Ellen Ripley, (Sigourney Weaver) the only survivor on the ship, Nostromo, is found floating in space by a salvage ship. Ripley has been in a cryogenic sleep for fifty-seven years. She wakes up to find herself in a hospital recovering. She soon learns that she is required to go before a panel of executives from her employer, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, to explain her reason for blowing up their space ship, Nostromo. The panel doesn’t believe her story about an Alien who sneaked aboard the Nostromo and killed every crew member on board but her. They tell her they don’t believe it because a colony of terraforming scientists has been living on the planet LV-426 for thirty years without seeing any Alien or Alien ship. She loses her space flight license and is offered a lowly job of running loaders and forklifts.
Ripley is plagued with nightmares about what happened on the Nostromo. Then, one day, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a Corporation lawyer, and Marine Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) inform her that all contact with the colony on LV-426 has been lost. They want her to join a Marine unit and explain what happened in detail on the Nostromo to help prepare them for what they will be facing LV-426. Ripley refuses to go because she is still recovering from the traumatic experience fifty-seven years ago. However, from Ripley’s point of view, it just happened last week. Realizing that she will never conquer the fears in her nightmares, she reluctantly agrees to go. Now the action begins so hold onto your seat!!!
The Marines, Ripley, and Burke arrive on the LV-426, led by the young Lieutenant Gorman. The only colonist they find is a young girl who has been hiding from the Aliens by herself. Her name is Newt (Carrie Henn) and she tells them everyone else is dead. Soon they discover all the colonists are in one place. The young inexperienced Gorman sends his unit to locate the colonists and check for survivors. Gorman, Burke, Newt, and Ripley stay in the vehicle watching the progress of the Marines. They enter the building and are attacked by a slew of Aliens. Gorman, who panics and cannot decide what to do, is knocked unconscious when Ripley starts driving the vehicle into the building to save the Marines. She saves Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), Private Hudson (Bill Paxton), and Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn). The rest of the Marines are dead or taken by the Aliens to be cocooned. The rest of the plot is about how the Marines, Ripley, Newt, Burke, and Bishop try to survive.
The plot progresses quickly and there are several twists and turns along the way. The ending is awesome. Ripley has a scene in the end that makes her one of the most famous kick-butt women characters in movie history. She says a line that has become a famous movie quote too. It is my favorite line in a science fiction horror movie.
James Cameron was told he could do a sequel to Alien only if his movie, The Terminator did well. Needless to say, it was quite a hit! Aliens was a huge hit not only in the United States but other countries too. It was the number one movie in the United States for four consecutive weeks. The movie totaled $131 internationally. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Actress for Weaver although she didn’t win. Aliens did earn two Academy Awards for Sound Effects and Editing and for Visual Effects.
James Horner, one of my favorite composers, wrote the music for Aliens. Horner said that Cameron gave him very little time to write the music. He thought he would never work for him again. However, Cameron liked Horner’s score in Braveheart (1995) and hired him to do the score for Titanic (1997) which is one of the most popular scores in movie history. As it turned out, Cameron also asked Horner to do the score for his successful movie Avatar (2009). Horner also did the score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) which is one of my favorites, and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). I own all five of these movie soundtracks. I love to listen to them and yes, they are on my iPod. I look forward to hearing more of James Horner’s music in the future.
Michael Biehn replaced the actor, James Remar, who was to play Hicks just a few weeks before filming. There is one scene in the movie where we see the back of Remar playing Hicks, but no one can tell the difference between Biehn and Remar. All of the actors except for Biehn were trained by the S.A.S, the British Special Air Service, an elite unit. Cameron had only written about 90 pages of the script, but 20th Century Fox liked it and told him he could make the movie. The Alien nest set was used in the movie Batman (1989). The tiny bathroom in Ripley’s apartment was actually a British Airways toilet. The Alien Queen required 14-16 operators to move her. Lance Henriksen wanted to wear special contact lenses to make Bishop a really creepy android. However, Cameron said he didn’t have to wear them because his acting made Bishop creepy enough.
Alien and Aliens are my two favorite sci-fi movies. I vary from day to day which one I like the best. I do think the atmosphere in Alien is a little creepier. However, the action and excitement in Aliens couldn’t be better. It is such a fast-paced movie that once the characters land on LV-426, the ending seems like the next scene. The shadows and use of dark lighting, off whites, and grays make the setting seem so chilling. The aliens were hidden so well in the darkness that when they jumped out at Ripley, I found myself jumping out of my theater seat. The scene when the Marines are first attacked by the aliens, my husband told me that I squeezed his hand too hard. Afterwards, I put my hands on my lap and squeezed them.
My son and I have watched Aliens many times together. He loves the film as much as I do. I never watch my DVD without thinking of all those times we saw it together. He bought me the uncut video and then the uncut DVD. I read in Entertainment Weekly in the 20th Anniversary Double issue recently that the Alien Anthology is on a Blu-ray disc set containing Alien, Aliens, Alien3, and Alien Ressurection with five hours of new interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Son, if you read this I want you to know that I would love this Blu-ray set. It sure would make a nice Christmas present this year.