Before we really dive into this review, I have to explain that I'm going to be coming at it from the perspective of the Director's Cut, which was the version of the movie that I bought on video and, as a result, is the one I always choose to watch. In fact, I'd never seen the original theatrical cut until I decided to watch it for this review simply so I could comment on how differently the two of them flow and, while I go into the specifics down the road, I think the theatrical cut is still a great movie but, being so used to the scenes in the Director's Cut, it felt a little more rushed and not as rich. For me, the Director's Cut gives the story and characters, especially Ripley, more depth and elevates the film above your typical 80's action movie, which is what the theatrical version felt more like.
In the first film, I didn't find Ripley to be that compelling or interesting of a character; she was a tough, independent-minded woman and not a typical damsel-in-distress, yes, but that was about all she had going for her and I really didn't care if she lived or died. To me, Aliens is where the character comes into her own as a truly memorable, likable, and admirable hero, thanks to the combination of Cameron's writing and Sigourney Weaver's returning performance, which received a much-deserved Oscar nomination (she should've won, but I'm glad that they at least recognized her). She goes through such an arc here: she starts out as a very traumatized woman, one who's found herself in a place and time completely unfamiliar to her, she learns that her daughter grew old and died during the time she was floating out there in hyper-sleep, her story about the Alien and her warnings about the other eggs on the planet are completely dismissed, is personally blamed for the destruction of the Nostromo and has her flight license suspended, she's submitted to psychiatric evaluation, and she's haunted every night by nightmares about the creature. As horrified as she is to learn that the planet, now called LV-426, is now colonized, when Carter Burke and Lt. Gorman come to her with the news that contact has been lost, she initially refuses to have anything to do with the mission, stemming from both her fear and anger at not being believed, telling them, "Forget it. It's not my problem." Even when Burke tells her that the company has agreed to have her reinstated as a flight officer if she goes, she still staunchly refuses. But, when she continues to have nightmares, she realizes that the only way she's ever going to be able to move is to go back and face her fears and she reluctantly agrees to go... only when she makes Burke assure her that the mission is to destroy the Aliens, not to study or capture them. When she and the marines come upon LV-426, Ripley is still clearly suffering from her past experiences, as she stumbles over herself when trying to describe what she knows about the Aliens by describing what happened to Kane, she has trouble fitting in with the marines, whom you can tell she's not sure about, and is very hostile towards the android, Bishop, because of what happened before with Ash. She also tries to warn the marines about the gravity and possible size of what they're up against but they're so cocky that it falls on deaf ears. Ripley's concerns continue to be dismissed by Gorman when they investigate the colony and her fears come back full on when they discover two live facehuggers in the med lab, which makes her very jumpy, although as the story grows on, she begins to conquer her fears.
Ripley develops two important relationships over the course of the story. One is with Corporal Hicks, the one marine who comes across as understanding to her plight, and while the two of them never become romantically involved or anything, they do develop a very trusting, respecting bond, with Hicks clearly admiring her intelligence and bravery and the feeling is mutual. They become close enough to where he gives her a locator band so he can find her anywhere in the complex and they continue to rely on each other throughout the story, to the point where they, as well as the captured Newt, are the only humans left alive. Their last interaction is before Ripley heads out to rescue Newt and they tell each other their first names, signifying how close they've become, with Hicks telling her, "Don't be gone long, Ellen." The other, and more significant relationship, is with Newt, whom they find all alone and traumatized in the colony. Having been a mother herself, Ripley's maternal instincts immediately kick in when they find her and she manages to calm her down and gets her to stop trying to run away. The first real moment between them is a really nice one, where Ripley, after wiping off some hot chocolate that dribbled onto Newt's face, says, "Uh-oh, I made a clean spot here. Now I've done it. Guess I'll have to do the whole thing," and as she cleans her, she says, "Hard to believe there's a little girl underneath all this... and a pretty one too." Their connection begins when Newt tells her that that's what everyone calls her, rather her real name of Rebecca, and she learns that her parents and brother are dead. She becomes very protective of her, making sure she doesn't experience or see anything else that'll traumatize her (like the cocooned bodies of the colonists in the Alien hive), and when they become stranded on the planet after the dropship is destroyed, she does what she can to keep her safe and secure. Obviously, a surrogate mother-daughter relationship and when the Aliens take her during their escape, Ripley is not leaving without her, even though she knows that, at that point, the colony's atmospheric processor will suffer a massive explosion in less than half an hour.
Despite being traumatized, one thing that hasn't changed about Ripley is her toughness and tenacity. I love how, during the inquest, she asks, "Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?" when one of the board members completely ignores something she said, and when she later becomes aggravated at how dismissive they're being and yells, "Goddammit, that's not all! 'Cause if one of those things gets down here then that will be all! And all this, this bullshit you think is so important, you can just kiss all of that goodbye!" Another great moment is when, on the Sulaco inbound for LV-426, Ripley shows Sgt. Apone and Hicks how well she can operate one of the power loaders, grabbing a big piece of equipment with it and nonchalantly asking, "Where do you want it?" (You can tell that this is where Hicks first becomes intrigued and impressed with her.) And when things get out of hand on the planet and Lt. Gorman is obviously out of his league, Ripley effortlessly takes command, saving the remaining marines from the Aliens, suggesting that they nuke the entire area from orbit, and proving to be a level-headed, intelligent, and trustworthy leader when they're stranded, coming up with ways to barricade themselves within the compound, finding and blocking how the Aliens are getting in, and trying to boost morale, telling Hudson to chill. One of her best moments is when she discovers that Burke was responsible for the colonists finding the derelict and didn't warn them of the possible danger. When Burke simply writes it off as a "bad call," Ripley becomes absolutely enraged, grabs and slams him against the wall, and yells, "These people are dead, Burke! Don't you have any idea what you have done here? Well, I'm gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this! You're not gonna sleaze your way out of this one! Do you hear me? Right to the wall!" When the two living facehuggers get loose in the room with her and Newt later on, Ripley knows that it was Burke, trying to smuggle a couple of Aliens back to the company by getting them impregnated, and throws out another great line that can be used in many different contexts: "I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage." Finally, by the time we get to the climax, everything she's been through, coupled with her determination to save Next, has allowed Ripley to make the transition from a frightened, traumatized woman to a full-on warrior, as she loads herself for war, enters the Alien hive, gunning down any that get in her way, rescues Newt, and confronts the Queen, literally purging her inner-demons by frying all of the eggs and blasting her large ovipositor to ensure she can't lay anymore. She's become such a badass by this point that she literally goes toe-to-toe with the Queen on the Sulaco, snarling, "Get away from her, you bitch!", and managing to send her screaming out into space, having finally saved Newt and garnered her much-deserved peace of mind (until Alien 3, anyway, but let's stay on task here).
In addition to the ones I've already stated, another reason for the bond that develops between Ripley and Newt (Carrie Henn) is because they're kindred spirits in many ways. Like Ripley, who saw her coworkers and friends get killed off by the first Alien and, as a result, missed out on the entire life of her daughter, Newt lost her family to them. In fact, they're the ones who come across the derelict ship containing the eggs while they're out on a surveying trip and the last time we see Newt before Ripley and the marines find her later on, she's screaming in terror at the sight of her dad, who's lying on the ground with a facehugger attached to him. Also, her panicking mother calls for help, which is no doubt what led to more colonists becoming hosts for the Aliens and led to the situation getting out of control. Newt manages to stay alive and avoid the Aliens for a long time but, by the time she's found in the deserted, wrecked compound, malnourished, dirty, and frightened, to the point where she tries to run away from them. Coming across as initially catatonic, Ripley manages to get her to talk, revealing that her entire family is dead, and she actually wants them to let her go, as she feels safer by herself. Even when Ripley assures her that the marines can protect her, she says, "It won't make any difference." Despite those initial reservations, Newt begins to open up and come out of her shell because of her growing bond with Ripley, whom she definitely sees as a surrogate mother (you learn that she's not even sure what happened to her real mother, wondering if one of the Aliens came out of her). Their bond is strengthened when she tells Ripley that she has nightmares about them as well and when Ripley tells her of her daughter and Newt knows, without her even having to say it, that she's dead. Ripley then gives her the tracking bracelet Hicks originally gave to her when she becomes afraid to be by herself, and later on when the two of them become trapped in the room with the two facehuggers, Ripley does everything she can to protect and save her, with it eventually working out but not before they very nearly become impregnated. When the Aliens breach their barriers, Newt's knowledge of the compounds system of air ducts, which it was said earlier that she, her brother, and the other kids at the colony used to play, comes in handy, as she's able to point them to a path that leads them to safety, although by the time they reach the end, only she, Ripley, and Hicks are left. She ends up getting taken by an Alien during the chaos but is later saved by Ripley, who braves through a hive full of Aliens, eggs, and the Queen to reach her. During the climax on the Sulaco, Newt herself becomes the Queen's target, undoubtedly out of revenge for Ripley killed her brood, but she's saved by Ripley, who manages to vanquish the monster by shooting her out of the airlock. At the end of the movie, it looks like both Newt and Ripley have received their much-deserved peace of mind, preparing to go into hyper-sleep for the long trip back to Earth, Ripley telling her that she thinks they can both dream now.
|Remember, short, controlled bursts.|
|How do I get out of this chickenshit outfight?|
Watching Aliens again in order to do this review was the first time I'd watched a movie with Bill Paxton since he died and, I have to say, it was a bit bittersweet because it reminded me of how much I enjoyed him as an actor. As Hudson, he's definitely the loudest and cockiest of them all, dismissing Ripley's first encounter with the Aliens with, "Whoopy-fuckin'-doo. Hey, I'm impressed," and asking if this going to be a real fight or "another bug hunt." He has a very sarcastic, irreverent attitude towards Apone, telling him when the sergeant asks him if he wants to fetch his slippers, "Gee, would you, sir? I'd like that," and saying that he's going to get lip-cancer from the cigars he constantly has in his mouth. Above everything else, he thinks of himself as a real tough guy, at one point boasting, "I am the ultimate badass! State of the badass art! You do not wanna fuck with me," and he's also something of an electronics and computer expert, as he hacks into the main compound's door so they can get in and makes use of small, homing devices the colonists had implanted in their skin to track down their location. As everyone knows, that attitude of his takes a hard left turn after the marines are attacked by the Aliens in the hive, with a lot of them either getting killed or taken, and he himself getting burned on the arm by one's blood. He becomes a panicky, whining coward, one who just wants to abort the mission and get out. He really starts to panic when the dropship is destroyed and they get stranded, feeling that they're not even going to last a day in the compound because the Aliens are going to break in and kill them. In some ways, he becomes a male version of Lambert, he's freaking out so bad, especially when Ripley reminds him how long Newt managed to survive and he whines, "Why don't you put her in charge?!" His panicking really gets on Ripley's nerves, who tells him to straighten up and relax, and while he does for a little while, he starts to panic again when they learn of the atmospheric processor's imminent explosion, developing a hopeless attitude and feeling that they're dead meat. And yet, he's not willing to do anything risky to ensure their survival, like go out to the uplink tower in order to manually pilot the Sulaco's second dropship, because he's afraid of the Aliens.
