Aliens 1986 film
Directed by James Cameron from a story written by Cameron, David Giler, and Walter Hill, the film is more of a high-paced, action adventure film than the atmospheric sci-fi horror of the first film. It was tremendously successful, following Cameron's The Terminator in helping to establish him as a major action director. The film, like its predecessor, was shot in England, this time at Pinewood Studios, with a budget of about $18 million. The production was somewhat problematic, marred by several disputes between Cameron and the film crew, which eventually led to an all-out strike late in the production.
At the opening of the film, Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only human survivor of the Nostromo, is rescued from space and revived after fifty-seven years in hypersleep. As she recovers, she is gradually informed of the changes that have occurred during her absence, and is dismayed to learn that a terraforming colony called Hadley's Hope has been founded on Planet LV-426 (where the Nostromo crew had its fatal first encounter with the alien). Ripley immediately fears the worst when she learns that contact with the colony has recently been lost. With her friends and family long dead, Ripley (now promoted to Lieutenant) reluctantly agrees to accompany a rescue mission sent by the all-powerful Company, acting as advisor to a squad of gung-ho Colonial Marines sent to rescue the colonists. They travel aboard the vessel Sulaco (like The Nostromo, the name is a nod to Joseph Conrad).
Arriving at LV-426, Ripley and her companions soon discover that the aliens have overrun the colony and that all the settlers are apparently dead. The rescue team soon find themselves trapped in the settlement, where they are hunted by swarming armies of aliens under the direction of their queen. Ripley eventually finds a single survivor, a young girl nicknamed "Newt", who has miraculously survived the massacre. Their mission is further complicated by Ripley's discovery that Burke (Paul Reiser), the Company representative along on the trip, is plotting to bring one of the aliens back to Earth at any cost. When Newt is captured by the aliens, Ripley must risk her own life to try and rescue the child and escape from the planet before the colony is "sterilized" by a nuclear explosion.
The story adds much to the overall mythos of the series, including Cameron's introduction of an insect-like social structure and life cycle, is notable for its portrayal of women in action roles, and also re-introduces the concept of an android character, however this time in a sympathetic role. This character, Bishop, is also the only character except Ripley (and her cat, Jonesy) to appear in more than one film in the series.
Aliens works as an allegory of the Vietnam War, in that an overly confident US military finds itself in a quagmire battling an unseen opponent they cannot comprehend. The squad sent to carry out the mission is modelled on a Vietnam-era unit in terms of appearance, hierarchy and dialog.
Sigourney Weaver, who holds strong views on gun control, has stated that she was deeply uncomfortable with the amount of gun violence in the movie, and that Ripley would be required to strap on heavy artillery herself. However, she admitted she ended up enjoying the role and in particular the firearms training. She also admitted that the gunplay held a seductive appeal.
View of Futuristic Weapons Re-imagined
Prior to Aliens, the common assumption was that futuristic guns and weapons would be variations on energy beam firing devices such as lasers, plasma or particle emitters; most notably the blaster weapons of Star Wars or the multisetting stun/kill/vaporize beam of the often imitated Star Trek phaser. Aliens introduced the trend for futuristic weapons to be depicted as simply more advanced versions of today's weapons. They still fire bullets or projectiles instead of clean death ray beams which still haven't proven practical in the real world.
The film added an additional level of depth to Ripley's character by establishing a daughter who grew old and died while Ripley was lost in space (this scene was not included in the theatrical version but was seen in extended versions on TV, Video and DVD). When Ripley discovers a little girl, Newt (Carrie Henn), hiding in the ruins of the colony, Newt becomes a surrogate daughter for Ripley, allowing Ripley to overcome her feelings of guilt and achieve closure. Newt returns these feelings going so far as to call Ripley "Mommy" near the film's end.
Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards and ended up winning two (Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects). Sigourney Weaver received her first Academy Award nomination (Best Actress) for this film. Although Weaver did not actually win, it was considered a landmark for a nomination for Best Actress to even be made for a science fiction / horror film, a genre usually given little recognition by the Academy in those years.
Another actor whose career benefited from Aliens was Bill Paxton; he plays the reluctant grunt, Hudson, who later defiantly battles to the death when swarmed by the aliens. Paxton also benefited from being given many of the film's most memorable one-liners.
The depiction of the female characters, especially Ripley and the ultra-macho Private Vasquez, as fearless warriors made a considerable impression in the North American perception of women in action films, particularly in futuristic science fiction. Since Aliens, it grew to be expected in futuristic stories that the female characters be as ready to bear arms and do battle on an equal basis with the male characters.
