Aliens (1986)

A reluctant Ellen Ripley is persuaded to venture back into outer space in search of marauding aliens, this time accompanied by a crack military team.

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“A remarkable accomplishment: a sequel that exceeds its predecessor in the reach of its appeal while giving [Sigourney] Weaver new emotional dimensions to explore.”
Richard Schickel, Time magazine, 1986

One of the few sequels offering more than a simplistic retread of its predecessor, James Cameron’s follow-up is more action-packed shoot’em’up than relentless nailbiter, but is none the worse for that. The first film’s single monster has been replaced by hundreds, thanks to the ill-advised colonising of the planet LV-426, where Kane (John Hurt) encountered the alien eggs in the earlier film.

Individual set-pieces are shot and cut with ferocious brio, interleaved with a surprising amount of humour (mainly courtesy of Bill Paxton’s cowardly Hudson). But Cameron also enriches the first film’s complex themes of sexuality and motherhood: at the start of the film’s longer cut, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) hears that her daughter grew up and died while she was in 57-year cryogenic suspension, after which she forms an instinctive bond with Newt (Carrie Henn), survivor of an alien massacre – thus earning the moral right to confront the alien queen in the all-stops-out climax.

There’s a hint of Aliens in Cameron’s mega-budget Avatar (2009), though the aliens there are resolutely peaceful. More vicious aliens occur in Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic (1997) and the Resident Evil series (2002).

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