Well, it seems at least a few of you like the way I’m doing this review, so I guess I’ll continue as I was. Thanks for your kind comments, by the way. In case you are one who thinks I’m too detailed, I do leave a lot out for the viewer to discover.
When we left off, we were about to jump into the beginning of the real action in Aliens. If you recall, the Colonial Marines find the colonists’ transponders clustered in one of the atmosphere plants’ cooling towers, and everyone except Bishop (Lance Henriksen) jumps into the APC (Figure 1) to go rescue them. (For more information on the APC, click the link.)
Upon arriving at the tower, the APC parks just inside the door, and Sgt. Apone (Al Matthews) gathers the Marines to go find and possibly rescue the colonists, leaving Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt (Carrie Henn), Burke (Paul Reiser) , and Lt. Gorman (William Hope) in the APC. Gorman is monitoring the Marines remotely; each of them has both a colour camera and a health monitor, plus two-way communication, so he can keep track of them and direct them as needed. (This is a big deal for Gorman; on the way down, Ripley asks him about his combat experience, and he responds that he’s made thirty-eight drops, but this one is his first non-simulated one.)
The Marines exit the APC, with Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) and Drake (Mark Rolston) in the lead with their “smart guns.”* Sgt. Apone puts Hudson (Bill Paxton) on tracker duty, and Hicks (Michael Biehn) bringing up the rear with his pulse rifle. They move into the cooling tower, on Level 1, and Gorman directs them down the stairwell to Sub-Level 3. Their monitors start fuzzing out; something—possibly ambient radiation from the atomic powerplant—is causing interference.** On Sub-Level 3, Gorman is confused by the images of the aliens’ resin deposits, making it look something like the interior of the ship in the first movie. Ripley shakes her head, and we realize that she never left the Nostromo to explore the alien ship, and so never saw H.R. Giger’s designs!
As the Marines get closer to the colonists’ transponders, Ripley notices where they actually are in the cooling plant, which is right under the primary heat exchangers. She asks Gorman what those smart guns fire (which is caseless armour-piercing rounds), and the result of puncturing that system if they have to fire. Burke confirms that the result might be a small nuclear explosion, and Gorman starts sweating more than he already is. Without explaining why, he tells Sgt. Apone to collect magazines, and nobody is to fire rifles in there. “What’re we supposed to use,” Frost (Rico Ross) says, “Harsh language?” Gorman tells everyone to use flamethrowers; no guns and no grenades. Vasquez’s unspoken response is “Screw you!” and she holds out a couple of magazines, giving one to Drake where Apone can’t see. Hicks pulls a shotgun out of a back holster, telling Frost, “I like to keep this handy… for close encounters.”
They find the colonists hung on the walls, cocooned with resin. Hicks finds an egg, but it is empty, and there are dead facehuggers on the floor. Most of the colonists are dead, but one woman wakes and whispers “Please…kill me!”; of course, the Marines are in shock at all this, but before they can act, her chest bursts open, revealing what we saw in the first movie; a little “chestburster” alien. One of the Marines uses his flamethrower, to burn the chestburster. As the Marines move farther into the cooling tower, Hudson tells Apone he’s got movement all around, but because of the way the aliens hide in the resin on the walls and ceilings, they are nearly invisible until they move. Suddenly a full-sized alien uncoils and attacks, grabbing and lifting a Marine, whose flamethrower hits Frost full on, setting him afire! He falls down a stairwell, while Gorman, futilely looking at his monitors, is yelling “What’s going on?” into the commset.
“Pull them out!” Ripley rips Gorman’s headset off and shouts “Get out of there!” at the Marines, and a brief struggle ensues over the headset. Meanwhile, Vasquez and Drake are firing wildly in all directions. Ripley runs to the APC’s driver’s seat and starts the vehicle, heading deeper into the tower; she bursts through a wall of resin, causing something to fall down inside the APC; it hits Gorman on the head, knocking him out. Arriving to where the surviving Marines are, she slides open the door and yells to them to get in. Only Vasquez, Hudson and Hicks are able to get in; Hudson is injured when Hicks fires his shotgun at an alien and Hudson gets sprayed with acidic blood.
After a brief but exciting ride back to the exit, with a couple of alien encounters on the way, Ripley bursts out into the open, where Hicks tells her she’d better stop; she’s blown the transaxle. They stop and carry the unconscious Gorman out into the open on a stretcher, and call Ferro (Colette Hiller), the pilot of the lander, for a dustoff. She and her copilot, Spunkmeyer (Daniel Kash), had been told by Gorman to withdraw and wait to be called. She calls Spunkmeyer to get back in the lander, and takes off; but they’re not alone. The lander has a spectacular crash, nearly hitting our APC survivors, damaging the cooling tower and essentially stranding our guys on the planet. Hudson whines a lot (“This ain’t happening, man! This ain’t happening!”). Vasquez says they should go back in and use the 7 canisters of CN nerve gas they’ve got in the APC, but is told they don’t even know whether that would affect the aliens. “I say we take off and nuke the whole site from orbit,” Ripley says. “It’s the only way to be sure.”
“Look, Burke says, “This whole facility has a significant monetary value.”
”They can bill me!” Ripley says.
