Ellen Ripley is found floating around in her lifeboat by a deep-salvage crew and returned to Gateway Station where she is interviewed about the incident that happened in the first Alien movie, which turns out to have been 57 years earlier. Ripley is un-aged due to having been in cryo-sleep all the time.
No one seems to believe her story until contact is lost with the colony of Hadley's Hope, on LV-426 where the aliens were originally found. Due to the faint chance that she might be right, she is recruited to accompany a crew of Colonial Marines who are sent to investigate, along with a corporate representative, Burke.
Upon arriving they find that all of the colonists, aside from a single, scared girl, appears to be missing, and that many parts of the colony appear to be in disrepair. Damage to the facility indicates that Aliens have been killed there. Testimony from the girl, Newt, finally proves that Ripley's Xenomorphs are not just an excuse for the destruction of the transport ship in Alien which she was blamed for.
Each colonist had a transponder surgically implanted, and their transmissions are eventually located, leading the marines to a section underneath an atmospheric processor(a massive fusion reactor that helps make the atmosphere more Earth-like.), where it turns out the aliens have set up their hive. Unprepared and arrogant, the marines are overwhelmed and only about half of their number escape, and then only because Ripley rams their APC through a wall of the alien hive, giving them a way to escape.
Against Burke's protestations, they decide to take off and nuke the site from orbit, but an alien infiltrates their dropship, previously landed in Hadley's Hope, and kills the pilots before it can pick up the APC and the marines, in fact crashing into the APC and destroying most of their supplies.
Eventually they decide that Bishop must bring down the remaining dropship by remote while the marines, Newt, Burke and Ripley make a stand in the colony's command center. There is a brief period of calm, interrupted when Burke attempts to infect Ripley and Newt with facehuggers to sneak alien embryos past customs, but eventually the aliens attack. Again unprepared for advanced tactics, such as cutting off the power, from "animals," the marines are overwhelmed and forced back, losing everyone but Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop in the process.
Just before reaching Bishop's dropship, however, Newt is abducted by an alien, and Ripley decides not to return to the Sulaco, the ship that brought them to LV-426, instead arming herself with guns from the dropship and seeking out Newt deep in the alien hive, where she meets the Queen, destroys many eggs and eventually rescues Newt. She makes an escape, with the Queen in hot pursuit, and the two are picked up by Bishop, then returned to the Sulaco.
However, the Queen hitched a ride and slaughters Bishop, it's only defeated when Ripley ejects it into space, only barely avoiding being dragged out herself. The movie ends with Hicks, Ripley, Newt and Bishop's(still-sentient) remains being placed in hypersleep for the trip back to Earth. After the credits, the sound of an facehugger can be heard.
- Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
- Paul Reiser as Carter J. Burke
- Michael Biehn as Corporal Dwayne Hicks
- Lance Henriksen as Bishop
- Carrie Henn as Newt
- William Hope as Lieutenant Gorman
- Al Matthews as Sergeant Apone
- Cynthia Dale Scott as Corporal Dietrich
- Bill Paxton as Private Hudson
- Jenette Goldstein as Private Vasquez
- Mark Rolston as Private Drake
- Ricco Ross as Private Frost
- Colette Hiller as Corporal Ferro
- Daniel Kash as Private Spunkmeyer
Origins and inspirationEdit
While completing pre-production of The Terminator in 1983, director James Cameron discussed the possibility of working on a sequel to Alien (1979) with producer David Giler. A fan of the original film, Cameron was interested in crafting a sequel and entered a self-imposed seclusion to brainstorm a concept for Alien II. After four days Cameron produced an initial forty-five page treatment, although management changes at 20th Century Fox resulted in the film being put on hiatus, as they felt that Alien had not generated enough profit to warrant a sequel. A scheduling conflict with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger caused filming of The Terminator to be delayed by nine months (as Schwarzenegger was filming Conan the Destroyer), allowing Cameron additional time to write a script for Aliens. While filming The Terminator, Cameron wrote ninety pages for Aliens, and although the script was not finished, Fox was impressed and told him that if The Terminator was a success, he would be able to direct Aliens.
