Film Corner: Aliens


Next up is ALIENS, which is probably my favorite; I used to watch it during panic attacks in order to calm down. Of course we instantly open with MORE slow pans over dust-ridden consoles, because Ripley wasn't picked up where and when she'd hoped and instead took the long way through the solar system. She's alive and that means the salvagers don't get to claim the ship as salvage and I just remember being *so relieved* that they didn't just kill her for a payday.

A visitor: Jones and a man in a suit. "I work for the Company but I'm actually an okay guy." Ripley eyes him warily. No one has told her that she was out there for 57 years, so Burke ends up having to break the news. I did genuinely feel bad for him for that much. They should've had a doctor tell her! Prior to the Company inquest, Burke informs Ripley that her daughter died at age 66. All they have of her is a grainy photo. Ripley sobs. My heart.

No one at the inquest believes Ripley which is honestly not as sinister as I think audiences tend to take it; she's either witnessed something right out of a horror movie OR she's mentally ill and possibly murdered her entire crew. They don't prosecute her or try to hold her responsible for the cargo; she's basically dumped into a second class citizen status where she can get low-class work but nothing prestigious. Lots of class politics here again.

She demands to know why they don't investigate the planet, but it's already populated by terraformers and they're fine. How many? "Maybe 60 or 70 families." Ripley pales. On DEATH PLANET, a beleaguered man is asked whether a salvage team's claim will be honored if they find something at a grid reference he sent them out to. He says he doesn't even know *why* they were sent out there, but sure whatever fine.

The sheer fucking TERROR when the mom rips open the vehicle door, the winds howl in, she grabs the radio in a panic, and Newt sees the facehugger on her father and begins SCREAMING.

Burke arrives at Ripley's apartment with Colonial Marine Gorman in tow. It's later suggested that Gorman is neurodivergent in some way and not considered up to snuff by the brass; I do wonder if Burke hand-selected him in the hopes that his own...actions would not be discovered. Burke tries to pressure Ripley into coming along as a consultant; she tells him to fuck off, but the nightmares don't stop. She promises to go IF the plan is to "destroy them. Not to study, not to bring back. But to wipe them out."

Ripley wakes up in her underwear with a number of marines. A lesser movie would've had her ogled by one or more of the men in an attempt to establish them as jackasses; this one does not. They're still jackasses, of course; they talk smack to the girl marines and about girl colonists and are just generally childish and unprepared for what is coming. Ripley watches all this with big eyes and tries to hope that everything will be okay.

Ripley is alarmed when one of the crew members turns out to be an android. He tells her it is impossible for him to harm her, but she orders him to stay away from her. Ripley tries to brief the marines but no one is interested in listening to her (except the one quiet, cute boy). Everyone else is laughing, talking, and playing. They're given punishing prep assignments and everyone groans.

I like this a lot from a filmmaking standpoint because the audience feels Ripley's unease. Are these people confident because they got this thing in the bag, or are they confident because they have no idea how bad shit is about to get? She doesn't know and neither do we. A horror movie that lets you share in the protagonist's dread as they worry about the future is a neat trick to pull off and not easy.

In extremely good foreshadowing, Ripley asks if she can help out and volunteers to drive the loader machine. "I have a Class 2 rating." The cute boy grins. It's nice seeing Ripley acknowledged as sexy and powerful for her machine competence. We cut to gun porn as Vasquez is sexy and powerful in similar yet very different ways.

It's addressed more in the book, but I do like how Vasquez and Drake have a very clear buddy vibe with each other and aren't lovers; it would have been easy to go that route, but instead they're really good friends and I like that.

Gorman, the lieutenant, looks pale as they drop to the planet. Ripley asks how many times he's done this before and this is only his second. The plane drops off the marines and dusts back off to park at a safe distance. (If they had only stayed airborne forever the movie would've gone very differently, lolsob.)

There's a lot of silent hallways and nothing movie and it's incredibly tense and when they do find something moving it's a hamster. Gorman calls the area secure ("It's not secure!" Ripley protests) and says they're coming in. Outside in the rain, Ripley hesitates. "You okay?" asks cute boy Hicks. She's not but she goes in anyway. So much of Aliens (and Alien, to a certain extent, but lesser) is about foreseeing that something VERY BAD is going to happen and Ripley knows this but she's powerless to prevent it because of the men in charge who refuse to listen to her.

A smol child appears. Ripley holds her into submission: "It's going to be okay!" I like the recurring themes of Ripley as a mother and protector, and of Ripley projecting herself onto weaker creatures because she shares their fear. Newt joins the horror genre tradition of little girls saying terrifying things. "These people are soldiers." / "It won't make any difference."

The marines locate the colonists' GPS trackers (essentially) and they're all in a single location that now looks... really weird. It's noteworthy that the Alien scene where Ripley found and euthanized Captain Dallas was added later (for the Director's Cut) and that rather changes *this* scene, because whether it did/didn't happen affects whether all this looks and feels familiar to Ripley. That said, I find it plausible that Ripley says she "doesn't know" what this place is / why it looks the way it does, because these changes are significantly more extensive than what the first alien did to the Nostromo.

