#65: Aliens (1986)

When and how did I watch this?

December 26th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Sequel to the all-time classic Alien.  I saw a portion of the original film when I was in high school, namely the big burst-out scene.  The alien figure is a symbol of American cinema now. The general idea of the film was very familiar to me, but obviously the details weren’t clear.  I had high expectations.

What do I know about it now?

Like the other sequels and trilogies I’ve watched, I had to treat this as a stand-alone film.  I was refreshed to discover how well it worked without being condescending or overexplaining the situation. Ripley (Weaver), traumatized by her previous expedition to a planet inhabited by a vicious parasitic life form, reluctantly returns to investigate the fate of a human colony foolishly established on the same planet.  She is accompanied by a group of big-headed but no-nonsense “space marines” who at first show no caution, but after a couple of horrible mishaps, they start to take the situation more seriously.  This might be my only turnoff about the movie.  The cartoonish characters are contrasted by the noble Bishop (Henriksen) and the slimy corporate sellout Burke (Reiser), the latter almost fitting into a stereotype as well but eventually growing more hated than his role suggests. Brilliant acting all around — especially from Weaver — but the dialogue was sometimes dry. All this said, the cornerstone of this film is the carefully crafted tension.  I hadn’t felt this rattled since The Wages of Fear. Although those who have seen the prequel might be privy to the aliens’ appearance, we’re subject to the unknown, unseen threat until nearly an hour into the movie. My heart. The sound and effects are spectacular, as you might imagine for this genre.  The finale doesn’t disappoint and has a satisfying gross-out moment worth googling.

What are some themes in the film?

Fear and response, maternal instincts, human interaction with nature/space

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  Per usual, the dramatic conclusion was rattling. Many of tense scenes won’t leave my memory soon.

Why is this ranked #65?

Again, the alien is a huge icon in modern movies. Numerous sequels and spinoffs have come about since the original Alien. It’s bolstered further by James Cameron’s direction, and its effects and sound are a big deal as well.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She missed half of it, but what she saw had a profound effect on her nerves.

Would I watch it again?

I thought it was entertaining, but I can’t say I’d go out of my way to watch it again.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

The Alien series is legendary sci-fi stuff.  Furthermore, it doesn’t appear to be a requirement to watch the first installment.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

On the merit of effects, sound, and innovation alone, yes.  The tension is a big fat cherry on top. The story construct and dialogue lags a bit, but it works well enough to be considered great.

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