very different from its predecessor which was a more personal, intimate journey that delivered more shocks and scares than gunfire and explosions. But Cameron is a master story-teller and works hard to keep the film's narrative at the forefront of the picture instead of letting the pyrotechnics take over.

Weaver's character also changes from a traumatised victim to a hard-nosed fighter determined to wreck revenge on those pesky critters. But again, the film doesn't let her humanity go altogether and the scenes between her and Newt are some of the more emotive scenes in the entire franchise. They remind us that Ripley isn't some stereotypical action heroine or military hot-shot like the memorable Vasquez - she's human and still grieving the loss of everything she knew. Away from the narrative, the film's highly competent action sequences make Aliens feel more like a war movie in space than the sci-fi horror classic that inspired it. It's a brave decision to take existing characters from one genre and turn it into something different - nobody is going to have Hannibal Lecter appear in a romantic comedy any time soon - so credit for Cameron for working as hard as he does to make it pay off.

Fun Facts

  • Henn had no previous acting experience before being cast in the film and she never appeared in another movie afterwards. Declining an acting career, she instead became a teacher based in California. However, she still keeps in contact with Weaver as a pen-pal.
  • Al Matthews, who plays a marine, was actually the first black marine promoted to the rank of sergeant during the Vietnam war. He attributes his casting to his military background.
  • When the executives at Fox saw an early cut of the film, they complained that it looked like all the money had been spent on sets and not special effects. In fact, most of the sets were actually miniatures or optical effects and the artists were delighted to hear that they had fooled the accountants!

What's not to like?

However, I still maintain that the original Alien is better and here's why. It's a more personal affair - you feel closer to the terror that grips the crew whereas in Aliens, it feels somehow distant and you're more likely to believe a happy ending is due because of the number and skills of the team, not to mention the sheer amount of hardware they bring to the party. This feels like a more evenly-matched battle than Alien, where you know exactly who's is coming out on top.

But really, I think it basically boils down to preference and which film you will have watched first. For me, Alien remains possibly the greatest sci-fi horror of all time but I will admit to being impressed by Aliens. The only other downer I can think of is the appearance of the Alien Queen, which felt underwhelming compared to the very first glimpse of the Xenomorph in the first film. The Queen's reveal felt too theatrical and frankly, not too much of a departure from the design of the original creature. Aside from Cameron copying one or two tricks from the first film such as the tension-mounting use of motion scanners, Aliens is a remarkably solid and enjoyable watch helmed by a quality cast and a talented director.

The film feels more reminiscent of a war movie than a sci-fi horror but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The film feels more reminiscent of a war movie than a sci-fi horror but that's not necessarily a bad thing. | Source

Should I watch it?

Aliens is one of the best sequels ever made, a pulsating and invigorating war movie that pitches superior firepower and technology against animal instinct and cunning. Easily the best sequel to Alien, the film moves away from the horror element and more into traditional sci-fi action but remains a quality film, especially compared to the other sequels which fell somewhat short.

Great For: fans of the first film, military types, women and mothers especially

Not So Great For: the next two films, anyone looking for a more traditional horror film

What else should I watch?

After this, the series began its inevitable decline although I can't help but feel that David Fincher's Alien 3 has been unfairly judged over the years. Yes, it isn't as good as the first two films but a) consider the standards that have been set and b) it's a decent enough movie in its own right. Maybe Fincher has too high a standard to live up to but I still think it's worth a look. Unlike, say, Alien: Resurrection which feels like a tacked-on entry into the series and has baby-faced Winona Ryder playing a space pirate. Riiight…

After some ill-judged team-ups with the alien hunter from Predator, the series was placed on hiatus until Ridley Scott returned to the franchise with the prequel Prometheus in 2012. Although not directly dealing with the earlier film, the film takes place in the same shared universe and concerns the efforts of a spaceship's crew attempting to trace the origin of life on Earth and discovering dark secrets instead. Scott followed this with the more divisive Alien: Covenant in 2017 but how much more can be spun from the series remains anyone's guess.

© 2018 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      2 months ago from Hampshire, UK

      It evens the playing field to some extent and for that, I applaud Cameron's efforts. But yeah, I prefer the more horror-tinged original than this sci-fi flavoured war film.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      2 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I know a lot of people think Aliens is the best film in this series, but I don't see that any more than you do. Maybe military technology would have able to put up more of a fight after 50-plus years, but I just wonder how anyone would know for sure if they'd never encountered such a being. It's still a worthy sequel.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)