It's funny that Hudson asks Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) if she's ever been mistaken for a man because, when I first saw her when she's doing chin-ups after awakening from hyper-sleep, she was so buff and tough-looking that I did think she was a man! And that's thing: she is by far the toughest, most no nonsense member of the marines, coming off as a female, Hispanic Arnold Schwarzenegger. When she says her famous line, "Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are," you could believe that the Aliens would be in trouble if they had to deal with her. She's really close to Drake (Mark Rolston), who's akin to her in terms of personality and toughness, as well as their disdain for Gorman. He has some memorable moments too, like when he tells Hicks, "You look just like I feel," when they come out of hyper-sleep, and tells Vasquez, "You're just too bad," which gets him a friendly slap on the side of the face. They stick together during the mission and fight off the Aliens together, and they're so close that, when Drake is seriously injured by one's acid blood, Vasquez has to be pulled away from going after him by Hicks, refusing to believe that she can't help him. Later on, she does show loyalty when she says that they need to go back into the nest to save a couple of marines who are still alive, but when Ripley says that they can't save from becoming hosts for the Aliens, Vasquez suggests they hit the nest with nerve gas out of retaliation. After they get stranded, she manages to be the complete opposite of Hudson and remain as calm, tough, and clearheaded as ever, often telling him to shut up whenever he's whining and moaning. Her bravery and weapons skill really come in handy when the Aliens bursts into the compound, as she manages to gun down a number of them in the Operations room and in the air ducts, but she does herself in when she pins one Alien's head against the wall with her foot and fires into it, severely burning her leg with its blood. Gorman, whom she blamed for what happened earlier (she tried to pummel him when he was knocked out but Hicks backed her off) and was still not happy with him after he regained consciousness, comes back to help her but they end up getting surrounded. When Gorman pulls out a grenade, Vasquez's last line is, "You were always an asshole, Gorman," before they grab each other's hands before it explodes.
Even though he doesn't get much to do, Frost (Ricco Ross) does have some memorable lines, such as, "I hate this job," (which I think is the first thing he says), saying that Gorman has a, "Corncob up his ass," mentioning that he has a bad feeling about the drop, and, most memorably, when Gorman tells them to get rid of their weapons' magazines and grenades, "What the hell are we supposed to use, man? Harsh language?" He comes across as pretty tough as well and is apparently a pimp, as he got some poontang from a race referred to as "Arcturian." When Spunkmyer (Daniel Kash) reminds him that the one he had was male, Frost is so chill that he says, "It doesn't matter when it's Arcturian, baby." I wish I had that much game. As for Spunkmyer, he doesn't get much to do except comment on how awful the cornbread they have to eat at the breakfast table is and get kind of annoyed at Bishop's weirdness when he has to clarify a question to him; he doesn't go in with the other marines, as he and Ferro (Collette Hiller) are the ones who fly and maintain the dropship. Even Ferro, who's a very small character, is made memorable because of her look, especially when she's wearing those silver glasses while flying, and her line, "We're in the pipe, five by five." Dietrich (Cynthia Scott) is another woman who does go into the hive with the marines and she has the dubious honor of being the first one to be killed by the Aliens. The two marines who are the most obscure and have very few lines and screentime are Crowe (Tip Tipping) and Wierzbowski (Trevor Steedman). A lot of these lesser marines look so much alike that it's hard to keep track of them but these two are the worst. Crowe only gets a couple of close-ups that I'm aware of, one of which is after he's dead, and you can hear him mocking Frost's bad feeling about the drop before they head on down, whereas I don't think Wierzbowski has any lines and he looks so much like Spunkmyer that it's easy to get them mixed up. In case you're curious, he has a close-up when everybody reacts to Ripley knocking a tray out of Bishop's hand on the Sulaco and is the guy Hicks pulls away in the hive before the ammo bag blows up when things first go south. His death happens offscreen, as all you see is static from the camera on his helmet and hear him screaming.
Staying on the subject of the marines for a little bit, it's interesting how they're depicted as Vietnam war soldiers in the far future (Cameron must've had Vietnam on the brain around this time). For one, their armor and uniforms definitely bring that visual to mind, right down to the similar-looking helmets, the dark green, camo color-scheme, and what they have written on themselves and their weapons. Cameron allowed the actors to personalize their equipment, which is how you get interesting details like the skull with the knife in it on Hudson's chest-plate, with the words "Or Glory" underneath it, along with the name "Louise" (Bill Paxton's girlfriend at the time) next to it, "My Bitch" on the side of Drake's smart-gun, and the word "ADIOS" on the side of Vasquez's smart-gun, as well as the phrase, "El riesco siempre vive," which means, "The risk always lives," on her chest-plate. The Vietnam aesthetic is also present in their attitude, in how cocky and sure of themselves they are, since they have the latest firepower and are going up against something that's very primitive. Their disastrous first encounter with the Aliens is where the parallel becomes very clear: as advanced and powerful as their weapons are, they're up against a very determined and ferocious enemy that can use the environment to their advantage, and when things really go south, the marines find that their superior technology means nothing.
All that said, though, their weapons are just as memorable as they are. The most prominent one is the pulse rifle, which fires very fast rounds of exploding shells, which can rip an enemy to shreds in seconds, and doubles as a pump-action grenade launcher, which Ripley puts to good use when she takes on the Alien Queen in her hive. They also have flamethrowers similar to the ones the crew of the Nostromo had, and when Ripley heads off to save Newt, she tapes one together with a pulse rifle so she can draw out any hiding Aliens with one and blow them apart with the other. Similar to the pulse rifles are the big, mounted smart-guns that Vasquez and Drake specialize in, which seem to pack the same amount of firepower but I think their mounted nature makes them easier to aim. Even the sound effects of these things are memorable, like the loud, high-pitched shots both of those guns give off and the hollow blipping and gradually intensifying bleeping of the trackers. They also have some grenades, which are much smaller and slimmer than typical ones, and instead of pulling a pin out, you press a button. And who can forget the very deadly, automatic sentry guns? They're only in the Director's Cut but they really come in handy against the Aliens, able to mow down a bunch of them in very short succession. (I'll tell you, though, they're a pain in the ass when you're playing as an Alien in the Aliens vs. Predator computer games!) In addition, the marines have some more relatable weapons, like the small but powerful handguns (the distinctive sounds those make are often heard in movies made in England, particularly the classic James Bond films) and that badass, pump-action shotgun that Hicks has. Their helmets and armor come equipped with com-links, small cameras to relay the action back to the APC's mainframe, and over-the-shoulder flashlights to allow them to see better in dark areas, like the Alien hive.
The marines have some memorable vehicles at their disposal as well. First off, there's the dropship, which is something else that serves as a callback to Vietnam in the way it's designed (it also reminds me of the flying Hunter-Killer patrol machines in the future scenes in The Terminator). It looks pretty cool, and when it flies down to the planet's surface, it deploys these arms with big missile turrets on the ends on either side of its body, as well as two smaller ones around the cockpit, but we never get to see it do anything other than show off how agile it is in the air because it crashes pretty early on and the weapons systems on the second one are never used. Second, there's the APC or "Armored Personnel Carrier," this massive, tank-like vehicle that they use to deploy the marines when they reach the planet's surface and which also serves as a mobile commander center where Gorman keeps track of the men's movements and bio-readouts from their equipment. It's not really meant for combat, although it does appear to have some gun turrets on a movable part on its roof, but its strong armor and heavy weight make it a formidable battering ram, as Ripley uses it to burst into the Aliens' hive in order to save the marines and runs over one with it. And finally, you have the power-loaders, which are introduced early on when everybody's working on weapons detail. I remember seeing an image of one of those things on the back of the VHS that was released in the late 90's, early 2000's and I didn't know what I was looking at but when I finally saw the movie, I thought it was pretty cool. They're basically big, mechanical exoskeletons that you stand inside and move yourself, using the controls to operate the hook-like hands and grip onto objects. They're not exactly meant to be weapons (nor do I think they're exclusively equipment used by the marines), but Ripley, again, puts one to good use against the Alien Queen at the end.
Even though we're 57 years on from Alien, this future is still very relatable. Like the first film, aside from the concept of hyper-sleep, as well as the new concept of "terraforming" (I don't see us being able to do that on another planet any time soon) and some other random pieces of equipment, like those loaders, there's very little in the movie that feels outlandish. The marines' weapons may be more advanced than stuff we have today but it doesn't feel like it could be that big of a leap to manufacture them (especially since they were based on and, in some cases, made from actual weapons, as is the case with their vehicles), and they're still using old-fashioned hand- and shotguns in addition, as well as some miniature welding devices that they use to weld shut doors that basically look like pocket-sized acetylene torches, which might not be that far off in being developed, if they already haven't. The other bits of technology, like the data screen behind Ripley during the inquest, the readouts on the laptops that control the sentry guns, the graphics on the motion trackers, and the device they use to study the schematics of the compound, also feel pretty reasonable, as do the computers and mechanisms themselves, and they come with the same faults and lack of clarity that we're still dealing with today, like the dropship's radar and observation cams and the marines' helmet cams. I used to think that the robotic arm that cuts through the door of the shuttle at the beginning was farfetched but I've read that Cameron said he actually had to pay to use that thing, so I'm guessing the only futuristic thing about it is its scan, and the biohazard suits and breathing masks that the salvagers are wearing are hardly futuristic in the slightest. Most notably, since this is the one film in the series' futuristic continuity that comes the closest to showing us what life on Earth is now like through Gateway Station, we can see that not much has changed: people still dress virtually the same, whether it be casual or formal, and their boardrooms, clinics, and apartments are just a tad bit more futuristic than what you see in today's world.
