Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Time, Its War

I remember visits to my Dad's old apartment relatively well, considering they started around the time I was 5.  Mom and Dad decided to get a divorce around that time of my life (I didn't even know the meaning of the word, I thought they said we were getting a horse) and I was saddened by it, but not as much as kids in the movies tend to be.  For me, all it meant was that Dad lived in another state and we would see him less.  Visits were always great though.  Dad would rent us movies (or get them from the library once he discovered that they had a great selection), get pizza, and take us to fun places like Chuck E. Cheese's and the local parks.  It was like a vacation, and every movie that I saw while visiting Dad has become one of my all-time favorites.  I sometimes wonder if my affection for said films is inspired by that feeling of special-ness we always got when visiting with Dad.  Anyway, I'm getting away from my point.  It was on one of these visits that, while surfing through the channels on Dad's tv, that we came across what would be my introduction to my all-time favorite Sci-Fi series and possibly the best action movie of all time.  Let's saddle up marines, and take my (maybe) millionth look at Aliens.

Ellen Ripley, the lone survivor from Alien, finds her world completely unhinged when she awakens from her long journey and finds that 57 years have passed, due to a guidance malfunction on her small escape pod.  She has not aged, thanks to the hyperspace freezing technology, but everyone that she knew, including her 11 year old daughter, has passed on.  Equally unpleasent is the knowledge that the company she works for, Weyland-Yutani, thinks she is unstable and refuses to believe her testimony on the alien creature that killed her crew and destroyed her ship.  Some time later, through a company lieson, she discovers that a colony has been established on the planet where they originally found the alien ship and contact has been lost with them.  The company intends to send a squad of high-tech marines to the planet, LV-426, and wants Ripley to return with them as a consultant if they encounter any creepy creatures.  Ripley decides to go in order to help the civilians who are in danger, but also to rid herself of the demons that haunt her nightmares.  When the team arrives at the colony, they find it desolate and destroyed.  They also find one survivor, a little girl named Newt, who will only communicate with Ripley.  It becomes clear that the alien terror has been reborn, and this time in greater numbers.  Before they know it, the marines are cut off from their ship and nearly wiped out.  Its up to Ripley to lead the team to safety, despite her reluctance to do so.

Aliens was a real gamble in 1986, not in the same way that sequels are nowadays.  Studios didn't make sequels for big pictures often at that time...rather, they preferred to make numerous sequels to their B and C movies that were usually horror themed.  For Alien to do well enough to warrent a sequel was amazing in itself, but for the sequel to then deviate so strongly from its source was also unheard of.  Director James Cameron (fresh off his success with The Terminator) did not want to simply rehash the first though...rather, he wanted to let the story grow logically from where it left off.  The never did deal with that ship full of eggs from the first film and its fully possible that someone else could stumble across it...and if one alien was a problem, then several would be even worse.  The only people qualified then, to deal with such a problem, would be soldiers...so Cameron wisely decided to make this a combat movie.  It is then a foregone conclusion that the film will not be as frightening as Alien, but it is twice as exciting....so it evens out.  There is so much done well in the film that it would be impossible to list all of it here in my humble blog.  First and foremost, Sigourney Weaver's portrayal of Ripley is so wonderfully nuanced that you hardly notice how she transistions from wounded victim, to mother, to tough hero without missing a beat.  And, every character shift is brilliantly motivated by Cameron's tight script.  Few characters have been written in sequels as convincingly.  She truely makes the series and sets it apart from its clones and imitators.  Cameron should also be congratulated with how he has Ripley find an unlikely family in Newt and Corporal Hicks.  Each of them is isolated from their surroundings and seems to be a loaner, but their indivdual traits are made stronger by their being united as one whole.  It gives the film a sense of optimism lacking in the other Alien films and I think that that optimisim is why so many people say that this is their favorite of the quartet.  So if you've been living under a rock and never managed to see this film, you owe it to yourself to get it and watch it.  Its an amazingly thrilling and suspenceful flick that you will simply never forget.  I know I never will.

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