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Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron

Based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett

Story by James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill

Screenplay by James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton

After 57 years in hypersleep Ripley has been rescued by a salvage team headed to a remote colony. Contact with the colony has been lost, and something dangerous has taken hold.

This film is the second installment in the Alien film series that began with 1979’s Alien. This time the film was written and directed by James Cameron (Titanic). The story was developed with the help of David Giler (Southern Comfort) and Walter Hill (48 Hours), using the characters created by Dan O’Bannon (Heavy Metal) and Ronald Shusett (The Final Terror). The film stars Sigourney Weaver (The Cabin in the Woods), Michael Biehn (The Rock), Paul Reiser (Whiplash), Lance Henriksen (Dog Day Afternoon), and Bill Paxton (Nightcrawler).

Using Ripley as the bridge, the film opens up a new set of unique characters. The writing does a nice job of connecting the first film to a new set of characters. Like Alien, this one also does a great job of opening up a science fiction world with horror aspects built into it. This time the story is less of a mystery than the first film. Instead of the unknown, this one plays on the fear of a very real enemy. The dialogue in the movie is good, but it can be a bit campy at times. There are also a number of solid twists mixed in with some very predictable outcomes. The action sequences are solid, and there are enough scares to keep an audience on their toes. Despite some of the weaknesses, this is a solid sequel.

This is a talented cast, led by the returning Sigourney Weaver. Her performance is a stronger version of her work in the first film. Once again she connects nicely with her fellow actors. One of the best performances in this one comes from veteran actor Lance Henriksen. The success of his work helps to sell certain elements of the film. Paul Reiser and Michael Biehn also do solid work in this movie. Reiser’s role is somewhat stunted by the way it was written, but he makes it work. Unfortunately Bill Paxton’s performance is way over the top and almost annoying at times. I’m sure some of this was the writing, but he seems to push way too hard with his role. The result is a performance that is sometimes unintentionally comical. Fortunately the body of work from the entire cast overcomes some of the weaker moments from several actors. Weaver and Henriksen also provide enough highlights to keep this one working. Sigourney Weaver would eventually be nominated for and Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

The visuals of this film are classic James Cameron. While the story and acting aren’t top-notch, the visuals are really great. This was the first feature film for cinematographer Adrian Biddle (Thelma and Louise), and he does great work with the camera. The film also features great visuals that earned the movie an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The movie would also be nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. In addition to looking good, the movie also features great sound work. The film would go on to win Best Sound Effects Editing, and be nominated for Best Sound. James Horner (A Beautiful Mind) also earned a nomination of his own for Best Original Score. This is an intensely violent movie that doesn’t stop once it hits high gear. The action is fast and sometimes very graphic. The creature design for this one is also great, creating a terrifying being that fits the world of the film.

This movie has all of the production value that you would expect from a James Cameron film. Luckily, it also has a decent story to go with it. The acting has some issues, but also some highlights that need to be seen. If you’re a fan of the first film you should check this one out. I would also suggest this one to fans of the stars. This is a scary movie with some intense violence that might not work for everyone. It might not be as great as Alien, but this is a great followup to a science fiction horror masterpiece. I give this one 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 137 Minutes

Check out the Alien Anthology if you’d like to see this one. Click on the image below for more info. 


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