I know, I know, some of you will be thinking ‘Why is Becs reviewing Aliens now? Like, everybody has seen the Alien films and knows how great they are!’. You may well baulk in disbelief, but at the stout age of 28, I have only just seen the first two of the Alien Quadrilogy. I am ashamed to admit that there are several classic cult films out there that I’ve yet to see. Somehow they’ve passed me by with their vital lessons in suspense, overacting, and brilliant monster designs and animatronics. I fully intend on catching up with famous movies that I should already know (it just might take a while…) – don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing them all! So, on Aliens:
Sigourney Weaver really kicks ass, doesn’t she? I mean, seriously. Her character, Ripley, has the most balls out of all the crew there put together. She damn well knows how to teach those Aliens a lesson and sets right to it – no namby-pambying around, no false macho bravado, no nonsense.
And NOBODY listens to her warnings about how dangerous the creatures are. I realise that that is a vital part of the plot insomuch as it results in all the crazy action, fighting, and revelations from the crew sent out to destroy the aliens that Ripley wasn’t lying about how there is no other way to deal with them except by destroying the seemingly unstoppable face-sucking parasitic wily beasties. (Please pardon the awful sentence structure, sometimes rambling is the only way to express yourself.) But it seems pretty unprofessional to me not even to acknowledge the dangers ahead put forward by Ripley. These guys are the military, after all.
It’s funny how certain character styles come and go with the film eras. Like the military guys, for example. The team that are dispatched with Ripley to investigate the colony are overly bigheaded, immature, and disobedient – entirely the opposite of what a soldier should be: responsible, calm and level-headed. I get that there is sometimes an element of competitive macho-ness amongst military men and women, but it’s pretty well milked in Aliens and at times cringe-worthy, especially watching Private Vasquez (the only female military member sent on the mission) constantly flexing her muscles and over-playing the tough gal role. In modern movies that involve members of the armed forces, the characters tend to be a lot more mature on the whole and a lot less raucous. Sure, a bit of ignorance and egotism resides in some characters (like Sully in Avatar), but they either get what’s coming to them or learn to grow up. Privates Vasquez and Drake, however, are particularly insufferable with their muscly strongman/woman banter and carry on regardless without learning a great deal. Watching them made me want to give them both a good slap, tell them to stop acting like jerks and grow some real balls like Ripley’s.
There was one other thing that I didn’t much like about the film. It’s pretty big, very predictable, and an unavoidable move in such a classic film. Ripley’s altruistic heroism as she returns to the now completely alien infested colony to rescue Newt.
You’ll all be shouting at me, saying ‘But how could you be against that?! Ripley just HAD to go back for Newt! She’s the hero and Newt is the only surviving kid from the colony and Ripley loves her like a daughter and Newt helped them escape’ yadda yadda yadda… But come on, people: Newt went under, the aliens had her in their nest stuck in who-knows-where on the sticky mucousy wall, Ripley and Corporal Hicks get out with only minutes before the colony blows up, Bishop had the ship ready for them to escape to safety…. But the inevitable was coming: ‘I have to find her’, shouts Ripley as Hicks is bundled onto the ship. *Sigh* of course you do Ripley, and what really are your chances of finding Newt? Thankfully for her, the fact that they’re both part of a big blockbuster movie make them very high. So yeah, unavoidable part of the plot, but nonetheless I found myself shouting ‘What are you doing? Don’t go back, the colony is going to blow up in minutes! You don’t have a goddamn clue where Newt is!’ Alas, there was little I could do but watch on as Ripley yet again cuts it fine with the whole rescuing and escaping just in the nick of time.
It did, however, lead to the best final battle with the alien Queen. I just loved the edgy, silent negotiating that went on between Ripley and Queen as she stumbled face-to-face with her in the heart of the nest. The tension, the subtle movements and apparent understanding between two females protecting their young – yet both want the other dead. A frantic escape ensues, and then of course the ultimate head-to-head with Ripley commandeering the power loader as battle armour and weapon against the savage Queen.
She takes no shit from anyone, does Ripley. Not even from alien royalty.
Another aspect of the sequel that I did appreciate was the extra mile they went with the alien models and costumes themselves. They are seriously sinister, everything about them reeks of sly aggression, and there is a cleverness in their movements that suggests a malicious mind. And the face-suckers are downright creepy, like the spider of your nightmares on steroids. The way that they scuttle across floors and unexpectedly leap out of nowhere ready to give you the kiss of slow, parasitic death is truly chilling. It all looks a lot slicker than Alien too, with fewer clunky shots of scaled-down spaceship models flying through the galaxy (I have to say, those scenes in the first film did look a lot like the intentionally clunky space scenes of Red Dwarf).
All in all, even with those couple of frustrations noted above, I actually loved watching Aliens and found myself captivated by the action and plot itself. It’s a much more involved film than its predecessor, and really worth a go if you thought that Alien was too slow to get going. (I actually quite liked Alien, my other half found it lacked a bit and was too centred around suspense.) On that note, Aliens doesn’t lose the knack of keeping you ready and waiting for things to jump out – a masterful technique that any successful thriller couldn’t be without.
So I think Aliens stacks up a good few pints of strong, dark ale, or perhaps Guinness to marry the night-black skins of the aliens – either choice would be sure to see you through!
One last note, entirely unrelated to the review of the film: anyone else think that Sigourney Weaver looks kind of like Michael Jackson with that haircut?