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Watching Aliens, you realize how good Alien is. The characters in the original feel like real people. In the sequel, they are cartoonish: a macha Latina (Jenette Goldstein), a gungho Marine who folds after the first battle (Bill Paxton), a naive commander who freezes in battle but redeems himself in the end (William Hope) plus, of course, Sigourney Weaver's superwoman, Lt. Ripley. In the orginal, the great betrayer is an android, played by Ian Holm; here it's Carter J. Burke (Paul Reiser), a corporate advisor who seems to have no sense of his own mortality. No matter what kind of corporate dweeb you may be, surely you must want to preserve yourself. Never does Burke seem aware of the peril he's in. With horrific death all around him, he's still spouting the company line. He's a one-note character, and thus not very interesting. Put it this way: Holm's android was more complex than Reiser's human being.
Academy Award Nominations:
Best Actress (Weaver)
Best Art Direction
Best Musical Score
Best Sound Effects Editing
Best Visual Effects
“Kill me now.”
The overkill of '80s movies predominates. In the first movie it took two hours to kill one alien. Here, Ripley kills dozens, maybe hundreds. She mows them all down. When others do their share of shooting, they often get splattered with acid-blood. No acid comes near Ripley. How nice to be the star. Or how about this? When any Marine is abducted by the aliens and another Marine freaks out, someone, often Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn), forces them to face facts. "Forget it! He's already dead!" But when the little girl Rebecca is taken and Ripley cries, "She's alive! I know she's alive!," Hicks assures her, "You're right. Don't worry, we'll go after her." Some kind of double standard.
Corporal Hicks' ability to catch z's anywhere, even in a ship entering combat, is a ripoff of Dennis Quaid's Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff. Blowing the alien-mother out the airlock and into space is a ripoff of the first Alien movie although at least there Ripley was strapped in when it happened. Here she's dangling out the airlock herself, weighted down by the alien (who grabbed her foot), and then, amazingly, manages to scale...back...up...the...ladder...to safety. Whew!
I like the mother vs. mother thing. Battle of the matriarchs. The first visit to the nest was horrifying the cocooning of humanity especially one woman's plea to "Kill me now." Otherwise you could show this on a triple bill with Rambo II and Top Gun.
October 13, 1997
© 1999 Erik Lundegaard