Following the success of The Terminator, Cameron and partner Gale Anne Hurd were given approval to direct and produce the sequel to Alien, scheduled for a 1986 release. Cameron was enticed by the opportunity to create a new world and opted not to follow the same formula as Alien, but to create a worthy combat sequel focusing "more on terror, less on horror". Sigourney Weaver, who played Ellen Ripley in Alien, had doubts about the project, but after meeting Cameron she expressed interest in revisiting her character. 20th Century Fox, however, refused to sign a contract with Weaver over a payment dispute and asked Cameron to write a story excluding Ellen Ripley. He refused on the grounds that Fox had indicated that Weaver had signed on when he began writing the script. With Cameron's persistence, Fox signed the contract and Weaver obtained a salary of $1 million, a sum equal to thirty times what she was paid for the first film. Weaver nicknamed her role in the Alien sequel "Rambolina", referring to John Rambo of the Rambo series, and stated that she approached the role as akin to the titular role in Henry V or women warriors in Chinese classical literature.
Cameron drew inspiration for the Aliens story from the Vietnam War, a situation in which a technologically superior force was mired in a hostile foreign environment: "Their training and technology are inappropriate for the specifics, and that can be seen as analogous to the inability of superior American firepower to conquer the unseen enemy in Vietnam: a lot of firepower and very little wisdom, and it didn't work." In the story of Aliens the Colonial Marines are hired to protect the business interests of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, corresponding to the belief that corporate interests were the reason that American troops were sent to South Vietnam. The attitude of the Marines was influenced by the Vietnam War; they are portrayed as cocky and confident of their inevitable victory, but when they find themselves facing a less technologically advanced but more determined enemy, the outcome is not what they expect.
Concept and designEdit
Early concept art was created by Syd Mead, who had worked on Blade Runner, 2010, and Tron. One of the original designs for the spaceship Sulaco was spherical, but it was redesigned as the ship would be out of frame due to the film's aspect ratio. Cameron showed Mead his own concept art and the final result was described as a "rocket gun that carries stuff". Concept artists were asked to incorporate subliminal acknowledgments to the Vietnam War, which included designing the dropship as a combination of a F-4 Phantom II and AH-1 Cobra.
Some scenes of the Alien nest were shot in a decommissioned power plant in Acton, London. The crew thought it was a perfect place to film due to its grilled walkways and numerous corridors. Problems were encountered with rust and asbestos, however, and the crew was required to spend money to clean the asbestos. The Alien nest set was not dismantled after filming, and was reused in 1989 as the Axis Chemicals set for Batman. When the crew of Batman entered the set, they found most of it intact.British Airways was re-equipping several of its aircraft tug tractors, and the crew managed to purchase a Douglas Equipment Limited DC12-series tug to use as the armored personnel carrier. It initially weighed Template:Convert, and although the crew removed Template:Convert of lead, the power station floor had to be reinforced to support the weight. The crew used many "junk" items in the set designs, such as Ripley's toilet, which came from a Boeing 747. Lockers, helicopter engines, and vending machines were used as set elements in the opening hypersleep scene. Production designer Peter Lamont was asked to reduce the cost of several scenes, including the not-yet-filmed marine hypersleep sequence. Gale Hurd wanted to cut the scene altogether, but Lamont and Cameron felt it was important to the sequence of the film. To save on cost, only four hypersleep chambers were created and a mirror was used to create the illusion that there were twelve in the scene. Instead of using hydraulics, the chambers were opened and closed by wires operated by puppeteers.
Cameron opted to hire actors who had, or could create, American accents. Over 3,000 residents in the United Kingdom auditioned. After auditions of UK residents proved unsuccessful, the crew imported actors from America including Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Michael Biehn, who had all worked with Cameron on The Terminator. The role of Newt was the most difficult to cast according to the casting director. The casting team auditioned schoolchildren, but found that many of them had acted in commercials and were accustomed to smiling after saying their lines, a trait that the producers wished to avoid due to the dark tone of Aliens. Carrie Henn, whose father was stationed at a United States military base, was chosen out of 500 children for the role of Newt, although she had no previous acting experience.