Nothing has changed about Weyland-Yutani in the years since the events of the first film; they're still the very model of a corrupt corporation that's more than willing to sacrifice innocent lives to get what they want. Their first action here is to protect themselves by denying that the Nostromo set down on LV-426 on company orders and they also claim that they find no trace of the Alien in the shuttle, despite going over it "centimeter by centimeter," which could be a lie because, if it was that thorough, they should have found remnants of saliva or acid burns on the outside of the shuttle from where Ripley shot it with the grappling gun. Knowing how devious they are, I'm sure that they simply wanted to get Ripley demoted to cover up any knowledge about the Aliens and then use the information she gave them about the derelict to send colonists out to check on it as a way to find out if there are still viable creatures there. Since they co-financed the colony, they were probably ensured for it against any damages, and, like Captain Dallas, the guys in charge of the colony simply do what they're told and don't ask questions because they know the answer will be, "Don't ask." When they lost contact with the colony shortly after they sent them out to investigate, they likely already knew what was going on and sent in some well-armed but ill-advised marines, led by an inexperienced and incompetent lieutenant, to investigate, with Burke going along to ensure that some specimens were obtained, one way or another. Since they figured few, if any, of the marines would come back alive, they could've sent Ripley with the hope that she would die as well and that would be the end of it; if she didn't agree to go, well, it'd still be no skin off their nose, since she'd be in no position to do anything stop them. I was wondering why they didn't attempt to return to LV-426 and try to gather another specimen in the time between the two movies but I'm guessing they didn't want to draw too much attention to themselves and, with the disappearance of the Nostromo, they couldn't have been sure whether or not anything was ever found.
Like Ridley Scott, James Cameron is a great visualist director who puts every single cent of his budgets up on the screen. The sets are all very well-constructed and impressive, even the more mundane, ordinary ones, like those on Gateway Station because, as I said earlier, it's interesting to see slightly futuristic takes on those types of environments like the station's clinic, the boardroom, and the apartment Ripley begins living in; I also like the idea of that "simulated environment" room that you see Ripley sitting in at an early point in the Director's Cut, where she uses a big, video screen to make it look as if she's sitting on a bench in a nice, little park. A much more noteworthy and interesting set, though, is the interior of the marines' ship, the Sulaco, which is akin to a smaller and more militarized version of the Nostromo. While the ship itself is smaller, the interior is much more wide open, with the hyper-sleep chamber consisting of a long row of pods right across from their lockers, as well as a big, white cafeteria, and the enormous hangar where the dropship, the APC, and the weapons are stored, and is also where you first see those loaders.
My favorite sets, though, are the interiors of the colony compound on LV-426, especially when they first come across it and find it to be damaged and deserted; I always love it in horror and monster movies where the main characters discover the aftermath of some sort of horrific attack on a place, like in Them!, where the police officers finds the remains of a camper trailer and general store, or in John Carpenter's The Thing, when they find the remains of the Norwegian base. This is where this movie comes the closest to having some of the atmosphere and creep factor of the original, as you see the marines wandering around the long, narrow hallways of the colony, finding signs of a ferocious battle like holes in the wall from explosives and small-arms fire, destroyed bits of equipment, and melted gaps in the floor from the Aliens' acid blood which, as happened on the Nostromo, went through a number of different floors. They find evidence that the colonists may have been jumped before they knew what hit them, as they find a half-eaten doughnut and an unfinished drink on a desk in one room, and they also tried to put up barricades but, unfortunately for them, they didn't hold. The place has a number of different areas, like civilian rooms, where Hudson and Vasquez follow a signal on the motion tracker that turns out to be just hamsters in a cage; the med-lab, where they find facehugger specimens, including two live ones in big stasis tubes, and learn that they removed one from a man's face before it could implant an embryo but ended up killing him in the process; a small bedroom nearby; the Operations room, where they spend most of their time, trying to figure out what to do; a little space under the hallway's floor that's full of junk and seems to be where Newt has been hiding away from the Aliens this whole time; a series of air ducts throughout the place that are, conveniently, big enough for people to move through; and a series of sewer tunnels underneath the entire complex where Newt is taken by one of the Aliens.
Because it's been terraformed, LV-426 isn't portrayed as being as creepy and unsettling a place as it was in Alien. It's still a rocky, barren planet with bad weather, such as a lot of wind and rainstorms, and it's clearly chilly as well, but it looks more miserable now than anything else (I wouldn't want to live there). In the few shots of the landscape, most of which you can only see in the Director's Cut, Cameron does his best in making it look ominous, particularly in the scene where Newt's family comes across the derelict, but he himself admits on the commentary that he's not as good as it as Ridley Scott and I have to agree. But, what makes up for it is that I find the situation here to be more intense and suspenseful than in the first film. In my previous review, I acknowledged that being stuck on a ship in deep space with a deadly alien monster is a scary scenario but I never felt the movie exploited it as much as it could have, which I think Aliens does. When the dropship crashes not too long after they've been attacked by the Aliens in the hive, I feel like they're in big trouble, as they're now stuck on the planet with seemingly no way to escape and now, they have to do what the colonists did and barricade themselves in the compound. It's akin to Night of the Living Dead in that respect, and I find that particular situation of being stuck in a very small, claustrophobic house or, in this case, building while hordes of monsters are trying to break their way in to kill you to be very frightening. Some may find the situation in the first film, where the danger is already inside with you, to be scarier but, with that, I feel like you can either hide or, as they did, try to come up with ways to deal with it, whereas here, all they can do is try to find every possible entryway into the place, board themselves up, and wait it out, hoping that the barriers will hold. Plus, while the Nostromo, despite having some narrow, claustrophobic spaces and hallways, was quite large, the compound is a very tight place to be stuck in, meaning it's not an ideal place to get into a battle with a wave of vicious, agile monsters with acidic blood, as seen when they get attacked in the Operations room and are chased through the air ducts. And, as if they didn't have enough to worry about, they learn that the atmospheric processor has been damaged and is going to go thermonuclear soon. Unlike Ripley setting the Nostromo to explode, they know far in advance that this is coming, and it forces them to come up with a way to escape as well as survive the Aliens.
The exterior shots of the compound, known as "Hadley's Hope," as well as many shots of the landscape, the Derelict, and the land-rovers you see being driven across it, such as the one being driven by Newt's family in the scene in the Director's Cut, are not real places and vehicles at all but, rather, are very detailed miniatures. Bob and Dennis Skotak, who James Cameron worked with during his Roger Corman days, supervised the visual effects and, like the stuff in the original film, they're positively exquisite. You'd never know in those aforementioned shots that you were looking at miniatures because of how perfectly scaled they are, and you can apply that to other models, like the shots of the Nostromo's escape shuttle floating through space and being picked up at the very beginning; the exterior shots of Gateway station, complete with details like ships hovering around it and a matte painting of Earth to the left of it; the large model of the Sulaco, which itself is shaped like a large gun that cruises gracefully through space; the dropship, which really looks good when it breaks through the atmosphere, heads down to the planet's surface, and reveals its missile turrets; and the colony's atmospheric processor, which is designed as a large, cone-shaped building, and the lower levels of which serve as the Alien hive. Also like the first film, the integration of these effects and the live-action, as well as how they're pulled off, is very seamless. Every once in a while, you see a slightly dodgy bit of compositing and blue screen work, like some shots of the dropship flying around above the planet's atmosphere, some of the close-ups of it when it's flying, and when it crashes in the background behind the actors, but for the most part it's very well done. The dropship flying amongst the clouds and heading towards the processor look good, as do the shots of the processor outside one of the compound's windows, Ripley and Newt on the processor's landing platform, and the POV of the ship flying amongst the machinery when it's about to explode; I'm also really impressed with how well the animated arcs of electricity the processor is giving off during the climax when it's overloading integrate with the miniature and actual sets, particularly during some panning shots. But, when it comes to successful integration, I don't anything can top a shot that I think most people assume is just a set. That first clear shot of the Alien hive's ceiling that pans down to show the marines walking in? That's a miniature combined with the real actors. Pretty impressive, isn't it? Not surprisingly, like its predecessor, Aliens took home an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Stan Winston and his studio were hired to create the creature effects and, like the movie itself, they took what had been done before and expanded upon it, increasing the number of creatures and enabling them to do more. For instance, you see more actual eggs in one set here than you did before, and you also see more close-ups of them opening, as well as empty ones that have already hatched. More significantly, the facehuggers have a lot more to do than simply lie on people's faces (although, that is the first shot of one that you get in the Director's Cut, when Newt's father is seen with one attached to him). You see a number of dead ones in the Alien hive when the marines wander down into it and some in the compound's med-lab, one of which you see Bishop dissecting (like Ridley Scott before them, they used real, organic material for it), but the two live ones are the most impressive. Winston's team created fully articulated puppets that are used when you see them in the stasis tubes, trying to get out to get at Burke, and you see their undersides in a lot of detail when they're pressing up against the glass. When they attack Ripley and Newt in the bedroom, they intercut simple puppets being pulled on strings, articulated ones, and, most memorably, one that runs across the floor towards Ripley, which was designed much like a pull-toy (it's amazing how realistic that looks), to create the sequence and it works very, very well, demonstrating once again that CGI isn't always necessary. As for the chestburster, there are technically two scenes involving that creature: one is a fake-out at the beginning where it looks as if Ripley has one inside of her but it turns out to be a nightmare and the other is an actual one when the marines find a female colonist stuck to the wall in the Alien hive. You only see the barest hint of the chestburster in the former scene when it pushes up from under the flesh of Ripley's torso (good effect, though), whereas the latter utilizes an articulated puppet that looks like a lot more eel-like than the original chestburster, has longer arms rather than the short, stubby ones of the first one, and, instead of squealing, comes out snarling and hissing.
