CLASSIC REVIEW: Aliens (1986)

Theatrical Release Poster - 20th Century Fox
Theatrical Release Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a review of the classic science-fiction action film ‘Aliens’. This review was written in July 2016 in honor of the film’s 30th Anniversary.

After the success of 1984’s The Terminator, 20th Century Fox gave James Cameron the go-ahead to direct a sequel to the amazing science-fiction horror film, Alien. No one could’ve predicted the success Cameron’s sequel would get. Even though Alien is, itself, somewhat of a horror classic, Cameron somehow managed to make a sequel that was remarkably different from the original film, but still ended up being a classic, being iconic, and being, easily, one of the best sequels of all-time. 

James Cameron’s Aliens takes place 57 years after the end of Ridley Scott’s Alien. After Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) wakes up from stasis, she is debriefed by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, but whenever she tries to convince them of the presence of the Xenomorphs, they don’t believe one bit of it. But when they lose contact with a colony, Ripley accompanies a Colonial Marine-unit to the colony, only to find out that it has been overrun with the haunting Xenomorphs.

Aliens is so different from Ridley Scott’s original film. It could have been a disaster. But James Cameron’s genre-hopping sequel somehow avoided almost everything that could go wrong. Sigourney Weaver hadn’t lost a step. She is actually much better in Aliens than she was in Alien.

The new additions to the universe also worked perfectly. Bill Paxton, Michael Biehn, and, in particular, Lance Henriksen, who all had worked with Cameron prior to Aliens, all became iconic characters in the Alien-franchise. No one comes close to Weaver, of course, but Henriksen’s legacy is also tied to the franchise in a major way.

Other than Ripley though, Corporal Hicks and Newt are my favorite characters in the franchise (sorry, Jonesy!). As a kid, it’s really easy to connect with Newt (played by Carrie Henn), and Michael Biehn was just one of the first action stars that I absolutely loved (because of both Aliens and The Terminator). I’d even go as far as saying that if (spoiler for Alien 3) Newt and Hicks hadn’t been killed off/written out of the franchise in David Fincher’s Alien 3, then Fincher wouldn’t have gotten the same criticism that he got for that film. The characters of Newt and Hicks were just so great.

Aliens is an intense action film with many of the iconic Xenomorphs, and I actually think this is the best action horror film of all-time.  I love that the film is so different from Scott’s original film (it’s one of the reasons why I think it can be so satisfying to watch Alien and Aliens back-to-back), but you could say that it may also work against the film to an extent.

See, the thing is the hundreds of bug-like Xenomorphs in Aliens feel less scary, than the lone Xenomorph on a dark spaceship in Alien. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Xenomorphs in Aliens are scary enough, but they don’t come close to the feel of the Xenomorph in Alien. Still, it remains an overwhelmingly intense experience and thus fits perfectly within the franchise.

I’ve been asked the following question a number of times: which is better Alien or Aliens? It’s always tough to answer, and while this isn’t a comparative analysis, I want to highlight my answer here. It’s so close. It’s really neck and neck. But where Alien is one of the best horror films of all-time, Aliens isn’t just one of the best action films of all-time, it’s also terrifying, I think it’s even more memorable than the excellent Alien, and I prefer the characters in Aliens. So, and I probably won’t ever change my mind on this one, I’d say Aliens is my favorite of the two. But both of them can be called masterpieces.

10 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex