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For, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ has earned a new Blu-ray release with copious bonus features. Here’s my July 18, 1986, Deseret News review of the film.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) doesn’t look 57 years older. In space no one can see you age.

Actually, Ripley and her cat have been in suspended animation (they call it “hypersleep”) ever since the end of “Alien,” and it is simply by chance that she is found at all as “Aliens,” the sequel, begins 57 years after the first film ended.

Upon being revived, Ripley is plagued by nightmares and finds herself demoted to warehouse work. “The Company” doesn’t believe her story of a killer creature that did in her crewmates and caused their very expensive piece of equipment to be destroyed. It seems the planet Ripley refers to is now colonized, and no one’s reported anything out of the ordinary.

But they will.           

When contact is lost with the colony, an extremely reluctant Ripley is talked into returning to that hostile planet with a crew of gung-ho Marines. There they find the only survivor, a little girl named “Newt.”

And this time it isn’t just one creature doing the damage. There are dozens of them, all equally as ill-mannered as the one in “Alien.”


Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) rescues Newt (Carrie Henn) in 'Aliens.'

herself in a one-on-one showdown with Mama Alien, answering the question someone asks about halfway through the film: “What’s been laying all those eggs?”

It’s a decidedly bizarre, but very interesting touch, seeing the mother creature fighting to protect her young ones, while Ripley fights to protect Newt. A matriarchal battle to the death, if you will.           

“Aliens” (a much nicer title than “Alien II” would have been) is not just a rehash of the first film. Ridley Scott’s original was a typical haunted house story set in space, and essentially a remake of the old ’50s flick “It! The Terror from Beyond Space” — along with ‘80s gore and gooey special effects, and a fascinating set design.

But James Cameron, the writer-director this time around, takes an entirely different approach. He’s from the “action” school of Roger Corman, and he approaches “Aliens” as an action film. Like Cameron’s previous effort, “The Terminator,” “Aliens” is a non-stop, thrill-a-minute heartstopper that moves like wildfire.

And, like “The Terminator,” when you think “Aliens” is finally over … it isn’t.

“Aliens” gets off to a bit of a slow start, and I must confess to having been a bit put off by the stereotypical Marines as they are drawn early in the picture — meatballs, complete with rookie lieutenant. Obviously meant as a joke, it’s a rather weary one. But there is no question that once it gets rolling, “Aliens” is an incredible piece of entertainment.

Cameron is also not above stealing inspiration from other movies (also evident in “The Terminator”) and you may recognize moments from “The Thing” (both versions), “Star Wars,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Blue Thunder,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and the first “Alien,” along with a couple of nods toward “Rambo” (which Cameron originally wrote before Sylvester Stallone rewrote it). But he plays it straight; no self-mockery here.


As her comrades are gradually wiped out (sound familiar?), Ripley ultimately finds

Cameron is a master at pacing and stunt work and special effects, but he doesn’t sacrifice character to achieve his goals. One of the things that made “The Terminator” memorable was that despite the non-stop movement you cared about the people.

Likewise, one of the things that makes “Aliens” work is the performance by Sigourney Weaver, reprising her role from the first film. She is strong and serious and very human. And she puts to shame the spate of one-dimensional macho heroes we’ve had lately who all look like plastic imitations of each other.

Michael Biehn (who co-starred in “The Terminator”) co-stars here as the most sensible of the Marines (and with just a hint of romantic inclinations toward Ripley), and Lance Henriksen is an android who gets the film’s best line when he’s told to be careful: “I may be synthetic but I am not stupid.”

“In the True Confessions category, however, the biggest laugh at the small critics’ screening I attended came when Michael Biehn’s character falls asleep just prior to the Marine’s first raid. Several of my friends who were there thought it was particularly noteworthy that Biehn is named Hicks, especially when his sergeant shouts: “Somebody wake up Hicks!”

No one’s going to fall asleep during “Aliens.” This is the fastest non-stop, rollercoaster ride since … well, since “The Terminator.”

“Aliens,” rated R for violence (though not quite as much gore as the original film) and considerable profanity, is loaded with thrills and spills. If this one doesn’t get your heart pumping, check your pulse.