Ripley points out that the weapons the team is using risk rupturing the cooling system and then a nuclear explosion happens, no biggie. Instead of pulling the team back to reconsider, Gorman just tells them not to fire on anything. This is probably the second big mistake (with the first being "going in the facility when it wasn't properly cleared to begin with") because they should've pulled back and sent in maybe one scout (or, better, a camera on a little roomba). Gorman doesn't listen to Ripley until Burke says she's right, which has a whole dissertation of gender experiences in it.

As things start getting scary, Ripley tells Newt to go sit up front away from the cameras. The marines find a live colonist, cocooned to the wall, and she begs them to kill her before dying from a chestburster. There's a terrifying moment of quiet and then... beeping. "Multiple signals -- readings in front and behind!"

Aliens start grabbing marines and Gorman panics when this doesn't behave like a simulation. The communications cut and Ripley screams "Do something!" before running up to take the wheel of the armored car they're in. She actually straps Newt in first, which I love. They're about to die, but SEAT BELTS. Ripley protects, first and foremost.

It's a small detail, but I love that Hicks either notices or guesses that it's Ripley driving the car. He tells her when everyone is inside and to haul ass, then helps calm her when they're clear and the axle is shot. Everyone assesses the damage and there's a noticeable shift in the marines' willingness to listen to (now-calm) Ripley.

They argue nerve gas and whether it'll affect the aliens and Ripley does her (excellent! wonderful!) "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit" quote. Burke freaks out and starts talking about the dollar value of the colony. (The marines are all instantly hard and/or wet because I mean, honestly, it's SUCH a great line.) Ripley tells Burke that Hicks is in charge now, since it's a military operation. Hicks tells the plane to come pick them up so they can "take off, nuke the site from orbit". The echo of Ripley's words is so good because he's clearly giving her credit rather than stealing.

Unfortunately, there are aliens *in* the plane because they weren't smart enough to not land nearby the infested colony. "We better get back coz it'll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly."

Ripley has the marines pull down maps of the complex so they can seal themselves off and can only be reached from a few number of corridors. (This will blow up in their face later when they forget about the ceiling ducts, which feels unfair. Like, Ripley specifically asks for floorplans including subbasements and whatnot; you'd think "overhead access panels" would be included in that!)

While the marines secure their area, Ripley insists that Newt take a nap because it's been a hell of a day. Newt continues her adorable creepy act: "My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are."

Ripley visits Bishop in the lab and they talk about the alien biology. She orders him to destroy the specimens when he's done, but he says Burke wants to take them back. Ripley (foolishly) confronts Burke in private and tells him SHE knows he sent the colonists to the ship. She promises to nail him to the wall, then (foolishly) goes off to sleep with Newt without telling anyone what she knows. I forgive this act of foolishness because it just wouldn't occur to Ripley to *murder* someone to cover up a secret like this.

I do feel like they forget the "acid for blood" thing when the robot guns are slaughtering the aliens by the dozens in Hallway B or whatever it is. Getting in that way (acid opening a new pathway) seems more realistic than "whoops we forgot the air conditioning ducts". Oh, and in other news: the colony is about to go thermonuclear and someone needs to go patch into the extra ship and pilot it down manually. Bishop volunteers to crawl through a claustrophobic duct and pilot the ship down on remote. (AGH, I get claustrophobic just watching him crawl nope nope nope nope nope.)

Vasquez really does not get enough credit for being strong under the strain. She's the only marine, besides Hicks, who doesn't crack.

Ripley wakes up, startled by a noise, only to realize there's a live facehugger in their room. No one is watching the camera (Burke turned it off) and the glass is noise-proof. This marvelous bitch first tries to break the glass, then sets the fire alarm off with her lighter--and that's something you can't do now that they've practically banned smoking in movies.

NO SORRY THERE ARE TWO FACEHUGGERS IN THERE. And one of them has its tail around Ripley's throat. It takes THREE marines to peel the damn thing off Ripley, and Hicks and Vasquez do a really cool game of skeet shoot where he's like "OVER THERE" and she's all "YEAH" and he throws and she shoots. God fucking bless Ripley for gasping "IT WAS BURKE" for her first words because fuck that little bastard. (Fun fact: the actor's mom *cheered* in theaters when he died. He did a great job in that role.)

ANYWAY, aliens come in through the ceiling which (as previously noted) feels somewhat unfair. Burke dies dishonorably. Vasquez and Gorman die with honor. Newt falls down a duct. Ripley gets Hicks (wounded) back to the ship, then suits up with ALL THE GUNS so she can go get Newt. After LOTS OF FIRE, Ripley comes back up with Newt and there's that heart-pounding moment where the ship is gone and it looks like the android betrayed her. The queen is coming up, all is lost, and then there it is!

Ahh, it's so good and such a good subversion of expectations after the first one and the whole "crew expendable" order. ...which is why it is such an incredible kick in the chest when Bishop is suddenly dismembered by the Alien Queen, like, holy shit.

Ripley does the power loader thing which is so very very good and then everyone gets tucked into bed and they all live happily ever after until Alien 3 and the failure to re-sign the original cast. We'll start Alien 3 tonight but I might need to bed soon. I actually liked Alien 3 at the time and was surprised to find out afterwards that the fanbase generally did not.


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