Actors who played Marines were asked to read Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers and undergo military training which included running, lifting weights, learning salutes, marches, deployments, and maneuvers for two weeks. Al Matthews had experience in the military and believed he was cast as Sergeant Apone because of this experience. Cameron wanted the Marines to train together, so that they would form bonds that would show on-screen. Sigourney Weaver, William Hope, and Paul Reiser were absent from training due to other obligations, but Cameron felt that this suited their characters as "outsiders" in the film. Michael Biehn was also absent from the training, as he was not cast until one week after filming had commenced.
Aliens was filmed on a budget of $18 million at Pinewood Studios, with production lasting ten months. Production was affected by a number of personnel and cast disruptions. Shooting was said to be problematic due to cultural clashes between Cameron and the British crew, with the crew having what actor Bill Paxton called a "really indentured" way of working. Cameron, who is known to be a hard driving director and at the time was bound to a low budget with a release date set that he could not delay, found it difficult to adjust to working practices such as the regular tea breaks that brought production to a temporary halt. The crew were admirers of Ridley Scott, and many believed Cameron to be too young and inexperienced to be directing such a film as Aliens, despite Cameron's attempts to show them his previous film, The Terminator, which had not yet been released in the UK.
At one point the crew members mocked Cameron's wife, producer Gale Anne Hurd, by asking her who the producer was and insisting that she was only getting producer's credit because she was married to the director. A walkout occurred when Cameron clashed with an uncooperative cameraman who refused to light a scene the way Cameron wanted. The cameraman had lit the Alien nest set brightly, while Cameron insisted on his original vision of a dark, foreboding nest, relying on the lights from the Marines' armor. After the cameraman was fired, Hurd managed to coax the crew members into coming back to work.
Weapons and propsEdit
Weapons used by the Marines were based on real, fully functional weapons. British armorers used guns they found to be the most reliable when firing blanks and those which looked futuristic. The pulse rifles were created from a Thompson SMG, with an attached forend of a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun and a Remington 12 Gauge Model 870P receiver with barrel. The smart guns carried by Vasquez and Drake were based on the German MG-42 machine gun and were maneuvered with steadicam harnesses created using old motorcycle parts. The crew found flamethrowers the most difficult weapon to create and use, as they were the heaviest and most dangerous.
- Main article: Aliens (score)
Music composer James Horner felt he was not given enough time to create a musical score. Horner arrived in England and expected the film to be "locked" so he could write the score in six weeks, which he thought was a sufficient amount of time. Horner, however, discovered that filming and editing were still taking place, and he was unable to view the film. He visited the sets and editing rooms for three weeks and found that editor Ray Lovejoy was barely keeping up with the workload due to time restrictions. Horner believed Cameron was preoccupied with sound effects, citing that Cameron spent two days with the sound engineer creating the sounds for the pulse rifles. He also complained that he was given an outdated recording studio; the score was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios, a thirty-year-old studio that was barely able to patch in synthesizers or use the electronic equipment that Horner required.
Six weeks from theatrical release, no dubbing had taken place and the score had not been written, as Horner was unable to view the completed film. The final cue for the scene in which Ripley battles the Alien queen was written overnight. Cameron completely reworked the scene, leaving Horner to rewrite the music. As Gale Hurd did not have much music production experience, she and Cameron denied Horner's request to push the film back four weeks so he could finish the score. Horner felt that, given more time, he could get the score to 100% of his satisfaction, rather than the 80% he estimated he had been able to achieve. The score was recorded in roughly four days. Despite his troubles, Horner received an Academy Award nomination (his first) for Best Original Score.
Horner stated that tensions between himself and Cameron were so high during post-production that he assumed they would never work together again. Horner believed that Cameron's film schedules were too short and stressful. The two parted ways until 1997 when Cameron, so impressed with Horner's score for Braveheart, asked him to compose the score for Titanic.
