xGary's Review of Aliens
Ripley is awakened from stasis to find that she has been gone for 57 years and is being made a scapegoat for the loss of her ship. But then contact is lost with the colony on LV 426 and she is enlisted as an adviser to a combat unit sent to investigate. The vast majority of sequels are of course just cynical attempts to cash in on the popularity of the original film and rarely have much in the way of cinematic merit in their own right. Aliens is one of the few that not only expanded on the idea of the original but took it in a whole new direction. The production design is superb and every sci-fi movie made since that features military hardware gets its cues from here, and it still looks brilliant. The ensemble cast are all excellent, especially Sigourney Weaver who is far from the usual gung ho bonehead with a gun you find in most action movies. She is a believable character traumatized by her experiences of the first film, unwillingly facing her fears. The soldiers are also three dimensional characters, especially Bill Paxton's smart alec who loses his nerve and their camaraderie and funny banter make you care what happens to them. Other well written characters include "artificial person" Lance Henriksen whose cold fascination for the creatures echoes Ash from the first film and Paul Reiser's obsequious company man, each of whom seem to have agenda of their own. The first half of the film is an atmospheric and cleverly written set up for the second half, which can best be described as a white knuckle rollercoaster ride of breathless suspense and excitement. Their first encounter with the aliens is one of the all time great action sequences and the later scene when they await the second onslaught huddled in a darkened room listening to the sound of the motion detector is utterly gripping. Not to mention Ripley's first sight of the alien queen and their subsequent classic showdown. For me, this is an all but perfect film, and the best sequel ever made.