The look of the chestburster is, I think, the farthest Winston's team ever went in changing the original designs by H.R. Giger; the adult Aliens look basically the same, with the biggest difference being that the top of their heads are now ridged instead of smooth like before (that was James Cameron's idea, as he felt the smooth dome was more fragile and also thought that the ridges simply looked more interesting), as well as they're seeming shorter and stockier to me, no doubt a result of them being played by a variety of people like stuntmen and dancers. Regardless, the suits they created, as well as some large dummies they used for when they get blown apart, look fantastic and are shot very well. Like in the original movie, the Aliens are offscreen for long periods of time and when you do see, you almost never look blatantly at them in harsh, bright light. They're usually either partially or completely obscured in the shadows, in environments with bright, colored lights, such as during the attack in the compound when red emergency lighting comes in after the power goes out, or their movements and the editing are so quick that, while you definitely see them, you only get fleeting glimpses of them. Since the characters in this film are so likable and memorable, I don't have a problem with not seeing the Aliens that much, and when the sequences with them do hit, they're all the more awesome for it. They come across as very strong, fast, and agile, able to scurry and jump across walls and rooms very quickly and easily overwhelm the marines (the combination of good editing, well-trained suit performers, and wirework is very effective), and are also able to use their exoskeletons and dark color to blend in with their environment, as you see when they first attack the marines in the hive.
Personality-wise, the Aliens are depicted here as being akin to eusocial insects, in that their entire existence centers around maintaining their species and defending their hive and, most significantly, their Queen. Their behavior consists of two moods: attacking and killing any intruders they see as a threat and bringing victims back to their hive and immobilizing them so they can become hosts for the facehuggers. As a result, their intelligence comes across as merely basic and animalistic, although there are instances where they are shown to be smarter than you might think, as they figure out an alternate way to get into the compound when the marines block their main one off, how to cut the power to it, and, most significantly, before the one Alien kills Ferro in the dropship, causing the crash, you hear the door behind her open rather than get broken into (I wonder if that inspired the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park figuring out how to open doors?) Like the original one, their vocalizations are a series of hisses, screams, and snarls, with the most distinctive one being a screeching yell that they let out when they're killed. And some of the sounds they make even sound kind of human, which is really unsettling. As for the hive that they build down in the lower sections of the atmospheric processor, it's akin to the interior of the Derelict in the first film, in that it has that same bizarre texture and look to it, and you figure out that the material that the walls and ceiling are made of are secretions that the Aliens themselves create. Therefore, I thought that what Cameron was going was that the inside of the derelict was a result of the Aliens overtaking the Space Jockeys, especially since the marines note how hot and moist is in the hive, which is how Kane described the atmosphere in the egg chamber, but now, I'm not sure if it's that or if it's just how the inside of that thing looked. Regardless, I find the way the Alien hive looks to be more cool-looking than creepy, which is probably due to Giger not having involvement in making it. It is skin-crawling and nasty to see all that slime and goo, and the shots of the colonists stuck to the walls making me shiver when I think about how that must've felt, but it doesn't have the creep factor that the derelict interior did.
As I said in my introduction, I'd heard about the Alien Queen but the first time I saw her was in the documentary, Bride of Monster Mania, and my jaw went slack when I did. She was more impressive and awesome-looking than I could've ever imagined and she still is to this day. She has the overall body-shape of the normal Aliens but she has two pairs of arms (a smaller pair in-between her two, long typical ones), a much longer neck, a larger and broader head, the ability to retract her mouth up into her exoskeleton, and is much bigger overall, standing close to 20 feet tall. When Ripley and Newt first encounter her in her chamber, she's attached to an enormous, long ovipositor that deposits the facehugger eggs onto the floor, making her akin to a termite queen. Some people have criticized Cameron for taking away from the mystery of how the Aliens reproduce, as well as negating the, admittedly, more interesting and disturbing implications from that deleted scene, by making them more akin to insects in this regard, but I love the Queen so much as a movie monster that I'm more than willing to overlook it (I've seen an interview with Cameron where he said he found the concept in that deleted scene too limiting for him to follow when he was developing the story, and he also says that his only obligation was to build upon what wound in the final film, which makes sense to me, since the general public was unaware of the scene at that time). Bringing her to life was the biggest ordeal Stan Winston and his group had ever faced at that point, and they did so through the use of an enormous suit that made use of just about every type of puppeteering technique you can think, be it cables, wires, hydraulics, two puppeteers inside, moving the arms, and sixteen others outside, moving the entire body. The thing had to be hoisted up and supported on a crane, and since they didn't have the option of digitally removing the crane in post, Cameron simply had to frame the Queen in a way where you would never see it... and he succeeded with flying colors. Even more amazing, since that life-sized Queen's mobility was pretty limited, they also made use of some miniature versions of her, particularly for the shots where she's attached to the ovipositor, the full-body shots of her walking, and during the battle between her and Ripley during the climax. They constantly cut back and forth between the miniature and the full-scale Queen, and the blend is so seamless, especially during that climactic fight, that I never knew which was which until I saw the documentary. Years later, Cameron said something along the lines that if he could, he'd replace the Queen with CGI, which really irritates me because, not only is that an insult to Winston and his amazing work, but it says to me that he doesn't seem to appreciate what he was able to accomplish way back when without digital technology.
While the other Aliens are mostly just vicious animals with little intelligence other than to maintain and protect their species, the Queen has more of a personality to her. She's most definitely a defensive mother in how she screams when Ripley shoots the flamethrower above her eggs and, when she threatens to really burn them, she silently tells her guards to back off and allow her and Newt to leave. But, when they're doing so, the Queen appears to use this link she has with her brood to open up an egg near them, prompting Ripley to decide she's had enough and burn them all, as well as gun down other Aliens that try to keep them from escaping. Enraged by this, as well as Ripley using her pulse rifle's grenade launcher to destroy her ovipositor, the Queen detaches from it and chases after them, intending to kill them out of revenge. She shows just how intelligent and cunning she is when she figures out how to use the station's elevator to follow after them up to the landing platform and she also grabs onto the dropship's landing gear and hides up in there, waiting for the opportunity to attack. She initially targets Newt, which solidifies the notion of her vengeance, and only targets Ripley when she distracts her and later challenges her with the power loader. As a result, you can view the final battle not only as it being between the hero and the evil monster but also between two badass mothers, neither of whom are willing to yield an inch. Much like the Aliens themselves in this film, the Queen has her own signature vocalizations, which range from that distinct, high-pitched and somewhat mournful-sounding screech and similarly-pitched hisses and growls (those were later reused for the Aliens themselves in the Aliens vs. Predator computer game) to a loud, raspy hiss and breathing that has a seething, hostile, and, fittingly, female texture to it.
Finally, as with Ash in the first film, the effects artists also came up with some special makeup and prosthetic effects to get across the idea that Bishop is actually an android. As with Ash, he has white, milk-like blood, which you first see when he accidentally cuts his finger while doing that knife trick with Hudson early on, and when he gets impaled by the Queen's tail at the start of the final battle (which is a really good effect), he starts spewing it everywhere and is then dragged up by her, where she proceeds to rip his entire body in half. While you can tell that Lance Henriksen is simply sticking his head, arms, and shoulders up through a hole in the floor behind the prosthetic when you see Bishop's still functioning torso, the fake, tear-away body that they used for the ripping in half and the torso hitting the floor, looks pretty good (less so when it's being sucked across the floor by the air escaping through the airlock). In fact, it was such an exact likeness of Henriksen that, when he walked over to it to personally fix its hair, he was really freaked out. He also mentions in the documentary that somebody in Hollywood owns it (probably Bob Burns), but he hasn't gone to visit it.
The first notable scene in the movie happens very early on, after Ripley has been rescued and is recuperating in a clinic at Gateway Station, which hovers in space right across from Earth. As Burke informs her that she was floating out in space for 57 years, she suddenly begins to breathe heavily and groan in pain. Jones, who's been sitting on her lap, senses something he doesn't like and hisses loudly before running off the bed and taking cover somewhere nearby, continuing to hiss. Ripley clutches at her chest, groaning and moaning, and then falls back on the bed and begins to writhe and convulse, knocking a glass of water out of Burke's hands. Burke presses the button for the nurse, as Ripley's struggling knocks over everything around the bed, including an IV. A doctor and a nurse run in, the doctor telling Burke to help her hold down, while Ripley yells, "Please... kill me!" They hold her down, trying to get her under control, when she raises up the hem of her hospital gown, revealing her midsection, where the chestburster begins to push its way through... and then, Ripley bolts up in her hospital bed in the middle of the night, yelling, "No!" As you'd probably already guessed, since she's the star of the movie, this was nothing more than a nightmare, possibly combined with the memory of an actual meeting she'd had with Burke about what happened to her.
In the Director's Cut, the next major "action" scene is the introduction of Newt on LV-426. She's out on a survey trip with her parents (Jay Benedict and Holly De Jong) and brother, Timmy (Carrie Henn's real-life brother, Christopher), exploring the landscape in a land-rover, when they come across the derelict from the first movie. Newt's dad is ecstatic, thinking that they've scored big in finding something that large to stake their claim on, while the kids aren't so sure, as he drives the vehicle in to get a closer look. When they get about as close as they can in the rover, the father suggests taking a look inside, and in the next cut, he and his wife disembark to do just that. She tells Newt and Timmy to stay in the rover and they then head on into the ship through a large crack in the hull, Newt watching them through the window as they go. A dissolve shows that a long time has passed and Newt, now very worried, wakes up Timmy to tell him. Timmy assures her that their dad knows what he's doing, when their mother suddenly flings the door open and begins frantically calling in a May Day on the vehicle's radio. Newt looks through the open door and sees her dad lying on the ground, with a facehugger attached to him. She screams in horror at this sight, as the scene ends with the creature tightening its hold around her dad's neck with its tail and her screams blend in with the howling wind outside.