“We’d better get back; it’ll be dark soon,” Newt tells Ripley, “And they mostly come out at night. Mostly.” They finally make their way back to the med lab, raising the building’s metal shutters in an attempt to strengthen their position. They begin rebuilding the fortifications made by the colonists, welding various metal objects in front of the doors, and welding the doors shut. The remaining four smart guns are put on tripods in the halls outside the med lab and set to automatically fire when targets are acquired. (That’s apparently what makes them “smart.”)
Hudson whines a lot more, when told a rescue mission would take seventeen days or so. “With those things out there, we ain’t gonna make it seventeen minutes, let alone seventeen days!” Ripley tells him to suck it up; Newt has survived alone in this facility for longer than seventeen days.
Bishop has volunteered for a dangerous mission: he will crawl through an access tube that’s barely big enough for him until he gets to the satellite array, plug in a remote, and bring down the spare lander from the Sulaco, so they can all get out of there. While he is doing that, the aliens attack through one of the corridors and are repulsed by the smart guns. Ripley has a brief conversation with Burke, who tells her they can both get rich if she helps him conceal the facehuggers and smuggle them back to Earth. “How will they [quarantine officials] know they’re there?” Burke asks. Ripley knows the danger and tells Burke she’s gonna nail him to the wall when they get back.
Ripley has put Newt on a cot inside the inner part of the lab and goes to check on her, but she finds the cot empty; Newt has curled up under the cot with blankets obscuring the side because she feels safer in an enclosure. Ripley puts the pulse rifle—that Hicks has given her, and shown her how to use—atop the cot and curls up next to Newt. She had also given Newt a tracer bracelet that Hicks had given her so he could find her (Ripley) no matter what—those maternal instincts again. After a while, something wakes Ripley, and she looks out from under the cot… only to see the two tubes that had held live facehuggers rolling around on the floor… empty! She reaches up to the cot, only to find the pulse rifle gone.
There are some brief but intense scenes where the facehuggers are skittering around the floor, attempting to get at Ripley or Newt; Ripley tries breaking the window “glass” only to find it’s some kind of unbreakable acrylic; and the door is locked from the outside. Ripley waves at the cameras, but Burke has beaten her to that; while the others in the command centre are distracted, he has turned off the cameras at that part of the lab. Finally, Ripley uses a lighter to melt a fusible link on the fire system, and it sets off an alarm as well as spray from fire-suppressant nozzles. One facehugger gets its tail around Ripley’s throat as it tries to impregnate her, and the other is trapped against a wall by Newt, who’s pushed a table to hold it there.
And I hate to do this, but I’m already way over 2000 words, so I will have to conclude this review next week. (Don’t hate me.)
Of course, after such an exciting and action-filled movie, the fans were dying to see what happened next, but alas! The next franchise offering, Alien 3, disappointed many fans (including me), because… Well, I’ll tell you a MAJOR spoiler next week if you don’t already know. For one thing, in spite of some majorly good actors in the sequel, like Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, the movie itself wasn’t well written, and to [do that spoiler thing] and to do it offscreen, well… let’s just say the director, David Fincher, and the writers—Dan O’Bannon, David Giler, Ronald Shusett, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson—didn’t gain any fans. And many people felt that the sequel to that one, Alien Resurrection, was even worse. But rumour has it that James Cameron is working to revive Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 script, which reputedly acts on the premise that the two movies after Aliens never took place. Since all the actors from Aliens—the surviving ones, anyway—are much older, and Carrie Henn has quit acting altogether, one wonders how that will be handled. (I remain hopeful, however, because I think Blomkamp could do a really good job.)
What I’m thinking could be done, is mocap (motion capture) and big-time CGI. Yes, I know that CGI-made people have been less than successful in the past; as humans, we know what other humans are supposed to look like, and any variation triggers skepticism on our part. (Non-humans, like Gollum and King Kong, don’t flip that “unreal” trigger, at least for me.) But bear with me: what about so-called “deep fake” treatment? We can de-age people pretty well, using CGI, but deep fakes can be astonishingly realistic. I refer you to Jim Ross Meskimen, in my opinion, one of the best impressionists working today. He’s doing some deep fake impressions that are extremely realistic (click Jim’s name for a YouTube link). That same technology could make some other child actor look like Carrie Henn, don’t you think? Drop me a note and let me know your thoughts on that.
*”smart guns”: see https://avp.fandom.com/wiki/M56_Smartgun for more information. (Of course, much of this “information” is fans trying to fill in the blanks on movie props made because someone—in this case, James Cameron—thought they looked “cool.” And that’s the case with a lot of movie props; logically, they make no sense, but the director—or someone—wanted something that looked “cool,” so the prop was made to look good, not to make sense.)
**Unfortunately, any SF movie made more than a few years ago, involving video monitors, is going to look more and more quaint, as those of us who remember CRT monitors get older. Millennials and other younger people will only be familiar with flat-screen LED or LCD monitors; it’s possible in the future that all monitors will be “virtual,” or even 3D virtual, as seen in movies such as Cameron’s Avatar.
More comments, please! I really like reading your comments, either here, or on Facebook, or via email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). Your comments, good or bad, positive or negative, are welcome, as long as you keep it polite! My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!