johnlink ranks ALIENS (1986)

It has been a very long time since I have seen ALIENS. I will say that it looks so much better on Blu Ray than it did on the old pan-and-scan VHS I got out of the library in high school. The version I just watched was the Director’s Cut which James Cameron wanted to release in the first place (but it was deemed too long at just over two and a half hours), but I have no idea what was added compared to the theatrical version. Not that it matters, really.


I watched ALIENS (1986) on 3.1.15. It was my third viewing of the film, and first in at least fifteen years.

When Entertainment Weekly did it’s top films list several years back it called ALIENS the second best action film of all time, with only DIE HARD being superior. While that sort of acclaim may show some bias to the 80s, it isn’t far off base. While Ridley Scott’s original ALIEN film was an exercise in combining the aesthetics of 70s horror with 70s sci-fi ideology, this James Cameron sequel is firmly a mixture between that original ALIEN film and the 80s action blockbuster spectacle film.

Sigourney Weaver is back as Ripley. It has been over half a century since the first film, but she has spent it in the deep sleep of space travel. She wakes up a woman without a home. Her daughter, who had grown twice Ripley’s age in the interim, has died. Ripley’s company all but abandons her, forcing her into a psych evaluation after it is deemed that she should not have blown up such an expensive ship. They figure she was making the whole ‘alien’ thing up since the planet her crew visited has since been colonized without incident.

Soon enough, that colony is invaded by a whole horde of the sorts of aliens Ripley first encountered. The company, led by stooge Burke (Paul Reiser) comes crawling back to her with their tail between their legs asking for her help as a consultant. She reluctantly agrees, and leads a team of space Marines into the belly of the beast.

Interestingly, James Cameron’s script follows much of the same pattern as the first film. Ripley is back as the reluctant hero, though her transformation is more extreme when she gets angry in the second film. There is also the traitor in the midst, proving that one’s own crew can be just as deadly as the aliens. Ripley’s issues of trust are tested once more, this time through her relationship with the synthetic Bishop (Lance Henriksen). Her femininity is again a major part of her characterization, though in ALIENS this is more specifically addressed in the form of her mother-daughter relationship with the orphaned Newt (Carrie Henn, who performs ably and then never again made a movie). And, just for kicks, they also throw in a bit of Ripley as Christ-like figure:


The action in ALIENS is powerfully intense. The xenomorphs seem to be in endless supply, so this is much more of a militaristic sort of action film where the first one had a crew encountering a single deadly being. Cameron does not take this exponentially increased threat for granted. These things are still brutal and deadly and hard to kill and smart. Just because there are many more of them doesn’t mean they are less lethal individually.

The team is fun. Bill Paxton’s Hudson is immensely quotable (“Game over, man!”) and Michael Biehn’s Hicks is the glue which keeps them all together. Biehn, in general, doesn’t get remembered for the landmark roles he enjoyed in the 80s. Even if he wasn’t the best actor of his generation (or the tenth best), he always managed to be likable and believable. Lance Henriksen plays his most iconic role as the android Bishop, a guy who is as good as Ash was bad. The most likable of the bunch might be Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez in a role that would have gone to Michelle Rodriguez if she wasn’t eight years old at the time. In fact, it is pretty obvious that Michelle Rodriguez watched a whole bunch of ALIENS before doing just about any role she’s ever done.

The script is tight, the acting is solid, the action is fun, and the ideas are smart. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than ALIENS when it comes to sci-fi action.




FINAL SCORE: 7.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on March 4, 2015.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks ALIENS (1986)”

  1. The extended version adds in the story about her having a daughter, which makes her constant battle to save Newt much more intense. Great review.

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