An interesting scene happens not long after we're introduced to the Colonial Marines: as everyone's settling down for breakfast, Hudson asks Bishop to do some kind of trick with a knife that he's apparently good at. He's reluctant to do so but prepares to anyway when Hudson goads him into it. He puts his own hand on the table and sticks the knife into a spot around his thumb, when Drake walks up behind Hudson, puts a hold on him, and slides his hand in place of Bishop's. Hudson tells him to quit messing around, but when Bishop puts his own hand on top of his, he begins to panic, pleading, "Not me, man!" He asks them to stop but Drake tells him not to move and Bishop simply says, "Trust me." Bishop then proceeds to stab into the table randomly between their fingers, starting out slow and increasing in speed, to the point where he's doing it so fast you can barely see the movements. Hudson lets out a terrified yell, just knowing that his fingers are going to get sliced open, but, when it's all said done, he's completely fine, if a little rattled. Bishop politely gives him back his knife and Drake tells him to enjoy his meal, but Hudson shakily tells him, "That wasn't funny, man!" (Every person I've ever watched this movie with has been unable to look at the screen during this moment, even when I assure them nothing bloody is going to happen, as they're too unhinged by it.)
Not too long after that, the marines begin to suit up and check their weapons, as the dropship is warmed up for the drop ahead and the APC is wheeled up in place. The marines board the vehicle, along with Ripley and Burke, and Bishop drives it up into the dropship. Once everybody's secured, the ship is dropped out of the Sulaco as it hovers above LV-426, Hudson yelling, "Whoo-hoo!" at the top of his lungs as Ripley tries to compose herself, and Ferro takes control of it and flies it down through the atmosphere. They hit really rough turbulence when they slice through the clouds, which is where they learn just how inexperienced Gorman is, and after they come out of it and head down to the surface, they prepare to disembark, with the dropship deploying its two pairs of missile turrets. Using the atmospheric processor as a beacon, Ferro brings them in low over the complex, where they note that the storm shutters are sealed and they don't see any signs of life. After circling around the complex, Ferro lands the dropship on the nearby landing grid, Bishop driving the APC out and towards the complex's main entrance, as the dropship dusts off to await further orders nearby. Bishop stops the vehicle and the marines move out in the pouring rain, dispersing into two squads. Apone scans the area with his binoculars and Vasquez takes point, leading the first squad up to the North Lock of the compound. Apone opens up the terminal outside and has Hudson run a bypass, while Gorman orders the second squad to move up, flanking their positions. Hudson then overrides the lock and the door opens. The first squad moves in, Apone and Hudson pulling open the inner door for Vasquez to enter, and they begin making their way down the deserted, damaged hallway. Gorman orders the second squad to move in, telling Hicks to take the upper level, as the first squad continues moving down the hall, with Apone reporting on the damage as hits from small-arms fire and explosives. Hicks leads the second squad up the stairs to the upper level, Gorman ordering him and Hudson to use their motion trackers. They don't pick up anything, and Gorman orders them to search by twos. Hicks and Drake find some smashed up offices on their level, while Hudson and Vasquez have a false alarm down below where their tracker detects a life-form nearby, only for it to lead them into breaking into a room to find a couple of pet hamsters. Hicks then finds evidence that the Aliens were there, when he comes across melted holes in the floor from their acid blood, while at the same time, Hudson finds a hole in the ceiling that's lined up with holes in the two floors below it, leading down into the basement (he very helpfully spits to show how far down it goes). Hicks reports to Apone that they've finished their sweep and haven't found anything, leading to the sergeant reporting to Gorman that the place is dead and that they missed whatever happened. Gorman declares the area secured, ignoring Ripley's concerns, and decides to see what the computer can tell them. He reports that he's coming in, leading Hudson to snark to Vasquez, "He's comin' in. I feel safer already," to which she responds, "Pendejo jerkoff." (I don't know if she was talking about Gorman there or calling Hudson that.)
Once everyone's inside and have come across the med-lab, full of dead facehuggers and two live ones, Frost picks up movement on his motion tracker. Seeing that it's behind them, and when Apone confirms that no one's in that part of the compound, they arm themselves and slowly head out of the lab, heading into the hallway (Gorman startles Ripley when he accidentally knocks something off a table). Seeing that whatever it is coming straight for them, they walk into the hallway and head in its direction, preparing to meet up with it. The beeping on the tracker gets louder and louder, when a figure suddenly runs across the hall; Hicks appears to cause Drake to misfire across the wall and ceiling on purpose, as he could tell it was human. He calls for Ripley, and when the two of them look through a gap in the side of the wall, they find Newt sitting there, clutching a doll's head. Ripley then gently talks to her, trying to assure her that it's alright, as Hicks reaches in through the piping to get her. She backs away from Hicks' hand until she ends up in a corner, allowing him to get her. But, she bites into his hand, prompting him to let go, and crawls underneath the floor's grating, with the adults trying to keep her in sight, Bishop using a flashlight the whole time. She crawls through an air duct and Ripley crawls in after her, chasing her into a small space full of junk, with a turbine up in the ceiling, which appears to be where she's been hiding this whole time. When Ripley gets close, Newt tries to escape through another air duct but Ripley grabs her and, after some struggling, she calms down and relaxes in her arms. Ripley then finds a picture of the girl on a Second Grade Citizenship Award amongst the junk, where she sees that her name is Rebecca Jorden.
Once Hudson locates the colonists on Sublevel 3 of the atmospheric processor via their PDTs (personal data transmitters), the marines head out to the processor via their APC. They park it at Access Ramp 3 and the marines disembark, coming around the corner up ahead to find a stairwell. With Hudson taking point, using his motion tracker, they head down to Sublevel 3, the transmissions from their helmet cams showing a lot of interference and static. Once they reach their destination, they come the formations secreted by the Aliens that acts as the structure to their hive. Not knowing what to make of it, Gorman has the marines proceed inside, and as they venture into the heart of the nest, they notice how slimy and drippy it is, with Private Dietrich commenting that it looks like a kind of secreted resin and Frost comments on how hot it is in there. As Ripley watches them approach the colonists' location, she realizes that they're right beneath the processor's main heat exchangers and she and Burke make Gorman understand how disastrous it would be if they ruptured the cooling system. Frustrated, he tells Apone to collect ammo magazines from everybody and to sling their weapons, relying solely on flames units. Despite the marines' and his bewilderment, Apone does what he's told and collects the magazines, with Frost being given the duty to carry the bag holding them. Little does Apone know that Vasquez has a couple of spare magazines hidden away and slips one to Drake, while Hicks pulls out his pump-action shotgun that he keeps handy. With that settled, they head on into the hive, with Hudson noting that there's still no movement on his tracker... and soon, he and the others see why: they come across the horrific sight of the colonists' bodies cocooned up on the walls. As they walk on, they also find empty eggs and piles of dead facehuggers, leaving little mystery as to the colonists' fate. Apone tells them to stay steady and finish their sweep. Dietrich walks into a corner and comes across the body of a woman stuck to the wall; she lifts her head up to get a better look, when her eyes snap open, causing Dietrich to jump back. She yells for Apone and the others and assures the woman that they're going to get her out, but the woman instead says, "Please... kill me." Dietrich asks for them to help her get the woman out, when her body begins to convulse and her chest begins to punch forward. Apone pulls Dietrich back, while Ripley, who's watching this on their helmet cams, looks on in horror, knowing exactly what's happening. A snarling, hissing chestburster then tears its way out but Apone quickly fries the little monster with a flamethrower, killing it instantly.
Following its dying scream, a cutaway shows a section of the wall and ceiling beginning to move, revealing that it's made up of hoards of Aliens. Hudson detects their movements on his tracker but he can't lock in on their position, saying that he's got multiple signals that are closing in. Apone tells the marines to go to infrared, while Ripley tells Gorman to pull them out. The marines scan the room, searching for the source of the signals, as Hudson says he got readings both in front of and behind them. The others don't see anything but he assures them that there's something else moving around in the room besides them and that they're all around them. Dietrich suggests that they might not show up on infrared at all, when an Alien, demonstrating how well its camouflage is, emerges from the wall behind her and jumps onto her, grabbing her by the shoulders. She reflexively fires her flamethrower, which engulfs Frost and sends him tumbling over the railing, while the Alien carries her up to the ceiling. Private Wierzbowski runs to the spot, only to find the ammo bag that Frost had burning. Hicks quickly pulls him away right before it explodes, sending both Wierzbowski and Private Crowe flying through the air, the former hitting the side of a column. His vital signs go dead in the APC and Gorman asks what's happening and Hicks says that both Crowe and Wierzbowski are down. Apone yells for Dietrich and Frost to sound off, while Hicks finds that Crowe's dead. He then hears Wierzbowski screaming nearby and the view from his helmet cam shows he's being flung around before the signal goes dead. Vasquez yells, "Let's rock!" and she and Drake begin firing their smart-guns, angering Gorman in the APC. The Aliens start climbing out of the wall and they fire on them, while Gorman tries to get control of the situation, issuing orders to Apone. The sergeant yells at Vasquez and Drake to hold their fire, as he can't hear Gorman over it, but after he tells the lieutenant to repeat his orders, he gets jumped from above by more Aliens and his transmission dies. Beginning to lose his nerve, Gorman tries to get Apone to respond but Ripley tells him he's gone. Seeing the chaos on the monitors, she tells Gorman to get them out but he just tells her to shut up and stops her from ordering them out herself. On Hudson's helmet cam, Hicks runs up to him, frantically asking where Apone is, and Hudson yells, "Sarge is gone! Get the fuck out of here!" They begin retreating while continuing to fire at Aliens offscreen, with Hicks getting one with his shotgun, while the panicking Gorman has no clue what to do. Ripley loses her patience with him and decides to take matters into her own hands.
