In 1979, visionary director Ridley Scott made a resounding impact on the cinematic landscape with Alien. Set in the distant future, this haunted house in space sci-fi thriller terrified audiences, made a star of Sigourney Weaver and made an icon of the Alien.
After grossing over $100 million in 1979, plans for a sequel were shelved until 1985 when director James Cameron was picked, mostly due to his successful 1984 debut The Terminator, to replace Ridley Scott. This was not a popular choice amongst the crew. Cameron lacked the prestige of Scott and did not command the same respect. The shoot was not without its issues either. During the production, Cameron had to re-cast a lead role (James Remar was replaced by Michael Biehn to play Corporal Hicks), fell out with and replaced his director of photography and had to contend with the British crew’s need for regular tea breaks. I’m not even kidding about that last bit. Fucking tea breaks!
The plot of the sequel moved away from the claustrophobic story of the original, contained on a space ship with a singular Alien stalking the crew to a colony town on far off LV-426. There, the company of Weyland-Yutani have lost contact with the 100+ colonists. After hearing the newly out of hyper-sleep after 57 years Ripley’s account of how the Nostromo crew fared after they touched down there (not well, because they’re all dead), the company shit their collective pants, call the bad ass Colonial Marines in to investigate and beg/bribe Ripley, with the promise of reinstatement of her flight status, to accompany the aforementioned Marines back to LV-426 to investigate. What could go wrong?
Well, rather a lot as it happens. After introductions to the Marines, an oft-imitated knife scene involving Bishop and Hudson (we mostly used a pencil to do it at school) and a really bloody cool drop-ship sequence, our heroes land on the planet, only to find, well, nothing. Nobody is home. Some acid burned metal flooring indicates the wee buggers are about somewhere. This adds to the tension when the motion detector starts pinging and everyone goes into full combat mode. It’s an Alien, has to be!!
NOPE! FAKEOUT! GOTCHA! It’s a little girl, Newt. Scared, filthy and not up for company, she’s suffering PTSD and is the only survivor of the colony. She tells Ripley that everyone else is dead. Thanks to Hudson though, they manage to locate all the colonists trackers in another part of the colony, the atmosphere processor, which is essentially a giant nuclear reactor.
After arriving, they discover part of the building has been turned into a giant bloody nest. Stop, don’t go in there, Newt has already told you everyone is dead. So, naturally, they go in. What happens next is what really sets this film apart from its predecessor. Action. Lots of action. Marines in cool uniforms fire cool looking weapons at slightly more armoured looking aliens than the previous incarnation whilst Ripley watches from the very cool APC (armoured personnel carrier) in horror as they get their collective asses kicked. Ripley, Newt and three Marines survive, plus the officer in command, Lt. Gorman and Burke, the slimy company man after Ripley saves the day by driving the APC into the nest.
After deciding to get the fuck out of there and nuke the whole place from their ship, that plan goes sideways due to the drop-ship crashing after a naughty alien gets on board and eats the pilot whilst she’s trying to fly. Rude!
These guys can’t catch a break. A fact that is proved when the atmosphere processor decides that because of all the weapons fire underneath it in the previous battle, its coolant system won’t work and it’s going to blow up into a giant nuclear mushroom cloud killing everyone. So, after they hatch an awesome plan to leave, which is interrupted by another alien attack and, a predictable betrayal by Burke, Newt goes and gets herself captured by an alien, sending Ripley into full motherly meltdown. This leads to an audacious rescue attempt, a confrontation with the Alien Queen and an escape back to the ship. Fantastic! Ripley, Newt, Bishop and Hicks survived. All is well with the world!
That is until we find out the pesky Alien Queen clung onto the drop-ship and is now on board, inconveniently ripping Bishop in half! RUDE, AGAIN! These guys have no manners.
A final confrontation between Ripley in a power loader vs the Alien Queen rounds off the 137 minute run time in awesome fashion. Rarely has a sequel not only lived up to expectations but exceeded them. It’s a different film from the original which is why it works. It’s also quite a simple story too. It’s a rescue op gone wrong. This is why it’s so much better than Prometheus and Alien Covenant. No one coming to these films gives a shit about finding God or any of that bollocks. We want a tight simple story that is satisfying, good action and some jeopardy. I’ll be writing soon about Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection soon and explaining why they’re not as bad as everyone thinks for that very reason. But that’s for another time.
In my humble opinion, this is the greatest sequel ever made. Terminator 2 is a contender but Aliens just pips it for me. If anyone reading this is thinking wait, he forgot The Godfather Part 2!! No, no I didn’t. I hate the Godfather films. Come at me bro!
Let me know what you think in the comments below.