- Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
- Michael Biehn as Corporal Hicks
- Paul Reiser as Burke
- Carrie Henn as Newt
- Bill Paxton as Private Hudson
- Jenette Goldstein as Private Vasquez
- Lance Henriksen as Bishop
- William Hope as Lieutenant Gorman
- Al Matthews as Sergeant Apone
Coming seven years after the horror masterpiece that was Alien, Aliens is a different kind of beast. Whereas the first film was a slow-builder of tension and atmosphere, Aliens is a more action-packed and breakneck film. Saying that is a very effective sequel and its very interesting watching the change in direction and the impressive work once again from Sigourney Weaver. One note before the review begins, I will be reviewing the Director’s extended cut version of this film, not the theatrical edit.
After successfully battling the Alien and destroying her ship in the last movie, Ripley is found floating in her escape pod through space in hyper sleep. Although she originally thought her rescue ship would be picked up soon, 57 years have actually gone by. She is picked up by her employers Weyland-Yutani who ask her questions about why she blew up the ship and doubt her story about battling the Alien. Burke, the slimy financier of the corporation seems to believe her, but Ripley has a tough time getting her point across. Also she learns that her daughter back on Earth died while she was in hyper sleep which devastates Ripley. In another horrifying revelation, she learns that the planet that she landed on, named LV-426 has been colonized. Traumatized by her encounter with the Alien, Ripley is soon taken seriously when communications with the colony are mysteriously wiped out. Knowing that Ripley is the only person to face the creature, Burke persuades her to join a team of marines on a mission to the planet. The marines are led by the inexperienced Lieutenant Gorman and among those in the squad are the level-headed Corporal Hicks, joker Private Hudson and tough cookie Private Vasquez. Also joining the party is Burke and Bishop, an android who encounters hostility from Ripley after her experience with Ash in the last movie. Ripley predicts that the mission is doomed and sure enough upon landing on the planet she is proved right. She isn’t just facing one alien this time, there is a multitude of the vicious creatures to contend with. Along the way, Ripley rescues a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt, who becomes something of a surrogate daughter for her. As terror increases and the body count rises, Ripley must protect herself and the other from the threat of the Alien, including the fearsome Queen that spawns the eggs for the creatures.
The change in direction of Aliens is an interesting thing as the action is brought into the forefront. James Cameron’s assured direction and skill at shooting explosive set pieces is on full display here. If Alien was the lone battle in a floating spaceship, Aliens is the war zone of conflict and bloodshed. While the action and the horror are amazing to behold and crafted with care, Aliens never scrimps on the story beneath it. Most primarily Ripley’s personal and emotional journey this time around, as her maternal instincts brought on by the presence of Newt give her the steely strength and fire she needs to take down the Alien. When she faces the Queen Alien, it isn’t just a battle of human vs animal, it’s a battle of mothers as well. James Horner provides the electrifying score of military drums, slithering strings and menacing brass. Visuals in Aliens are outstanding with the dark interiors of ships and buildings becoming menacing and soaked with blood as the group of aliens attack all who enter and created a cocoon like environment to store their hosts.
Sigourney Weaver is once again on fine form as Ripley, showcasing strength, sadness and grit as she battles to protect herself and those around her. Aliens is the film in which Ripley really comes into her own as an iconic character, as we witness her take on the creatures with intelligence and resourcefulness. It is one outstanding performance by Sigourney Weaver that really adds to the impact of the film. Michael Biehn makes for a likable character in the form of Corporal Hicks, who knows how to handle an extreme situation like the one the group finds themselves in. Paul Reiser imbues Burke with a slimy and avaricious quality as he attempts to bring the creature back to the corrupt company in increasingly nefarious ways, with little regard for the people who die in the process. With her wide eyes and wispy voice, Carrie Henn is excellent as the traumatized Newt, who comes to see the determined Ripley as her mother figure. Bill Paxton brings a dash of humour to the role of Hudson, whose loud actions and panicked behaviour do nothing to quell the anxiety building around the group. Jenette Goldstein nails the tough chick part of Vasquez with feisty energy and aggression. Lance Henriksen makes an impression as the sophisticated and intelligent android Bishop, while William Hope as the inexperienced and fear-stricken Lieutenant Gorman and Al Matthews as the chain-smoking Sergeant Apone have memorable parts.
Tense, action-packed and thrilling, Aliens is a refreshing sequel with cool direction and a powerful turn from Sigourney Weaver.