She secures Newt in her seat and takes control of the APC, driving it down the hall. This snaps Gorman out of his temporary catatonia and he runs to the front of the vehicle, trying to make her turn around and causing the vehicle to scape along the wall as it rounds a corner. It slams back and forth against the sides of the tunnel, as Ripley and Gorman continue to struggle, while Newt gets out of her seat and hides in a corner. Burke pulls Gorman off of Ripley as she rounds another corner, while inside the station, the marines continue to retreat while firing on the pursuing Aliens. Ripley smashes the APC through the wall of the hive, as the marines reach that area, splattering more Aliens to bits with their weapons. Hicks and Hudson, leading the way, are forced to go around the front of the vehicle to reach the door on its side, with the former yells at Vasquez and Drake to come on. As they fall back to the vehicle, Drake continues emptying his smart-gun into the Aliens, when he runs out of ammo. He discards the gun and is now down to only his flamethrower, while the other marines make it inside. Drake is busy on flaming everything in sight that he doesn't notice an Alien rise up to his right, but when Vasquez yells for him to come on, it turns its attention on her. She then fires upon, blasting it to bits, but Drake gets splashed with its blood and as his face is dissolved, he falls to the side, sending a blast from his flamethrower straight through the APC's door, with Hicks having to pull Vasquez out of the way. Burke and Gorman grab fire extinguishers to put out the fire, while Hicks has to restrain Vasquez from going out after Drake, telling her he's gone. Ripley puts the vehicle in gear, as Hicks tries to close the door, only for an Alien to grab it from outside and try to force its way in. Hudson and Vasquez attempt to close the door on it but Hicks grabs his shotgun, sticks the barrel right in its mouth, and fires, killing it instantly and causing it to drop. Hudson gets some of the acid blood on his arm, screaming in pain, as they get the door shut and Ripley gets the gas, pulling the APC back out through the hole. Sliding it around, she barrels down the corridor, the jostling causing Gorman to get knocked unconscious when some objects fall out of the ceiling. As she heads down the corridor, an Alien jumps on top and smashes its hand through the windshield, grabbing at her, but she hits the brakes, sending it tumbling off onto the floor in front of APC. Getting the gas again, Ripley runs over the Alien, crushing its head, and finally smashes through the door to the Access Ramp, barreling across the landscape. She's so determined to get away that Hicks has to talk her down to a stop, saying that she's blown the transaxle.
Upon assessing the situation, and in spite of Burke's protests, the marines decide to go with Ripley's decision to take off and nuke the entire area. The group disembark from the APC and Hicks sets a flare to show Ferro where to land. At the dropship, Spunkmyer runs aboard but, as he does, he finds a certain type of sticky slime coating the edge of the ramp. He tries to tell Ferro of it but she tells him to just get up to the cockpit and closes the ramp behind him. The ship lefts off and heads for the sight, when Ferro finds she's unable to get Spunkmyer to respond to her over her com-link. Hearing the door open behind, she turns around, thinking it's him, only to come face-to-face with a snarling Alien. She goes for her holstered handgun but it's on her in less than a second and kills her instantly, her hand swiping blood along the window (this and the chestburster scene earlier are as gory as this movie ever gets). The others can tell that something's wrong when see that the ship is now flying erratically, and as it approaches their position, it hits the top of a ridge, knocking off its landing legs. It hits the ground with its side, while everyone runs for it, and rolls and smashes along the rocks, tumbling into the interior of the processing station and exploding in a big fireball. Once it's over, it doesn't take them long to realize that they're not going anywhere now, with Hudson especially beginning to panic, and Newt warns Ripley that they'd better get back to the compound, as the Aliens tend to come at night.
A part of the story that's only present in the Director's Cut are the four robotic sentry guns that they manage to recover from what was left of the dropship. They place two of the sentries in the tunnel that the Aliens use to get into the complex and place the others at the ends of two corridors that are the only other paths they can use to get in once they've repaired the barricades. We see then Hudson and Vasquez setting up the two at the end of the tunnel, with Hicks arming them with a laptop and Vasquez throwing a canister in front of them, which they promptly shoot to bits. They then seal the door to the tunnel. Later on, following Ripley's tense confrontation with Burke, an alarm goes off as she exits the room and she runs to the Operations room, where Hicks tells her and the others that the Aliens are coming down the tunnel. Within seconds, the sentries begin firing. Each of the guns starts at 500 rounds but, after less than half a minute, they both gone through more than 50% of their ammo, attesting to the sheer number of Aliens in the tunnel. At that rate, it doesn't take very long for both guns to run out, and once they're done, they hear the sound of distant pounding from the remaining Aliens trying to get through the tunnel's pressure door. A little while later, after the imminent explosion of the atmospheric processor has been revealed and Bishop is making his to the outside to bring down the Sulaco's second dropship remotely, the sentries in the corridors now have their turn. Hicks can't tell how many Aliens there are in the corridors but he knows that it's a lot of them. Again, within seconds, one of the guns is down 50%, with the other right behind it. The Aliens can be heard screaming in the corridor (brief shots of Aliens getting blasted are reused from the battle in the hive earlier) but they just keep coming and it looks as if it's not stopping them. One of the guns runs out of ammo and Hicks grabs his pulse rifle, thinking he's going to have to stave them off himself, when Ripley sees on the monitor that they're retreating. With the only gun left having just ten rounds, Hicks comments, "Next time, they walk right up and knock," although Ripley says that they're unaware of that and are probably looking for other ways to get in. Hudson jokes that maybe they've got them demoralized.
Ripley and Newt take a nap together underneath the cot she put her on earlier and when Ripley wakes up some time later, she sees two empty stasis tubes over by the door. Realizing what it means, she shakes Newt awake and tells her to be quiet, that they're in trouble. Ripley slowly peeks up from the edge of the cot and scans the room, when one of the facehuggers jumps at her from her right. She quickly ducks back under the cot, as the creature struggles to crawl under after her, and she makes Newt get out from under the cot. She turns it over on top of the facehugger, as she and Newt run for the door, only to find that the controls don't work. They see it scurry out from underneath the cot and disappear off in a corner. Unable to pry the door open, Ripley pounds on the glass, the two of them yelling for help, but it's absolutely soundproof. What's more, Ripley sees that the pulse rifle Hicks gave her, which she clearly placed on the cot, is now outside of the room. Seeing the surveillance camera, Ripley waves in front of it and yells for Hicks, but in the Operations room, Burke turns the monitor off while no one's looking. When that doesn't work, Newt tells Ripley to break the glass, which she tries to do with a chair, but the glass is extremely strong and virtually unbreakable. Dropping the chair, both she and Newt stack up against the wall, hearing the facehuggers skittering about somewhere in the room. Getting an idea, Ripley creeps up to one of the fire-sprinklers in the ceiling and, lighting a cigarette lighter, holds the flame up next to the sprinkler-head, activating it and setting off the fire alarm. Hearing the alarm and seeing where it is, Hicks and Gorman run to the med-lab, telling Hudson and Vasquez to join them there. Ripley assures Newt that they're coming, when a facehugger jumps at her from the ceiling, knocking her back against the wall. Grabbing it, she throws it to the other side of the room, but it gets back up and skitters across the floor right at her. Ripley backs up across the floor, knocking equipment in its way, but the facehugger manages to use its agility to get around the obstacles and, when she's backed into a corner, leaps onto a stand and jumps at her. It wraps its tail around her neck and she struggles to keep it away, at it tries to attach itself. Elsewhere, the other facehugger crawls up behind a fallen table on the floor behind Newt. Seeing it, she pushes the table and pins the facehugger's tail against the wall, although it manages to wriggle loose enough to continue crawling. Outside the room, the others have arrived and see what's happening. Hicks has Hudson damage the glass enough with his pulse rifle so he can crash through it. Hudson follows him in and, seeing that another is after Newt, rushes to her aide, while the others attempt to help Ripley. Hudson gets Newt out of the way and blasts the one facehugger, while the others, after a lot of effort, manage to get the other's tail off of Ripley's neck. Holding it up, as it struggles in his hands, Hicks throws it over to the wall and Vasquez blows it away. Hicks comforts Ripley and Newt, as the former tells him that it was Burke's doing.
Just as they're about to waste Burke for what he did in the next scene, the room suddenly goes dark and the red, emergency lighting comes on. Ripley realizes that the Aliens just cut the power. Hicks sends Hudson and Vasquez out into the corridors to check them with their trackers, while Gorman keeps Burke at gunpoint. In the corridors, Hudson and Vasquez initially don't detect anything but it isn't long before the former does pick up something inside the complex. Vasquez initially thinks Hudson's picking her up on the tracker but he insists that the Aliens are inside the compound and, as Vasquez looks at her tracker, she begins to agree with him. Inside the Operations room, Ripley and Hicks prepare for what's coming, while Hudson tells them that the signal is saying that there's movement everywhere. Hicks orders them back into Operations and once they're in, they close the door and Vasquez and Hicks begin sealing the door with their small welders. Hudson tells them that the signal's now at 20 meters, making Ripley suggest that they found a way in that they missed. They reach 15 meters, meaning they're inside the barricades, and within seconds, 13 meters, which is right outside the door; Hudson is floored at how big the signal is. Vasquez and Hicks finish their work on the door and fall back to join the others, as the Aliens get closer and closer. They keep their eyes on the door, waiting for them to attack, as Hudson continues counting down their proximity. Then, he says they're at six meters, which is inside the room, but Hudson insists that the tracker's right. They reach four meters and Hudson wonders aloud, "What the hell?!" Ripley, wondering how this could be, looks up at a part of the room they completely forgot about: the ceiling. Climbing up on a table, Hicks opens one of the panels with his pulse rifle and peeks up through it with his flashlight, revealing an army of Aliens crawling upside down towards him. Ducking back down, he falls back and fires up at the ceiling. The Aliens burst out of the ceiling and they begin firing on them, as they jump and scramble amongst the equipment in the room. Gorman join the battle with his handgun, giving Burke the opportunity to slip away. More Aliens burst out of the ceiling and Ripley tells everybody to run to the med-lab. But, when she and Newt run to the door, firing on an approaching Alien as they go, Burke closes the door on them, locking it. The battle continues in the Operation room, as the marines continue blasting Aliens while falling back to the door to the med-lab. Hudson manages to gun down a number of them while making his way to the path leading to the door, but he gets so preoccupied with shooting them that he falls victim to one that pops up out of the floor and grabs him. He tries to shoot it and Hicks and Vasquez try to help but he gets pulled under the floor. Hicks rolls on the floor and fires up at an Alien that leaps over him, before getting back to his feet to finish it off. He and Vasquez head for the door, Hicks using his welder to burn through the lock, while Vasquez holds the Aliens off, resorting to using the grenade launcher, blowing away more of them with much of the room.
