How do you follow up one of the best action movies ever?
To be honest I’m not sure that most people’s idea of following Aliens would consist of taking away most of the action elements, reducing the xenomorph count back to one and killing Hicks and Newt before the opening credits have stopped. Arguably brave decisions were made here, but not always for the best. However, even though I do have a soft spot for it, it’s just hard to look past some glaring problems.
From the moment Ripley wakes up on the prison planet, it’s clear first time feature Director David Fincher has something else in mind for the series. Fincher had a nightmare on this production, and has since disowned it, but we’ll save the details of its super troubled production for another article.
A fire breaks out on the Sulaco causing the computer to launch escape pods with the survivors from the massacre on LV-426. Unfortunately only Ripley and a very badly damaged Bishop, make it to the nearest planet Fiorina alive. This always annoyed me. I wanted to see Hicks, a fully functional Bishop and Newt again. To kill them all off immediately, seemed like such a strange decision to me. It’s like the writers tried to strip everything we liked from the last film, as some kind of screw you to the audience.
But in hindsight maybe it’s just a screw you to Ripley. Maybe she’s not meant to be happy. Her and the creature seem inexplicably linked in some way, with their destinys eventually becoming one and the same. It seems that happiness is not in Ripleys future.
The passengers are not the only lifeforms bought down in the escape pods. Two face huggers, one which goes roaming off looking for suitable faces as soon as the pod lands and one that’s impregnated Ripley while she was in crying sleep.
The Citizens Of Fiorina are all convicts of varying levels of criminality. But that perhaps is giving them too much characterisation. They are mostly in the movie to provide something for the creature to chase down and hunt. The impact on the audience of them being killed is small, as they are pretty much all basic stereotypes. The exceptions to the rule are Clemens played by Charles Dance and preacher convict Dillion played by the great Charles S. Dutton. Even though Dance is killed off in a early surprise death, both are great character actors who give gravitas to a script that is sorely lacking.
The two things that save this movie are Sigourney Weaver and the Alien. Weaver is the heart of this saga. She totally committed to this franchise at this point, even going to the extreme of shaving her hair off for the part. You can really feel her sorrow as she’s forced to open up Newts chest to make sure she hasn’t got an Alien embryo hiding inside. When she finds out she herself is impregnated with an alien she’s obviously distraught, but handles it with dignity in just the way you would think Ripley should. She knows she is going to die, but she fights with everything she has to make sure that the company doesn’t gets their hands on what they consider to be the ultimate bio weapon. When she does die it’s actually an emotive moment, which is more that can be said for the other nameless deaths in this movie.
The second saving grace is the creature itself. Before this movie the idea that the offspring of the face hugger depending on the host was un thought off. The Alien explodes from the chest of a dog giving us a style of Alien not seen before. It runs super fast on four legs and seems to eat it’s victims which we haven’t really seen as of yet. It’s a fresh idea, that gives a little life to a rather dreary movie.
I feel like the writers were trying to make the series more personal again by making the film smaller than its predecessor, but after the stakes being so high last time it just come off as a big disappointment.
I do respect that they tried something different after the bombastic Aliens, but for most people however, it was just too much of a tonal shift to its predecessor.
It’s not perfect, but I do recommend it, especially at this great price.