Yes, I am reviewing Aliens and not Alien. No, that is not typo (other than me just using a double negative). It has been a long time since I saw the original 1979 horror classic. That one is of the slow-moving variety, and I remember watching it when I was younger and finding it difficult to get through the first hour or so. One of these days I will go back and view it. Still, Aliens is one of those rare, worthy sequels that ratchets up the concepts of its predecessor and maintains fidelity to the absolute panic felt by the characters.
Here is the basic concept of the Alien franchise: there is a race of semi-sentient, insect-like creatures that propagate their species by laying eggs that hatch these smaller face-huggers that implant their seeds into an unwilling host. Later these seeds burst from the chests of their human carriers in a gruesome manner, and you are left with a baby alien ready to wreak havoc on the frightened space freighter crew (or whoever else might be dealing with them from sequel to sequel). In the original, just one alien kills nearly an entire crew, save for series stalwart Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). In the 1986 film, Ripley is a part of a space marines unit sent to deal with what turns out to be an entire colony full of the beasts, complete with a giant, menacing queen. There are many movies that deal with these aliens, but the basic idea is that humans must survive being put into situations with these things that are bent on either using them as organic birthing pods, or just outright murder.
What makes Aliens enjoyable for me is that it features a few concepts with which I connect. The first of these is the idea of technology being virtually useless in the face of raw, primitive, brute force. As the space marines arrive at the colony, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) attempts to calm Ripley’s nerves at the prospect of dealing with a foe she so narrowly escaped once before by reminding her of the awesome, advanced firepower they have at their command. Yet when they find the deceased colonists en masse, all their weaponry is rendered useless as the aliens end up killing a little over half of the marines and destroy their drop ship, their (as it seemed at the time) one way off the planet and away from total annihilation. In order to survive (and even still, all but three (four if you count the android) die), they have to rely on the bonds formed by teamwork and friendships forged in difficult situations. This is something that each character comes to realize, in their own way.
Another idea that draws me to this film is Ripley’s desire to be a mother to Newt (Carrie Henn), the young girl who is also the sole survivor of the colony’s population. This is set up earlier in the film when Ripley learns of her biological daughter’s death due to old age, which occurred while she floated through space following her escape at the end of the previous film. When Ripley encounters Newt, her instincts take over. Her determination to protect the girl at all costs, even venturing into the queen’s lair on the verge of its destruction due to an imminent nuclear meltdown, had me rooting for her the entire way. I will not make the comparison to the Virgin Mother here. To say the least, it is hard to picture the Mother of Jesus gritting her teeth and clutching an automatic rifle as it spits hot led into an alien insect nest. Nonetheless, a mother who is willing to lay down her life for her loved ones is a Christian ideal, and one that is very important this weekend.
Aliens is a tense but violent film, so proceed with caution. The threat of looming death permeates the entire runtime, and you get the sense that none of the characters are immune to it. The heroism shown by Ripley is admirable, particularly in defense of Newt. This is another to view after you have put the kids to bed, though if you are prone to nightmares you might want to avoid it. But if you are in the mood for a fast paced, science fiction thriller, then check it out.