Hicks manages to get the door open and everybody gets through it into the adjoining bit of hallway between Operations and the med-lab, but when Ripley tries to open the door to the latter, she finds Burke locked it too. Burke, being the coward that he is, backs up through the med-lab, knocking over stuff in his panic, only for the door at the end to open behind him, revealing another, snarling Alien that gets him with its tongue. Meanwhile, Vasquez is sealing the door to Operations with her welder, the Aliens pounding on it from the other side. Hicks and Gorman try to find a way to get the door to medical open, when Newt pulls Ripley over to an air duct, pulling the grating off. Ripley decides to lead the way into the tunnel, followed by Newt and everyone else. Vasquez is the last one to enter, as the door she sealed already begins to give way. Newt directs Ripley to the direction of the landing field in the air tunnels, when the Aliens manage to break through the door to Operations and Vasquez fires on them. Newt continues directing them through the air tunnels, as Vasquez brings up the rear, firing on the Aliens chasing them. Hicks gets through to Bishop on his com-link and he tells him that the other dropship will be there in sixteen minutes. They head on through the cramped tunnels, Vasquez gunning down another Alien, while Newt directs them to the right tunnel in a fork. Gorman and Hicks wait for Vasquez, while Newt becomes overexcited about finding the right path and takes off without the adults. Reaching the fork, Vasquez empties the rest of her pulse rifles rounds into the Aliens, then tosses it aside and whips out her handgun. She starts down the tunnel, when one comes down a vertical shaft at her. She fires on it but it jumps down into the corridor with her, trying to get ahold of her. Vasquez manages to overpower it, pin its head against the wall with her foot, and shoots bullets directly into its head. But, her foot gets splashed with its acid blood and it crawls away when she recoils from the pain. She manages to finish it off with more shots in the tunnel. Hicks and Gorman reach the last tunnel, when they notice Vasquez isn't behind them. Gorman tells Hicks to go on as he goes back to help her, while Vasquez finds herself too injured to reload her handgun. Gorman rushes to her and he pulls her back through the tunnel, when an Alien punches its way up through a duct in the floor ahead. Gorman fires on it, while up ahead, Newt and Ripley get come out into a large room with a turbine in the center. Newt tells them that the ladder leads to a shortcut across the roof. Slinging her own pulse rifle, Ripley walks across the turbine to the ladder, while Hicks comes out of the tunnel and helps Newt across. Back in the tunnels, Gorman's handgun runs out of ammo. Seeing more Aliens crawling through the tunnel behind them, and others approaching from the other side, Gorman sees no other choice and pulls out a grenade. He pushes the button and they both hold onto it. It explodes right when the Aliens are on top of them.
The explosion sends a fireball through the tunnels, knocking Hicks off his feet on the other side and causing Newt to fall on the rotating turbine. Ripley reaches for her but is unable to get her, as she's pulled along the turbine, towards a duct in the wall behind it. She grabs onto the edge of the duct, while Hicks jams the turbine with his pulse rifle as Ripley reaches for her. Newt begins to slip but Ripley manages to grab onto the sleeve of her coat. This seems to work, but Newt slips out of the coat and slides down the tunnel when Ripley tries to pull her up. Hicks tells Ripley that they can find her with the locator, as she's wearing the wristband, and Ripley, hearing Newt yelling for her, tells her to stay where she is. Hicks kicks open some grating and he and Ripley make it out onto a stairwell, that they run down. Newt, meanwhile, has fallen into a little tract of water-filled sewer beneath the floor of the compound. The signal from her band leads Ripley and Hicks to one of the place's hallways. Ripley calls for her and Newt, hearing her, puts her fingers up through the grating in the floor, showing them where she is. Unable to pull up the grating, Hicks says he's going to have to cut it and Ripley tells her to get down, out of the way. As Hicks burns through the metal with his welder, Ripley tells her to stay very still, when their motion tracker begins beeping. Seeing on the tracker that the Aliens are closing in on them very quickly, Ripley tells Hicks to hurry. He works as fast as he can, as the beeping continues to intensify, and Ripley again tells Newt to stay still, when an Alien emerges from the water behind her. Hearing her scream, Ripley kicks away at the grating and shines her light down in there, only to find the head of Newt's doll floating in the water. Hicks has to restrain Ripley from going after her, as she frantically says that the Aliens won't kill her, that she's alive. Hicks says he believes her but they have to get going, as the Aliens are now closing in on them. The two of them run down the hallway, head down another one, and find an elevator. They open it up and step inside, but it's so badly damaged that Hicks has to press it several times to get it to close. Right when it's about to, an Alien grabs onto the doors from the outside and tries to force its way in. Hicks blasts it at point-blank range, killing it, but gets splashed with its blood in the process. Ripley helps him get his rapidly-dissolving armor off as the elevator door opens and she helps out of the North Lock and to the dish and landing strip, where they meet up with Bishop as he remotely sets the dropship down. Ripley asks him how much time they have left and he tells that they've still got 26 minutes; he's then surprised to hear her say that they're not leaving yet.
Bishop flies the dropship to the atmospheric processor, which is obviously beginning to destabilize as there's electricity sparking both on the outside and inside, while Ripley gets ready, grabbing a pulse rifle and a flamethrower, tying and taping them together, slapping in a clip with 95 rounds into the rifle, taping the locator to the weapon, and grabbing belts of grenades and flares. Bishop sets the ship down on the landing platform and tries to warn Ripley that she's only got 19 minutes left but she doesn't want hear it, as she's focused on saving Newt. Telling Hicks to make sure Bishop doesn't leave, and after the two of them exchange their first names, Ripley heads down the ramp and activates one of the elevators, as an automated voice warns all personnel to evacuate, as there are just 15 minutes left now. As the elevator descends, Ripley makes final preparations, loading grenades into the pulse rifle's launcher, putting the flares in her pocket, taking off her over-shirt and putting on holsters with spare grenades, and slinging the weapons around her shoulder. Mentally preparing herself, while the automated voice announces that there are now 14 minutes left, she activates the flamethrower as the elevator opens on Sublevel 2. Cautiously walking out, she moves like a marine, checking corners and up above her, as well as firing the flamethrower into the hallway in front of her to drive out any hiding Aliens. With the wristband telling her that Newt is less than 50 meters away, she heads down a stairwell to Sublevel 3 and finds the entrance to the hive. Blasting the flamethrower through the opening, she drops a flare on the floor and heads on in, continuing to hit the corners with fire. The wristband now says that she's only 22 meters away and Ripley heads down another stairwell, creeps through the corridor down there, and drops another flare. She runs further in, as the signal is beginning to get faster, and after she rounds a corner, the signal becomes sustained. Ripley looks down on the floor and finds the wristband lying there. Horrified that Newt might be dead, she moans in despair, but a cut shows that nearby, Newt has been cocooned like the other colonists. She wakes up and finds that she can't move at all, when she sees a nearby egg open. Seeing a facehugger crawl out, she screams, which leads Ripley to where she is, and she quickly blasts the facehugger upon seeing it. An Alien come bounding along the walls but Ripley guns it down, along with several others that follow. Running to Newt, she tears away at the slime and membranes around, having her grab onto her and pulling her out completely, as an explosion rocks the place. One of the paths is blocked by fire, so Ripley is forced to take another one across from it, ducking into a large chamber.
Ripley quickly realizes that she ran into possibly the worst place she could, as she finds that they're surrounded by eggs, and she slowly turns around to see a fleshy extension deposit another egg on the ground. Looking up, she and Newt see that it's end of a long, yellow, semi-transparent tube, leading to the body of the Alien Queen. Sensing their presence, the Queen awakens, sliding her lower jaw out of her exoskeleton and hissing. Other Aliens begin to enter the chamber from both sides and Ripley sets Newt down and looks up at the Queen, who's looking down at her. Ripley turns and blasts her flamethrower over the eggs. The Queen screams at this and Ripley points the barrel of the flamethrower at an egg next to her feet, looking up at her with a warning expression. Getting the message, the Queen turns her head and looks at both of the Aliens on either side of the chamber, silently telling them to back off, which they do. Ripley and Newt slowly back away through the chamber, the Queen continuing to look at them as they go. They're just about out, when a nearby egg hatches. Ripley, knowing it was probably the Queen's doing, looks at her with an expression that basically says, "You bitch! I warned you!", and proceeds to fry all of the eggs around her. The Queen screams angrily, unable to do anything because of her being attached to her ovipositor, and once Ripley's done, she sees normal Aliens beginning to crawl in. She blasts them all away, then empties her pulse rifle's rounds into the burning eggs, blasting them to bits, and hits the ovipositor with the grenade launcher, blasting big holes in them that bleed outward with white goo. Newt pulls Ripley back, telling her to come on, and they pull back, Ripley continuing to blast the room with her flamethrower. She shoots down an Alien creeping along the wall behind them and she and Newt then run for it, as the station's alarm begins to go off, and she throws a holster of grenades back into the room. The explosion knocks the Queen down off her perch and she, now angry and vengeful, detaches from her ovipositor to chase after them. Carrying Newt, Ripley follows the trail of flares she left out of the hive, and rushes back up the stairwell to Sublevel 2, as the structure continues to become more and more unstable and the automated announcement warns that they only have four minutes to escape. Running to the elevator, Ripley presses the button but the thing comes back down very slowly, prompting her to push the button several more times. They then hear the Queen screech nearby and Ripley yells at the elevator, "Come on, goddammit!" Hearing the Queen getting closer, Ripley runs to the nearby ladder, but only gets a couple of steps up when the Queen appears in the hallway across from them. Seeing them, she hisses and starts towards them. Ripley and Newt run to another elevator that opens up and quickly close it as the Queen storms towards them, smashing away the ladder they were about to climb. Ripley blasts the flamethrower to keep her at bay until the elevator begins to ascend up the shaft, the place continuing to shake and explode around them. Back down below, the Queen notices the other elevator open up and tilts her head at it interestedly.