Brothers Robert and Dennis Skotak were hired to supervise the visual effects, having previously worked with Cameron on several Roger Corman movies. Two stages were used to construct the colony on LV-426, using miniature models that were on average six feet tall and three feet wide. Filming the miniatures was difficult due to the weather; the wind would blow over the props, although it proved helpful to give the effect of weather on the planet. Cameron used these miniatures and several effects to make scenes look larger than they really were, including rear projection, mirrors, beam splitters, camera splits and foreground miniatures.
The Alien suits were made more flexible and durable than the ones used in Alien, to expand on the creatures' movements and allow them to crawl and jump. Dancers, gymnasts and stunt men were hired to portray the Aliens. The creature's head was changed from the sleek shape used in Alien, as the crew thought that the original shape would crack with the creatures' increased mobility. Ridges were added along the head to increase its durability during movements.
Scenes involving the Alien queen were the most difficult to film, according to production staff. A life-sized mock-up was created by Stan Winston's company in the United States to see how it would operate. Once the testing was complete, the crew working on the queen flew to England and began work creating the final version. Standing at fourteen feet, it was operated using a mixture of puppeteers, control rods, hydraulics, cables, and a crane above to support it. Two puppeteers were inside the suit operating its arms, and sixteen were required to move it. All sequences involving the queen were filmed in-camera with no post-production manipulation.
Eagerly anticipated by fans following the success of Alien, Aliens was released in America on July 18, 1986, and September 26 in the United Kingdom. The film opened in 1,437 theaters with an average opening gross of $6,995 and a weekend gross of $10,052,042. It was number one at the United States box office for four consecutive weeks, grossing $85.1 million, and remains the highest-grossing Alien film at the U.S. box office when not adjusting for inflation. The film took a further $45.9 million outside of North America, for a total gross of $131 million.
Test and pre-screenings were unable to take place for Aliens due to the film not being completed until its week of release. Once it was released in cinemas, critical and audience reaction was very positive. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and called it "painfully and unremittingly intense" and a "superb example of filmmaking craft." He also stated "when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence." Walter Goodman of The New York Times said it was a "flaming, flashing, crashing, crackling blow-'em-up show that keeps you popping from your seat despite your better instincts and the basically conventional scare tactics." Time Magazine featured the film on the cover of its July 28, 1986 issue, calling it the "summer's scariest movie". Time reviewer Richard Schickel declared the film "a sequel that exceeds its predecessor in the reach of its appeal while giving [Sigourney] Weaver new emotional dimensions to explore." The selection of Aliens for a Time cover was attributed to the successful reception of the film, as well as its novel example of a science fiction action heroine. Echoing Time's assessment, Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader called the film "one sequel that surpasses the original."
Reviews of the film have remained mostly positive over the years. In a 1997 interview, Weaver stated that Aliens "made the first Alien look like a cucumber sandwich." In a 2000 review, film critic James Berardinelli said "When it comes to the logical marriage of action, adventure, and science fiction, few films are as effective or accomplished as Aliens." Austin Chronicle contributor Marjorie Baumgarten labeled the film in 2002 as "a non-stop action fest." Based on 44 reviews, the film has a "fresh" rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average critic score of 8.8 out of 10.
Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Music, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration. It won two awards for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. Sigourney Weaver received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and although she did not win, it was considered a landmark nomination for an actress to be considered for a science fiction/horror film, a genre which was given little recognition by the Academy in 1986.
Aliens received four BAFTA award nominations and won in the category of Visual Effects. It won eight Saturn Awards in the categories of Best science fiction film, Best actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best supporting actor (Bill Paxton), Best supporting actress (Jenette Goldstein), Best performance by a younger actor (Carrie Henn), Best direction (James Cameron), Best writing (James Cameron), and Best special effects (Stan Winston and the L.A. Effects Group).
Time Magazine named Aliens in their Best of '86 list calling it a "technically awesome blend of the horror, sci-fi and service- comedy genres." In 2007, Entertainment Weekly named Aliens as the second-best action movie of all time, behind Die Hard. In a Rotten Tomatoes analysis of the top 100 science fiction films, Aliens ranks tenth among the best-reviewed films of the genre. In 2004, Aliens was ranked thirty-fifth on Bravo's "100 Scariest Movie Moments" for the scene in which Ripley and Newt are attacked by facehuggers; the original Alien was ranked second for the chestburster scene. IGN ranked it third in its "Top 25 Action Films of All-Time", stating that "there won't be an Alien movie as scary – or exciting – as this one made ever again."
