Aliens on the big screen, 25 years later.
February 5, 2011
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A few friends and I took advantage of a “Digital Film Festival” last night to go and see a true classic action thriller. We saw James Cameron’s 1986 movie, Aliens. The followup to Ridley Scott’s suspense classic, Aliens starts where Alien left off with Ripley drifting in space, and ends in total war.
The movie itself has some awesome pieces that go together to make a truly complete movie. The shots where Ripley is coming out of the elevator on her way to save Newt, and again when she is revealed to the queen Alien in the power-loader at the end of the film have to be two of the greatest film scenes of the 1980s. In addition, some great acting performances actually surface in what is supposed to be a smash-boom action movie. Bill Paxton’s Hudson is a completely ridiculous character, and when he’s not saying something hilarious in the foreground action, he can always be heard to be whining or moaning something inane in the background. “Game over, man!”
The marines in this movie also serve to give Cameron a cast of characterizations that he carries forward to his later movies, including The Abyss (one of my all-time favourites!) and Avatar. In fact, I think Aliens displays a lot more creativity than the much-revered Avatar, because in Avatar Cameron just recycles the marines from Aliens to create the hard-nosed “villains” of Pandora. The overall “I’m better than you” bravado always seems to get smashed to pieces in Cameron films, and Aliens starts the lesson with the xenomorphs, hah!
What stands out to me in Aliens 25 years after its release is how good it still looks today, even on the big screen. While some of the exterior space scenes look less polished than we’re used to seeing in modern space-faring adventures (the fact that it’s models and matte paintings is pretty clear), the creature and vehicle effects are beyond reproach. I have a hard time figuring out how they did this without computer graphics in 1986, because the Aliens are truly moving, alive, and in your face. Ripley’s fight scene with the queen xenomorph in the power-loader doubles the effect, by adding the awesome mechanical special effect of the power-loader.
If you’ve never seen Aliens, you have been missing out. Any way you see it – theatrical cut or extended version – it’s a wild and fun ride, and I choose to completely discount Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. They take the awesome franchise, and just completely wreck it. Aliens is the best!