"To think that Ridley Scott provoked so much tension and dread from just one is strange. When they are all over you, it makes for a superior sequel."

When a sequel is so many times better than the original, it's hard to believe that the first was so exciting and pioneering. James Cameron, fresh from his groundbreaking The Terminator, proves he was no one-hit wonder by maintaining the perfect balance of action, suspense and sub-text.

Fifty seven years after a lone Xenomorph killed everyone on the Nostromo, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakes in a space station orbiting earth. Happy news does not greet her. Her only child has died an old lady and she has no life left to get back to. Plus, she is having disturbing nightmares and is facing charges of willful destruction of private property, which seems ludicrous when you consider that she destroyed the Nostromo before any of the "suits" were born.

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Back on LV426, a family has stumbled upon the same mysterious spacecraft that John Hurt ventured into in Alien. And sure as sugar, the dad doesn't leave until a face-hugger is, well...hugging his face. Before you know it, the Company - actually called Weyland-Yutani - has lost contact with the entire colony on LV426 and Ripley is enrolled to help a bunch of marines deal with the problem.

Many Vietnam subtexts are played out as well as a more gentle subplot, in which Ripley becomes a surrogate mother to Newt (Carrie Henn), an orphaned child, who has more guts and initiative than the entire platoon put together. Bill Paxton plays Hudson, the wimpiest but most likeable marine ever in movies. Lance Henriksen is Bishop, an android who tries to convince Ripley that he is not like the deceitful and perverted Ian Holm from the original. Michael Biehn is Hicks the reluctant corporal who takes charge of the futile mission after the first, scarifying attack by the Xenomorph.

Cameron assaults us with shocks and stingers and keeps us on the edge of our seats for well over two hours. The Director's Cut of Aliens is now considered the official cut of the film, and is a stronger film for the additions. At one point Hudson says: "They're comin' outta the goddamn walls"- you better believe it! We never know where or when another alien will strike from the damp darkness and drag away a hapless marine. And you can't shoot these monsters close-up because they'll spray acid blood all over you.

Backing up the claustrophobic, nerve-wracking mayhem is James Horner's Academy Award nominated score, which is haunting and cold and thundering and bombastic. This is definitely not a film for the nervous, or those with a pacemaker. Rapid-fire editing, tense close-ups and an extremely oppressive atmosphere, reeking of death, take over the movie.

The final showdown with the massive, no-nonsense - but still quite feminine - Alien Queen is one of the best ever filmed. To think that Ridley Scott provoked so much tension and dread from just one is strange. When they are all over you, it makes for a superior sequel.

If the movie doesn't scare you, Weaver's Afro will.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2002
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Ripley is back in another alien-killing spree.
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Scott Macdonald *****

Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston, Ricco Ross

Year: 1986

Runtime: 154 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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