Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Aliens

Here we are again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of a movie I own.  Apparently, I broke a co-workers heart with last week's entry on Alien.  He read that, and then came to me the next day, "Dude, does that mean you're watching Aliens tonight?  I love Aliens!  Can I come over and watch it, too?"  That's when I had to break it to him.

For those just joining us, when doing Fishing in the Discount Bin, I'm working about six months ahead.  I watched this movie and jotted down this entry about six months ago.  That's why, in these intros, I always put down the date I originally watched the film and wrote my rant.  It was primarily to explain why you'd be reading entries about Christmas movies in July.

So, to my co-worker, I'm sorry you missed my Alien binge-watch by, wow, 10 months.  I'm working 10 months ahead now.  Anywho, time to continue the journey with Aliens.  I watched Aliens and wrote this ramble on January 19, 2014. 

Aliens Movie Poster

Continuing my journey through the Alien franchise, we next come to Aliens, which has one of the rare distinctions of being one of the few sequels that's just as good as, if not better than, the original.

And why shouldn't it be?  Throughout the history of this franchise, they seem to nab amazing directors who are just starting their careers.  For the first one, we had Ridley Scott, and Alien was just his second movie ever.  And for this second film, they got James Cameron, who was fresh off making a name for himself with The Terminator.

Seeing as to how I do love James Cameron films, I'm shocked that I actually haven't watched and analyzed this one more.  As the story goes, being a fan of the first film, Cameron approached Fox with his idea of a sequel, but he was originally rebuffed.  But when The Terminator came out and was a big hit, Fox suddenly became very interested in his ideas.  And thus, the sequel was born. 

I think what really makes this sequel unique and notable is how they took the central premise of the franchise and took it in a whole new direction.  Aliens is really more of an action film than a horror film.  There's less scares of the creatures jumping out at you, and instead, more suspense as those villains plot their attacks. 

Actually, it was kind of interesting watching it tonight.  Just to be clear, I watched the Director's Cut, which was originally released on Laserdisc back in 1990.  The fans consider it to be the better version, and in his recorded introduction, Cameron himself says it's his preferred version.  It's 20 minutes longer, includes more character development, and we see scenes of the colony before the aliens are discovered.  And it's those colony scenes that I found interesting.  See, with Avatar, James Cameron was accused of recycling huge swaths of Aliens because the special effects technology had finally evolved to a point where things could be done properly.  The power armor was the prime example that people pointed to.  But, while watching this Director's Cut tonight, and seeing the scenes of life on the colony, it is damn near identical to all the control room scenes in Avatar.  Shocking how similar things are. 

The plot, in case it's been a while.  When last we left our heroic Ripley, she was the lone survivor and was drifting through space in her lifepod.  Her lifepod is found, but she's in for a shock.  She was actually in hypersleep and adrift for 57 years.  Her experiences with the Alien have given her a touch of PTSD, as she frequently wakes up with nightmares.  She's distraught, because while being in hypersleep, her daughter back on Earth grew up and died.  And, of course, following the Company's inquest into what happened to her ship, and with very little evidence, she's branded crazy and stripped of her flight status.  And she's horrified to learn that, in her 57 years asleep, the planet where her crew originally discovered the aliens has been terraformed and colonized. 

Ripley's nightmares seem to come true when the Company man, Burke, informs her that contact has been lost with the colony, and that a platoon of Marines is being sent to investigate.  In the off-chance that she's not crazy and the aliens do exist, Ripley is asked to come along as a consultant.  With the assurance that the aliens will be destroyed if they exist, she goes along. 

Of course, the Marines are all a bunch of trigger-happy, gung ho soldiers who are convinced that this mission will be a cake walk.  However, they arrive, find the colonists are dead, the aliens do exist, and they're quickly outgunned.  It then becomes a desperate battle for survival and figuring out how to get off this godforsaken rock.  With the Marines quickly starting to lose their shit, Ripley starts to take charge.  She even finds the lone survivor of the colonists, a little girl who goes by Newt, and they quickly start forming a mother/daughter bond. 

It looks like they're about to make their escape when Newt is captured by the aliens, leading Ripley to a face-to-face confrontation with the Queen Alien.  It appears they get away, but the Queen Alien stows away and returns with them to orbit, where Ripley dons power armor and slugs it out with the Queen Alien.  Ripley manages to shove the Queen Alien out the airlock, and they set a course for home. 

Man o man, the Queen Alien.  I couldn't help myself, when I was done, I had to go and watch all the DVD bonus materials.  That Queen Alien was one of the biggest and most complicated animatronics at the time.  Same with the power armor...Sigourney Weaver was pretty much strapped into an animatronic.  It'd be so easy today with CGI, but back in 1986, you quickly learned respect for the craftsmen involved in such a production. 

And with such a wide array of characters, each one gets a little quirk so they're instantly identifiable.  Bill Paxton's Hudson has to be one of the most memorable, as he's the most gung ho, but he immediately becomes the most panicky when the shit hits the fan.  Hicks, played by James Cameron film regular Michael Biehn, is a hero more in the John Wayne mold...the strong silent type.  And, of course, he and Ripley develop a mutual respect.  The big surprise back in the day was Paul Reiser as the sleazy company man Burke.  Reiser was, and still is, primarily known as a stand-up comic, and I'm pretty sure this was pretty much his only dramatic role.  And he sure does play a great sleazeball. 

Special consideration has be given to Lance Henricksen as the android Bishop.  Just a little bit creepy, but eventually proves himself to be on the side of good.

But of course, the star is Ripley.  History remembers that Sigourney Weaver actually picked up a Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing Ripley in Aliens.  History remembers because it's very unusual for sci-fi or fantasy or horror to pick up nominations in the in the acting categories, but darn it, Weaver earned this time out.  Ripley has so much to do in this film, as she transforms from suffering from PTSD to the warrior woman leading the charge against the aliens; the mother figure as she connects with Newt and finds a surrogate daughter; and even overcoming racism, seeing as to how the android Ash betrayed the crew in the first film, leading her to be very, very, very mistrustful of Bishop. 

I first saw this like the first one...my friend Travis loaned me his VHS copy, and I remember watching it back in the day and being very surprised.  It was in this film that composer James Horner gave us a piece of music that's been used in a ton of movie trailers. 

What more can be said?  Books have been written on this film, so I really don't have any more to add.  It's just a fun action thriller. 

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