Tuesday, December 4

Aliens Review

I watched on: Blu-Ray
The price I paid: £?? (I’ve had this box set for ages and don’t remember)
Notes: I watched the 1990 directors cut

Aliens picks up 57 years after the events of the first film. LV-426, the planet in which Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo found the Xenomorph eggs has now been colonized. Hadley’s Hope is home to over 70 families who are responsible for terraforming the planet. Ripley, the only survivor of the Nostromo is floating through space in cryosleep when she is picked up by a salvage crew. When the company and the government hear that all contact with Hadley’s Hope has been lost it’s up to Ripley and the US Colonial Marines to clean up the mess. Right away this film sets up that although it may be the same universe as Alien the tone is very different. Unlike the first film we don’t get any quiet moments, instead, everything moves very fast. During the first half, we learn more about Weyland-Yutani, Ripley and the Marines we will be following. There may not be any action scenes but the pace still manages to feel fast with lots of new information being introduced to the viewer. At no point is this information hard to understand or follow. Then the second half of the film begins and it’s pretty much a horrific game of survival as our marines face off against an entire nest of Xenomorphs.

We follow the Squad of US Colonial Marines onto the surface of LV-426 and into the den of death that is Hadley’s Hope. Most of the characters in this Squad are very well written and acted. It’s hard not to love each one in a unique way. At the very least you will be able to recall most members after even a single viewing. You have the joker and borderline jerk Hudson who repeatedly gets called out for his crap. Then you have the ever loyal and charming Hicks who becomes one of the main characters next to Ripley. I would love Vasquez for being such a hard ass woman who could beat the crap out of half of the marines around her. Thing is I just can’t look past the fact that she’s a person of colour played by a white woman. Sigourney Weaver once again does a superb job playing Ripley. We learn much more about her character and background during this film. While Ripley has been drifting through space for 57 years her daughter Amanda Ripley has grown old and died. Obviously, this breaks Ripley’s heart. This loss explains why she builds such a close connection to a young girl and the only survivor of Hadley’s Hope called Newt. This is good writing because it allows a character we know as a little heartless a moment to be emotional and hurt. She doesn’t fall apart into the emotional woman stereotype though. Ripley is still the same tough as nails woman we knew but she’s allowed more depth than most action heroes. I do wish we could see more moments like this for male characters but even so, it’s nice to see it at all.

This isn’t something I normally talk about but I feel here I need to and that is the prop design. Everything from the Pulse rifles to the motion trackers and more just feels so instantly timeless. The sound effects and wonderful model work from the prop and sound departments are a large part of building this entire franchise. Just think about nearly any part of the Aliens extended universe and there is a very high chance it involves multiple items from this film. You could play just the sound of the motion tracker or pulse rifle to most people today and they could tell you that it’s from Aliens. These wonderful things are so iconic and it’s all because of how well they work with this film’s style of survival horror.

As with many action films of this era, there exist a few issues around race, sexuality and gender. These are largely ignored by most people because of how good this film is outside of these issues. As a queer trans woman myself, I do want to point these out. I do this, not in hopes of getting you to enjoy this film less but instead to avoid these issues happening again. This way more people will be able to enjoy the next amazing film like this one without finding it upsetting or off-putting. Private Vasquez who is a Hispanic woman is literally played by a white woman in blackface. This is not okay, it denies Hispanic actors the chance to play this role themselves. This is also steeped in a history of oppression, bigotry, hate and just plain old-fashioned racism. Other than this there is a comment between marines where one mocks another for sleeping with a prostitute that they thought was a woman but turned out to be “male”. This is clearly set up to mirror the transphobic trope that transgender sex workers and trans women, in general, are out to “trap” men into sleeping with them. At the minimum, it paints trans women to be confused men which itself is a horribly transphobic idea. Honestly, both of these points leave me with a very bad taste in my mouth before we even really get into the meat of the film.

Luckily when the movie gets going it’s easy to move past these problems in order to just enjoy the non-stop pace and action. All the great ideas from the original get flushed out and expanded on here including the company, Ripley and of course the Xenomorphs. Although parts of it are outdated and even offensive I can’t deny that this is one hell of a good film. Not as great as the first film but still fun and worth seeing!

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10

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