Monster Movie Mayhem: Aliens


Tiger Media Network

They say the sequel is never as good as the original, and most of the time, it’s true, but every once in a while, a sequel manages to surpass the original. I mean, come on “Critters 2” is way better than the first one… then again, “Critters” is just an average movie to begin with. Still, the thought of a sequel to one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies of all time being just as, if not better, than the original is foolishly foolish, right?

“Aliens” is the 1986 sequel to “Alien” and follows the continued adventures of Ellen Ripley, who wakes up around 50 years into the future after being adrift in cryosleep. She tries to warn people about what went down on the Nostromo and what lies on the surface of the planet LV-426, but no one believes her, mostly because there have been people living there without incident for the past 20 years. Shortly after her arrival, though, Ripley is asked to go back into deep space because they just lost contact with LV-426 and they believe that her alien, a Xenomorph, may be involved. 

Ripley, along with her buddy from the company Burke, board the colonial marine ship, the Sulaco, and a host of wacky marines who are a little too confident. Also, there’s Bishop, who’s a robot, and Ripley hates robots, but you know what Ripley loves? Kids, and they manage to find one on LV-426. It’s a little girl named Newt who’s the only survivor of the colony. The marines are all gungho to kick some alien butt but quickly get destroyed and things keep going from bad to somehow even worse, so now the few people remaining have to survive the xenomorphs and try to get off the planet.

The story for the film is absolutely fantastic – the perfect way to do a sequel. While the first was on a space freighter with only one alien attacking a small, poorly armed crew, this time, we get an outpost on an alien planet with tons of aliens and a large cast of heavily armed soldiers. The first encounter with the Xenomorphs quickly reveals just how dangerous they are as they totally decimate most of the cast, helping to make the aliens far scarier. The film also expands on the biology of the Xenomorphs by giving us the Alien Queen, the one responsible for laying the Facehugger eggs. 

So yeah, the film does a beautiful job of differentiating itself from the original by quite a bit, but not so much that it’s disorienting. A lot of people say that it’s not a horror movie and that it’s actually an action movie, but I consider it to be both. Before every action sequence, there’s a lot of build-up behind it that I do believe can make it pretty intense, not to mention they often put a child in danger, which may be a little cheap.

When it comes to the characters, they’re fantastic. Ripley is great once again, this time having PTSD from her last encounter with the Xenomorph and needing to overcome her fears. She also steps into a motherly role for Newt, allowing for some nice moments between them, and also allowing Ripley to be really awesome when she tapes a flamethrower to a plasma rifle and has to head into the alien hive after her. Then there’s Burke, who seems like a pretty nice guy at first, but soon reveals himself to be a slimy double-crossing businessman who will do whatever it takes for the company. 

Then there’s the colonial marines. The greatest military unit ensemble ever put on the screen – the calm and cool Hicks, who ends up acting as a love interest for Ripley; everyone’s favorite Hudson, who starts off all confident, cocky, and snarky, but ends up freaking out when everything goes wrong; then there’s Vasquez, who’s a tough tomboy who, along with her man Drake, man the smartguns. And then there’s Sergeant Apone, the awesome morale-boosting leader, and I could keep going, but I’ll end it with the man leading the operation, Lieutenant Gorman, who turns out to be quite incompetent and not at all up to the task. 

The rest of the marines, while their roles are a bit smaller, manage to show off their own unique personalities in some way, making for one of the greatest bands of soldiers in film. Finally, there’s Bishop, the android that starts off a bit creepy and suspicious, but manages to prove himself to Ripley. It’s a fairly large cast, but the film manages to make each character distinct and memorable. The characters also play off of each other very well, leading to some great exchanges. Overall, the writing is terrific. There’s a reason why so many iconic lines come from this film.

And while this film has many elements of horror, there is a reason why many consider it an action movie. The action scenes are absolutely fantastic, combining fun, explosive action with intense and suspenseful chase sequences. Each one is great and shows the ferocity of the Xenomorphs and their kind. The scene where Ripley and Newt are trapped in a room with a pair of facehuggers and totally defenseless is terrifying, and the marines’ retreat from the alien hive with Xenomorphs eating shotgun barrels and being crushed under futuristic army vehicles is awesome. The film does a great job of balancing and combining the exciting with the scary. 

The Xenomorphs here get a bit of a redesign, now with a more rugged and bumpy head crest, that helps them blend in with their surroundings. This version of the alien is generally referred to as the Xenomorph Warrior. There’s also the Xenomorph Queen, who features an impressive crest and is bound by a disgusting egg sac. Her massive size helps to create an intimidating ruler for the aliens. The effects were done by Stan Winston, and while I think the Warriors look pretty good, being portrayed by guys in suits, I think the Queen is a bit lacking, especially when walking. However, the Queen is shot in a way to help hide the imperfections of the animatronic which looks stunning.

I also have to mention the prop and set design. The original “Alien” also excels at this, but I believe “Aliens” takes it to a whole new level. The weapons are distinct and iconic, but feel real, like this is what we’d use as a firearm in the future. The same can be said for all the vehicles. Everything about the prop and set design comes together to make the environments feel real, and lived in. 

While “Alien” is a fantastic film, I have to say that its sequel “Aliens” manages to be even better. The film does what every great sequel should by raising the stakes and upping the scale of everything. The characters are fun and memorable, the creatures are awesome, the slow scenes are suspenseful, but the action is fast and explosive. There’s a reason why this is considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, right next to its predecessor. “Aliens” is my second favorite movie of all time, and so I give it ten “pieces of cornbread” out of ten!

Connor Keating is a junior at Fort Hays State University, studying digital media and journalism. Connor is an old-school movie fan, particularly Japanese monster movies, and is an avid DVD collector.