Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn
Written by: James Cameron, Walter Hill
Directed by: James Cameron
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 154
Date: 07/18/1986

Aliens (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Good Mothers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Everything a sequel should be, James Cameron's slam-bang Aliens went in an entirely different direction from Ridley Scott's moody 1979 chamber piece, Alien, with an amazingly simple idea: more aliens.

Sigourney Weaver returns (and earned an Oscar nomination) as Ripley, who reluctantly agrees to consult on a new mission. This time, she rides with a band of gung-ho military types (Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, etc.), as well as a nerdy pencil pusher (Paul Reiser) with an alternate agenda. Lance Henriksen returns as the android Bishop.

Cameron plays with several motherhood themes, showing the mother alien layingher eggs, while Ripley rescues a little girl, Newt (Carrie Henn), and becomes her surrogate mother. As a writer, Cameron's dialogue has never been better, with plenty of snappy, quotable lines.

The film was released to theaters in a 137-minute cut, but Cameron's preferred 154-minute director's cut is even better; he keeps the suspense slowly building until it becomes almost unbearable in the final, tense minutes, with Ripley racing against the clock to rescue Newt from the bowels of the endless green-blue fortress.

Aliens has a strange, mid-80s Rambo-like physicality to it, but it's couched in a reasonable and forgivable context. It's one of the best sequels ever made. Paxton, Goldstein and Henriksen reunited the following year in Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark. Both versions of Aliens are available in Fox's essential Alien Quadrilogy box set, including tons of extras.

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