Later, in the Sulaco's hangar, Ripley and Bishop walk outside the dropship, preparing to take the sedated Hicks to medical, when they notice a bit floor sizzling beside them. Then, Bishop lets out a sudden gasp and his chest pushes forward, as an enormous Alien tail spears through his torso. As he coughs up white blood, Ripley tries to help Bishop but he's lifted up into the air by the Queen, who stowed away atop the landing gear, and is ripped in half by her. The Queen descends down to the floor and begins approaching Ripley and Newt in a threatening manner, seething at them. Ripley tells Newt to run for it, and when the Queen focuses on her, Ripley gets her attention by yelling at her. Newt runs and hides under the grating of the floor, while the Queen, now intent on killing Ripley, chases her through a large door. Ripley closes it on her and the Queen bangs against it before giving up and snarling in frustration. As Bishop watches helplessly, the Queen wanders around the hangar, now searching for Newt, and, realizing where she is, rips out a piece of the grating and grabs at her. Newt manages to duck out of the way and crawls to another spot but the Queen opens up another panel in front of her, forcing her to duck back. She almost gets grabbed again, and then, the Queen rips out another panel and corners her. Newt screams, when a nearby door suddenly opens, revealing Ripley in one of the power-loaders. She snarls at the Queen to get away from Newt and the two of them face off. The Queen comes at Ripley, who smacks her off-balance with the loader's right arm. She corrects herself, only for Ripley to smack her with the other arm, sending her tumbling into nearby equipment. Getting back up, she charges at Ripley again and she grabs her enormous neck with one of the loaders claw-like arms, closing it around her and wrenching her up in place. She struggles to get free and get at Ripley, swiping and snapping at her, and brings her tail and stabs at her a couple of times. Ripley lets her go and the two of them circle each other, the Queen trying to get a good shot with her tail, while Ripley uses the loader's controls to open up the airlock in the floor. She grabs her neck again when she lunges at her, prompting her to try to get at Ripley with her tongue's jaws, which she dodges. Ripley then activates the loader's welding torch and blasts her right in the face, using it to keep her at bay as she positions her over the airlock. Ripley bends the loader down to prepare to drop the Queen, only for her to grab onto the loader and pull her over with her, the two of them falling onto the airlock's still closed bottom hatch.
With the Queen pinned down by the loader, Ripley unstraps herself and heads up the ladder along the wall, only to get grabbed by the foot before she can get out. Unable to move, she uses a nearby emergency switch to open the bottom hatch. The vacuum of air begins sucking in everything from up top, including Newt and Bishop, the latter of whom grabs onto the grating with his hand. The loader gets pulled down through the lock and Ripley struggles to hold onto the ladder, as the Queen maintains her grip on her foot. Finally, Ripley wriggles her shoe off her foot and both it and the Queen are sucked out into space. Fighting the pull of the vacuum, Ripley climbs up the ladder, while Bishop saves Newt from being sucked out by grabbing ahold of her and allowing her to hold onto him. Ripley then climbs out the airlock completely, opens up a panel on the floor, and presses the button that closes the top hatch. Exhausted, she rolls over onto her back and, after getting her breath, embraces Newt, who calls her "Mommy," while Bishop jokes, "Not bad for a human." The movie then ends with Bishop being put into hyper-sleep along with Hicks, and Ripley and Newt prepare for bed as well, both confident that they can now safely dream. The last shot of the movie is all four of them asleep in their chambers.
James Horner arrived in London in order to write the score in six weeks, which he felt was a reasonable amount of time, but when he arrived, he found that the movie was still being filmed and edited, meaning that he didn't have a completed film to write music to. To complicate things even more, he had to record the score at Abbey Road Studios, an outdated, 30-year old studio that was hardly able to accommodate the synthesizers and other equipment he intended to use. Working under those hellish conditions, and with James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd refusing to push back the film's release date a month, Horner found it very difficult to create the score, having to write the final cue overnight, as Cameron had completely reworked that scene, and he ultimately recorded the entire score in only four days. By the time it was finished, Horner was very dissatisfied with the score, feeling that he got 80% of what he wanted, but it got him his first Oscar nomination and, indeed, it rises above the trying circumstances through which it was made and is truly excellent.
The score effortlessly transitions back and forth from menacing and creepy to adrenaline-pumping and warm and gentle, the latter of which is what Horner excelled at. The opening theme combines the first two elements very well, with a low, menacing, electronic sound mixed with a distant, military march and culminating in a freakish, building, screech sound when the title Aliens comes up. Those eerie parts of the theme would be reused numerous to signal the Aliens' presence, and the sequences where they attack have numerous different themes, like a low, menacing electronic bit and a loud, bombastic horn piece for scenes such as when the marines save Ripley and Newt from the facehuggers. My favorite piece of music in the movie is the rousing theme that plays during the latter parts of the hive battle and the Aliens' attack on the compound during the third act. That theme is so awesome in its transitions and sounds, and I especially like the horn bit that you hear during those scenes when the marines are piling into the APC and when they're trying to get through the locked door in the Operations room. Obviously, there's some military-style music to go along with the marines, which you hear during the scenes aboard the Sulaco when they're approaching the planet, particularly when their checking their weapons and putting their armor and equipment on. The part of the score that you've no doubt heard even if you've never seen the movie is the bit called "Bishop's Countdown," which plays when Bishop saves Ripley and Newt from the Queen and zooms out of there just in time before the atmospheric processor explodes; it's also used for the last action sequence when Ripley sends the Queen tumbling out of the airlock and quickly closes it. It's this intense theme that just builds and builds and builds, culminating in this tense, hissing sound, which is when the explosion in the first scene happens. I think that's the cue that Horner had to write overnight and it was used in numerous trailers afterward, for movies like Misery, From Dusk Till Dawn, Dante's Peak, and, most fittingly, Alien 3. 20th Century Fox also used an unused bit of the score for the scene at the end of Die Hard when Sgt. Powell guns down Karl, the last surviving "terrorist." Like I said, there are other, warmer pieces of music for the scenes between Ripley and Newt, mainly towards the end when they're heading back to the Sulaco and in the very last scene, when they head into hyper-sleep. A more unsure, eerie-sounding piece for them, which was first heard when Ripley fell asleep with her under the cot, is played over the first part of the ending credits, hinting at the idea that their future may still be unknown. And even though this movie is certainly more action-driven than the original, Horner did manage to create some pieces that convey mood and atmosphere, like when Newt and her family stumble across the derelict, when the dropship first arrives at the compound, and when they're investigating the interior, and some of them do come close to matching what Jerry Goldsmith created. Speaking of which, a couple of pieces of Goldsmith's score are played during the sequence where the Queen pursues Ripley and Newt to the elevator and when they reach the top to find the dropship gone, mainly to fill in gaps that Horner was unable to because of the constraints he was under.
|That's actually Sigourney Weaver's mother.|
As I said at the beginning of this review, up until now the only cut of the film that I'd ever seen was the Director's Cut and, after watching the theatrical version, I still believe it's the superior version. At 154 minutes, it may make for a long viewing experience but I think the scenes in this version give it a richness that makes it more than just another dime-a-dozen 80's action movie. Some scenes are kind of superfluous, like when Hudson and Vasquez break into a room only to find a couple of hamsters and when they actually discuss that the Aliens' hive might be akin to ant nest, with a dominant female ruling over them, as well as maybe all of the stuff with the sentry guns (although I like how it shows the Aliens' relentlessness and it leads into them finding another way in), but there are others that I can't believe were cut. The most significant scenes come at the beginning. First, you have Ripley learning from her Burke that her daughter grew into an old woman and died during the decades she was floating out in space. She tearfully remembers that she told her she'd be home for her eleventh birthday and breaks down, realizing she missed out on her entire life. At the same time, you have Newt's family coming across the derelict that's full of the Alien eggs and her father becoming the first colonist to fall victim to them. There's also a moment later on when they're talking in the room next to the med-lab, where Newt asks Ripley if one of the Aliens came out of her own mother and she learns about Ripley's daughter. These scenes further strengthen the already tight bond between the two of them, as both of their lives, in one way or another, have been destroyed by the Aliens, and it makes Ripley's determination not to lose her, too, all the more palpable. Going back to the introduction of the Newt, I also think it's important that they set up the colony before the marines arrive to find it trashed, not only with the two employees complaining about how they just do what they're told without answering questions but also because we see that there are a lot of kids there, making the aftermath of the Aliens' attack all the more horrific. Ripley's fear about them is also reinforced in a brief moment where she's hesitant about entering the complex and Hicks asks her if she's alright. Some may find that moment not needed since her trauma about them was well-established before then but I like to see it as the first real moment between her and Hicks, adding strength to their relationship as it develops throughout the movie and that other deleted moment where they tell each other their first names, cementing how far they've come. The scene on the dropship where Hudson is bragging and going on and on about how well equipped they are may also seem pointless since we already know by that point that they're way too overconfident but I like how it shows how tough Hudson thinks he is, playing into when he loses it after the Aliens decimate them in the hive. And finally, they deleted the bits of dialogue at the beginning where Ripley's flight license is revoked and when she asks Burke why he's doing to LV-426, to which he says Weyland-Yutani co-financed the colony; both of those I think reinforce how shady the company and first suggest that their interest in what's happened to the colony isn't all about concern for the people, which is connected to the conversation the two guys on the planet were having earlier.