ALIENS (1986) Reviews and overview

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‘This time it’s war’

Aliens is a 1986 American science-fiction action horror feature film in which Officer Ripley has to once again battle an alien, the Queen. The film is the first sequel to Alien (1979).

Written and directed by James Cameron from a storyline co-written with David Giler and Walter Hill, based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the movie stars Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, William Hope and Jenette Goldstein.

Despite the success of Alien, a sequel was delayed lawsuits between Brandywine Productions and the studio over profits from the first film and repeated changes in 20th Century Fox management. James Cameron was hired to write a story for Aliens in 1983, based on his scripts for The Terminator (1984) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985).

The project stalled again until new Fox executive Lawrence Gordon pushed for a sequel. Cameron wanted to direct the film and was given the role based on his success directing The Terminator. On an approximately $18.5 million budget, Aliens began principal photography in September 1985. Filming was rife with conflicts between Cameron and the British crew at Pinewood Studios over their insistence on union rules and the director’s work ethic.


“Obviously, it’s good that director James Cameron can give some measure of depth to what is essentially a shoot-em-up in space, but perhaps it’s because of this that this particular subtext feels a little tacked on, a rehash of areas already explored in the first movie, that the exceptional quality of action is a necessity rather than a bonus.   Cameron’s dig at the arrogance of military might, realised in the overbearing attitudes and posturing of the marines, is a whole lot more fun – and perhaps a lot more on the ball.” 20/20 Movie Reviews

“I’ll just concentrate on the little things that you might have forgotten – like the 80s fashions […] and all the macho crap spouted – particularly by the women […] Even more surprisingly, and just like the first one, it takes bloody ages to actually get going. But when it does, it rocks…” British Horror Films

“Perhaps the best single word to describe James Cameron’s Aliens is relentless. Tautly paced and expertly directed, this roller coaster ride of a motion picture offers a little bit of everything, all wrapped up in a tidy science fiction/action package. From the point when the opening half-hour of exposition ends and the real movie begins, Cameron barely gives viewers a chance to catch their breaths…” Reel Views

“The movie made me feel bad. It filled me with feelings of unease and disquiet and anxiety. I walked outside and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was drained. I’m not sure Aliens is what we mean by entertainment. Yet I have to be accurate about this movie: It is a superb example of filmmaking craft.” Roger Ebert

” …it stands unmatched against most of its sci-fi action/horror peers – arguably one of the finest films from either hybrid. With the exception of a few somewhat janky miniature spacecraft movements, the stands against anything from the last 35 years. I struggle to think of sci-fi action films that outshine it, just others that stand alongside it: James Cameron’s The Abyss and Terminator (1984) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), and Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) are the few that come to mind.” Yellow Barrel

Cast and characters:

Sigourney Weaver … Ripley
Carrie Henn … Newt
Michael Biehn … Corporal Hicks
Paul Reiser … Burke
Lance Henriksen … Bishop
Bill Paxton … Private Hudson
William Hope … Lieutenant Gorman
Jenette Goldstein … Private Vasquez
Al Matthews … Sergeant Apone
Mark Rolston … Private Drake
Ricco Ross … Private Frost
Colette Hiller … Corporal Ferro
Daniel Kash … Private Spunkmeyer
Cynthia Dale Scott … Corporal Dietrich (as Cynthia Scott)
Tip Tipping … Private Crowe
Trevor Steedman … Private Wierzbowski
Paul Maxwell … Van Leuwen
Valerie Colgan … ECA Rep
Alan Polonsky … Insurance Man
Alibe Parsons … Med Tech
Blain Fairman … Doctor
Barbara Coles … Cocooned Woman
Carl Toop … Alien Warrior
John Lees … Power Loader Operator

Filming locations:

Acton Lane Power Station, Acton Lane, Acton, London, England (atmosphere processing station)
007 Stage, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England (interiors: Sulaco space ship cargo bay)

Technical details:

137 minutes | 154 minutes (special edition)
Eastman Kodak
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)

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