A "Special Edition" of Aliens was released in 1992 on laserdisc and VHS that restored seventeen minutes of deleted footage. These additions include a segment showing Newt's family first encountering the derelict spacecraft on LV-426, Ripley learning that her daughter died during the years she was in hypersleep, a scene in the operations building in which the Marines use sentry guns against the Aliens, and several extended dialogue scenes between Ripley and the Marines. These scenes had been deleted from the original theatrical release as 20th Century Fox representatives thought the film was showing "too much nothing" and spent an unnecessary amount of time building suspense.
Most of the Special Edition's footage was first seen when the film made its broadcast television debut on CBS in 1989, but two additional sequences concerning Burke's transmission to the colony about the derelict, and the Jorden family's subsequent discovery of the same, were added to the initial Laserdisc release. According to Cameron, the visual effects for the scene were incomplete, so he went back to the Skotak brothers and had them finish the sequences. All currently available versions of the Special Edition contain these scenes.
The special edition was released as part of The Alien Legacy DVD box set in 1999 along with Alien and Alien 3. Both the theatrical version and the special edition were released again in 2003 as part of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set along with similar versions of Alien, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection. A separate two-disc "Special Collector's Edition" DVD of Aliens was released on January 6, 2004 containing the same material as the two Aliens discs in the Quadrilogy set. Additional content in these versions included an audio commentary for the special edition featuring director James Cameron, producer Gale Hurd, special effects artists and crew members. The second disc included special features relating to pre-production, production, and post-production.
Interpretation and analysisEdit
Philosopher Stephen Mulhall has remarked that the four Alien films represent an artistic rendering of the difficulties faced by the woman's "voice" to have itself heard in a masculinist society, as Ripley continually encounters males who try to silence her and to force her to submit to their desires. Mulhall sees this depicted in several events in Aliens, particularly the inquest scene in which Ripley's explanation for the deaths and destruction of the Nostromo, as well as her attempts to warn the board members of the Alien danger, are met with officious disdain. However, Mulhall believes that Ripley's relationship with Hicks illustrates that Aliens "is devoted ... to the possibility of modes of masculinity that seek not to stifle but rather to accommodate the female voice, and modes of femininity that can acknowledge and incorporate something more or other of masculinity than our worst nightmares of it."
Several movie academics, including Barbara Creed, have remarked on the color and lighting symbolism in the Alien franchise, which offsets white, strongly lit environments (spaceships, corporate offices) against darker, dirtier, 'corrupted' settings (derelict alien ship, abandoned industrial facilities). These black touches contrast or even attempt to take over the purity of the white elements. Others, such as Kile M. Ortigo of Emory University, agree with this interpretation and point to the Sulaco with its "sterilized, white interior" as representing this element in the second film of the franchise.
While some claim that the shape of the Sulaco was based on a submarine, the design has most often been described as a 'gun in space' resembling the rifles used in the movie. Author Roz Kaveney called the opening shot of the ship traveling through space 'fetishistic' and 'shark-like', "an image of brutal strength and ingenious efficiency"—while the militarized interior of the Sulaco (designed by Ron Cobb) is contrasted to the organic interior of the Nostromo in the first movie (also designed by Cobb). David McIntree noted the homage the scene pays to the opening tour through the Nostromo in Alien.
The android character Bishop has been the subject of literary and philosophical analysis as a high-profile fictional android conforming to science fiction author Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and as a model of a compliant, potentially self-aware machine. His portrayal has been studied by writers for the University of Texas Press for its implications relating to how humans deal with the presence of an "Other", as Ripley treats them with fear and suspicion and a form of "hi-tech racism and android apartheid" is present throughout the series. This is seen as part of a larger trend of technophobia in films prior to the 1990s, with Bishop's role being particularly significant as he proves his worth at the end of the film, thus confounding Ripley's expectations.
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