What came before: Ellen Ripley, crew member aboard an intergalactic but very vague mission on behalf of a space exploration and development company, was the sole survivor after the crew became infected by a face-sucking alien species that impregnated them with a parasite that burst through their chests and killed them (obviously). At the end of Alien, Ripley put herself and her cat into stasis while her space pod floated away, with the hopes of being rescued by a passing ship.
What remains: Ripley is the only character left (and the cat). She finds out that she’s been floating in space for 57 years, and everyone she knew and loved is now dead, including her daughter. Ripley is discredited by her employer, but when the company loses contact with the colony that has been living on the planet where the alien comes from, Ripley agrees to go investigate. The rest of the rescue crew finds out she’s not crazy soon enough, as face-suckers show up very quickly. Added bonus: the company wants to bring home specimens of the face-suckers with the hope of developing them into biological weapons.
Why it deserves a second (or third, or fourth) chance:
- Paul Reiser as the evil company guy who wants to bring home specimens of the aliens for biological weapon development. Nice to see him in a non-Mad About You way.
- Classic scene where the alien rips through Ripley’s stomach. Every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare. (Ripley’s, too.)
- We learn more about the alien, even if it is through the heavy-handed lens of maternal protection/biological determinism. We learn there’s a female, and she’s the Queen, and she’s smart, and she’s definitely the scariest of them all.
- James Cameron wrote and directed. That guy knows how to make a blockbuster.
- 7 Oscar nominations, including Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress.
- Hey, remember when the third Matrix came out like 6 months after the second Matrix? And how awful it was? Well, Aliens came a good 7 years after the original. They took their time to get it right, I say.
- Bill Paxton, being kind of shrill.
- This movie was definitely bigger and badder than the first, by far. Alien had a more horror-movie sensibility to it; it was quieter, creepier. Aliens was an action movie, pure and simple. But it was a smart action movie.
- Personally, I think this may be the best of the franchise. It’s relentless, high-adrenaline, and your nerves are frayed by the end. It’s more terror than horror. I really, really love Alien as well, but the franchise clearly heads into a tailspin after this film.
- Ripley is a feminist film-lover’s dream.
Women Talking to Other Women About Things Other Than Men