The film also continues a suggestion in the film that in the future sexual orientation and gender identity would be non-issues. The onscreen biographical reports on the missing crewmembers from the first film all include information on whether or not they have had a sex change operation. Later on while the marines are eating in the mess hall, two of the marines joke about having sex with an alien being that might have been transgender, although the joke is obscure, referring to "had some Arcturean Poontang". It may reference many things, such as eating an Arcturean creature. The word "poontang" may have taken on other slang meanings in the future that we are unaware of. (Ed. Note: Poontang is slang for 'sex' or 'female genitalia' popularily used in Canada - Cameron is a Canadian)
The theatrical running time of Aliens was 137 minutes. Later, Cameron cut together a 154 minute Special Edition (It is not considered as a Director's Cut as James Cameron is happy with the theatrical cut.) that contained the daughter subplot as well as scenes of the colony before the alien infestation and extra battle scenes involving the marines' robot sentries.
The original theatrical cut introduces an element of uncertainty into the proceedings - the backstory about Newt's parents is not shown, and the audience is (at least for first time viewers), unaware of what has transpired there beforehand. The scenes with Ripley's daughter and the robotic gun sentries provide subplots in themselves. However, some fans of the movie prefer the original theatrical release and consider the extra scenes in the Special Edition to be superfluous.
This Special Edition was first released on laserdisc and VHS in 1992 and in The Alien Legacy in 2001. Both versions of the film were released together for the first time in the 2003 Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set.
- The 19-foot queen alien model is currently on display at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, as of 2005. It is on loan from its owner and an advisory board member of the museum, James Cameron.
- The Alien nest set wasn't dismantled after filming. It was unused until several years later when it was used as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman in 1989. When the crew of Batman first entered the set, they found most of the Alien nest still intact.
- Composer James Horner stated in an interview that he felt that James Cameron had not given him enough time to write a musical score for the film. Because of this he said he was forced to cannibalize previous scores he had done as well as adapt a rendition of "Gayane Ballet Suite" for the main and end titles. Horner stated that the tensions with Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. Cameron, however, was so impressed with Horner's score from Braveheart that he later asked him to compose the score for Titanic.
- "Sulaco" is the name of the town in Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo," which was the name of the ship in Alien. Ridley Scott, director of Alien, is an admirer of Conrad's.
- The weapons used by the marines are all based on real, fully functional weapons. The pulserifle is made from a Thompson SMG with an attached shotgun, while the smartguns carried by Vasquez and Drake are based around the MG-42 machinegun, and are maneuvered with the help of a steadicam harness.
Editing and other errors
- Shortly after an alien puts its hand through the windshield of the APC, you can clearly see that the windshield is undamaged again.
- When Ripley is putting the pulserifle and flamethrower on the table before going to save Newt, the order in which she pulls the weapons from the wall is not the same as when she is putting them on the table. This has been corrected in the SpecEd.
- When Ripley is telling Gorman to get the team out of the breeding chamber, from one shot to the next the position of her headset's cord changes.
- In the SpecEd, when Vasquez and Hudson are testing the sentries, in the first front shot you can see Hudson behind the sentries, but in the next you can't. Also the door behind the sentries is closed.
- When the aliens later attack, the magazines of the sentries are still at 100% even though they spent some rounds in the testing.
- During the scene where the Marine charater "Frost" get's hit with a burst from a flamethrower and falls over a railing, just before the camera cuts away you can see a boot appear from the edge of the screen as someone goes to help the actor
- When the android character Bishop get's impaled by the Queens tail you can just see the wire used to pull the tail through the dummy
- During the scene when the Alien Queen is sucked out of the Sulaco's airlock, the dismembered Bishop grabs for Newt to prevent her from being sucked out in the process. While he is grabbing for her, you can clearly see the hole in which the rest of his body is actually hiding.
- 1979: Alien, directed by Ridley Scott
- 1986: Aliens, directed by James Cameron
- 1992: Alien³, directed by David Fincher
- 1997: Alien: Resurrection, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
|Sigourney Weaver||Lieutenant Ripley|
|Carrie Henn||Rebecca 'Newt' Jorden|
|Michael Biehn||Corporal Dwayne Hicks|
|Paul Reiser||Carter J. Burke|
|Bill Paxton||Private W. Hudson|
|William Hope||Lieutenant Gorman|
|Jenette Goldstein||Private J. Vasquez|
|Al Matthews||Sergeant. Apone|
|Mark Rolston||Private M. Drake|
|Colette Hiller||Corporal Ferro|
|Daniel Kash||Private D. Spunkmeyer|
|Cynthia Scott||Corporal Dietrich|
|Ricco Ross||Private R. Frost|
|Tip Tipping||Private T. Crowe|
|Trevor Steedman||Private T. Wierzbowski|
|Paul Maxwell||Van Leuwen|
|Barbara Coles||Cocooned Woman (aka Mary)|
|James Cameron||Director and Screenwriter|
|Gale Anne Hurd||Producer|
|David Giler||Executive Producer|
|Walter Hill||Executive Producer|
|Gordon Carroll||Exectutive Producer|
|Adrian Biddle||Cinematographer (replaced Dick Bush)|
|Stan Winston||Creature SFX|
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- Harry Harris, owner of the largest collection of screen used props as seen in Aliens.
- Aliens first draft script
- Classicscifi.com, in-depth review.