• Publication date: November 22, 2010

The Terror has Multiplied Aliens: What Doesn't Kill Them, Makes Them Stronger

In 1979 the original Alien film appeared, frightening audiences with its unique combination of science fiction and horror elements. Still not much differentiated the picture from other slasher flicks of the same era, such as Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Fresh from finishing his blockbuster debut The Terminator in 1983, director James Cameron embarked upon creating an Alien sequel, and it managed to exceed the expectations of its predecessor's most loyal fans. Cameron's endeavor even succeeded in attracting audiences who would ordinarily shy away from action and/or horror flicks, as its underlying story and technical execution were exemplary.

In 1979 the original Alien film appeared, frightening audiences with its unique combination of science fiction and horror elements. Still not much differentiated the picture from other slasher flicks of the same era, such as Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Fresh from finishing his blockbuster debut The Terminator in 1983, director James Cameron embarked upon creating an Alien sequel, and it managed to exceed the expectations of its predecessor's most loyal fans. Cameron's endeavor even succeeded in attracting audiences who would ordinarily shy away from action and/or horror flicks, as its underlying story and technical execution were exemplary.

11 years after the United States' disastrous and unsuccessful two-decade campaign against the Vietcong, the country was still reeling from the war's effects and the loss of thousands of young American soldiers. The country loathed the mere thought of battling another foreign entity again, except under the direst circumstances. By Cameron's own admission 1986's Aliens reflected that sentiment, where corporate interests entangled citizens in a battle against less technologically advanced opponents, whose mastery of their environment and zeal far outweighed their material disadvantages.

The fictional Weyland-Yutani Corporation, who primarily earns it revenue through the development of space colonies, represents corporate interests in Aliens. When Weyland-Yutani loses contact with their LV-426 colony, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant William Gorman (William Hope) travels there to investigate. He requests the accompaniment of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), a former space pilot who until recently was encapsulated in ice. 57 years prior Ripley visited LV-426 and encountered a fierce alien being; her only way of escaping the creature resulted in the destruction of a company craft. With no means of surviving while floating in space, Ripley entered a cryogenic state of sleep, hoping that she would eventually be discovered and revived.

When that day finally arrived Ripley did not receive a particularly warm welcome, and was instead quizzed about the wrecked spaceship. Administrators at Weyland-Yutani balked at her recollection of alien combat, deeming her mentally unfit for future flight and subsequently suspended her pilot's license. Ripley was not insane though, a fact that Lieutenant Gorman understood quite well. LV-426's colonizers had recently started exploring uncharted and strange territory, encountering the same terrifying creature that Ripley did 57 years before. Five decades later, however, the beasts had begun reproducing with fervor, using the colonizers' dead bodies to incubate their offspring.

Gorman offers the dishonored pilot a chance for redemption, provided that she agrees to help him navigate through LV-426 and outwit its alien insurgents. In return, Ripley's pilot's license will be reinstated. Aside from the obvious risk involved in such a mission, she remains traumatized by her past experience there, and is unsure that she is mentally equipped for such a task. Nevertheless Ripley agrees with reluctance. Upon arrival, however, she discovers Weyland-Yutani's true motivation for both their so-called rescue operation and the colony itself: to capture aliens for research purposes, enabling the company to manufacture advanced biological weaponry. There is no time to confront the lieutenant though, not with a handful of innocent lives at stake, including a young orphan's.

Aliens has received almost unanimous praise since its release. After 24 years its special effects continue to rival modern, CGI-laden creations -- an amazing feat considering its modest $18 million budget ($34 million when adjusted for inflation, still a somewhat conservative sum by today's standards). Cameron's sophomore effort earned $131 million during its box office run, the equivalent over $250 million according to 2009 dollar values.

Year: 1986

Duration: 137 minutes

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Starring:

Sigourney Weaver

Carrie Henn

Michael Biehn

Lance Henriksen

William Hope

Paul Reiser

Director: James Cameron

Rating: Rated R for graphic violence and explicit language.