My reviews often contain spoilers. So consider yourself warned.
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Arriving seven years after Alien, this sequel had a new director and writer, more creatures, more effects and Sigourney Weaver returning as Ripley. The directing and script duties were taken on by James Cameron, who two years previously had a hit with the sci-fi actioner, The Terminator, and this sequel has more in common with that film than the 1979 film that inspired it. This is an action movie, make no mistake, with minimal horror. It has no interest in the unbearable dread and sense of sheer hopelessness that permeated Alien.
The plot concerns Ripley who is found in space fifty-seven years after the events of the first film, still floating around, still in hyper sleep. She is rescued and returned to Earth where she is brought before The Company – the super insensitive agency who in the first film deemed the Nostromo crew “expendable” and wanted nothing more than to get their hands on the chest bursting creature for their Bio-Weapons division. Ripley and her story are discredited and she is stripped of her flight license. She tries to readjust to her new life and gets a job working at a loading dock, but her nights are still filled with terror as she is plagued by continual bad dreams.
LV-426, the mysterious planet (Space Jockey, goopy eggs) which the distress beacon brought the crew of the Nostromo to in Alien has been colonized and when contact with the colony is lost, a group of Marines are sent to investigate. Ripley is offered reinstatement of her flight license if she will accompany the crew to the planet – not knowing what has happened there, if the Marines do come up against the hostile lifeforms Ripley spoke of, she could be of use to them. She initially rejects the proposition, but (foolishly!) changes her mind and heads back into space.
This film is heavy on special effects set pieces and it is amazing that the first film feels not only more futuristic than this sequel, but Alien is so much more seamless and has held up much better than this big budget follow-up. There are many, many more creatures now and even an alien Queen – but none of it looks as good as what we saw the first time.
I really don’t care much for this film. I find it pretty boring. I don’t understand anyone who says this is better than the original. The characters are all extremely underdeveloped and uninteresting and come nowhere near comparing to the nuanced and quirky crew that was aboard the Nostromo. Ripley is the only one with any real emotional depth and this is due more to Sigourney Weaver’s acting and the familiarity of the Ripley character than anything the script serves up.
The original was so bleak, so fiercely intelligent and original, so absorbing and astounding – this one is a dud. Everything that was otherworldly in Alien has been jettisoned in favor of pyrotechnics. Each time I watch Aliens I like it less and less, never more so than during this viewing, which occured directly following a re-screening of the original. Aliens just feels so empty. Even if this wasn’t a sequel to one of my favorite films, I still would not enjoy it. It is lame, lackluster and lazy. C