Sunday, 12 April 2009

We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly.

No 30 - Aliens
Director - James Cameron

It is my to my great shame that I have never seen the Alien films. It isn't because I didn't want to. I did want to. I just never seem to get motivated. I mean I watched Alien a while ago and loved it, however realised that I had seen most of it already just through clip shows and stuffs. I then bought the Aliens and Predator box set including all the films in those two franchises and their wonderful cinematic pairing. But didn't get round to watching Aliens till yesterday....

I was expecting it to be a similar situation as it was with Alien. I was expecting to watch it and recognise scenes from clip shows and iconic moments. But I didn't. The film was a complete surprise and a very pleasant one.

Chris Hewitt of Empire found out that it is probably the most quotable film of all time. And I recognised the homages and spoofs. I mean as soon as I saw the giant Exo Skeleton I knew how the film would end. I'd seen it in Wallace and Gromit (no clip..... sadly). I'd played it out in Conker's Bad Fur Day. I had a fair idea of the ending... but not the roller coaster leading up to the ending.

This film shows what a powerhouse James Cameron is. Writing and developing and directing a sequel to a sci-fi that didn't need a sequel. Seven years after the first film. Luckily his vision is amazing, turning the claustrophobic 'killer' film of the first into a claustrophobic 'siege' film. Replacing minors and engineers with trained soldiers but then seeing them get massacred by wave after wave of the terrifying Xenomorphs. Alien is an amazing film, but this is the film that launched the franchise, for good or for bad.

What I love about this is that it takes a small point that is never touched on in the first and expands and explores it. It is a really clever plot development, that is rare in sequels. It also explores the world of the Aliens films and that means we get to see 80s future. I just love 80s future.
It is all grey and clunky with pixelly computers and dot matrix printers. Every film, from Brazil to Aliens manages the same in some form or other. And I find it hilarious.
Whilst this film begins in the bureaucracy of inner city space life, we soon move into the cool bits. The soldiers. The guns. the monsters.

Let me break it down.
  • The Soldiers - ARE AWESOME. The most rubbish bunch of Marines I have ever seen. With their flabby sarge and their bizarre neuroses. I am particularly fond of Hudson who is the worst Marine ever. Whining and whimpering and using the word 'Man' so much it is like going to war with a beatnik stereotype.
  • The Guns - are huge. I mean seriously, it is like carrying around an extra person. They seem unfeasibly large. Like they're over compensating. But, the guns do have radar and that is cool.
  • The Monsters - lets not beat around the bush. This is what we want. James Cameron does not disappoint. For, whilst Ridley gave us an Alien. Cameron gives us 156 (roughly). Drooling, scurrying, fucking terrifying. Made all the more terrifying as we see them work in a pack. Plotting and attacking. Rather than merely prowling a ship. But best of all.... James Cameron introduces the Queen. The gigantic ultra bitch. Far more savage than any mere soldier Alien.
This is Cameron's main forte - the evolution of the series. Not only does he manage to develop the Aliens (surely an impressive feat, as they run the risk of being somewhat one dimensional predators) but he turns Ripley into something wonderful. We have already seen that Ripley has a mean survival streak in the first film, after all - she survives. However in this film one simple element is introduced which brings out her bad ass side.
For whilst in Alien, she protects a cat, her we have the introduction of Newt (not to be mistaken for Newt) which introduces Ripley's Maternal Side. And that is not a side you want to run afoul of.
With a super powerful grenade launching, bullet spurting, flame throwing wonder gun she goes and she destroys the Aliens. Ending up throwing one out of the airlock. As is tradition.

What I like about this film is how it respects the original, and then ups the ante. The Aliens are still a formidable opponent, just the humans are now tougher and better equipped. However, the only way to truly kill them is still to blow up where they are and destroy EVERYTHING.

I like that.... Aliens has expanded the story and made it MORE terrifying it rather than diluting it.

Cameron's sci fi horror legacy is grand. With this and the Terminator films and Piranha two - it certainly bodes well for Avatar. I am very excited.

1 comment:

cabe said...

Also the utter brilliance of the motion detector allowing the viewer to know something is there (rather than might be) without actually seeing it. Then there is Bishop the complete antithesis of Ash from the first film.