Over the years, there has been some debate as to what makes a great sequel. “Aliens”, the high action follow up to the 1979 classic “Alien”, has been generally considered one of the best sequels ever. But is it really? The movie was James Cameron’s follow up to his first directorial hit, “The Terminator”. While, this is a solid follow up as sequels go, I’d argue its far from being the greatest sequel of all-time. It actually has all of the flaws of a sequel that audiences generally feel plague the sequel movies of today.
“Aliens” features the return of Sigourney Weaver to the role of Ellen Ripley, again considered to be one of the best female action heroes ever. It also stars Michael Bien (Terminator), Bill Paxton (Titanic) and Paul Reiser. The action picks up 57 years after the first flick. Ripley’s escape pod is discovered and she soon is faced with accusations that she is to blame for the death of everyone aboard the Nostromo. She learns the planet she landed on and found the face hugging alien has now been colonized and terraformed. Soon, though, contact is lost with the colony and Ripley is recruited to join a team of space Marines to go and wipe out the alien threat.
The first problem with this movie is the problem with every James Cameron movie– it’s just too long. The special edition has a running time of over two and a half hours. The second is a problem that only sticks out in retrospect. The characters here are pretty much the same characters we’ve seen in every Cameron movie since, making one wonder if Cameron can write good characters at all. He gets a lot of credit for developing Ripley, but she isn’t exactly his creation. He just put a flame thrower in her hand and gives her one classic line of dialogue. Other than that “Aliens” really just feels like a bloated copy of the first movie. It skips over what might be the most interesting part of the story– what happened to the colony after the aliens found them– and jumps right to the rescue. But you can only listen to Bill Paxton freak out for so long before it gets tiresome.
Entertainment Weekly once called this movie the greatest pure action movie of all time and there is some good action but really it’s just a lot of running and screaming over machine gun fire. The best part of “Alien” was the suspense that was built up as the one creature hunted the crew members down one by one. Here the one thing to look forward to is Ripley finally grabbing a weapon and going after Newt, the little girl who is the only survivor of the colony. It results in the one great line of the movie, “Get away from her you bitch”. Other than that, this movie has pretty much the exact same ending as the last movie.
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