We can perhaps all agree that sequels don’t always match our expectations. Some can even go as far as to ruin a franchise, which is always a crying shame. However, Aliens (1986) goes against this belief, and proved to be a stunning, thrilling, deadly ride that still sits on a high pedestal.

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

The 1980s was an amazing time for cinema, as films such as Gremlins (1984), Back to the Future (1985) and Predator (1987) hit cinemas and baffled audiences with the action-packed and entertaining narratives, characters and more.

However, Aliens came out in 1986, and made massive waves for the sci-fi genre. It was bigger, louder, more extravagant and thrilling that its predecessor from 1979. While the original still holds up, its sequel broke through and made a good thing even better.

Aliens follows Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) once again, after she is found floating in space as a result of blowing up the Nostromo, the giant space craft. After being told she has been in deep space for 57 years, Ripley finds it hard to adjust.

However, when news of colonists going missing hits Ripley and she is asked to help, she agrees to consult for the mission, despite her reservations, as a xenomorph may be involved.

The crew / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
The crew / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

From then on, we follow Ripley as she meets the team that will be searching for the missing colonists, on the very planet that caused an alien to board the Nostromo and wipe out her old crew in the previous movie.

Aliens stands from other 80s movies of the same genre (and others) because it knew exactly what it was doing. Everything from the minute noises to the way the xenomorph was executed with precision, excellence and skill.

One difference that made this film such a thrilling success, was the cast. While Alien had around seven crew members, Aliens hosts a much larger crew, consisting of well-written, comical, and strong characters.

Having a bigger team meant more comradery, more atmosphere, and a stronger bond between audience and characters, as their personalities all shone through perfectly.

The crew consisted of Hicks (Michael Biehn), Hudson (Bill Paxton), an artificial person named Bishop (Lance Henriksen), Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), along with a few others.

Bill Paxton as Private Hudson in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
Bill Paxton as Private Hudson in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

Hudson is perhaps the best supporting character within Aliens, as his demeanour of a ‘tough guy’ is shattered almost every time someone breathes, so when he realises aliens really do exist, it’s “Game over man, game over!”

His character acts unlike you’d expect, therefore making him perfect. Despite being a trained soldier, he doesn’t deal well with pressure and his whining mirrors how someone would most likely act, no matter who they are.

Speaking of characters, we cannot go without discussing Ripley. In the time this film came out, women were still seen as caregivers, and it was expected for them to look after their home and family.

Aliens challenges this ideal in the best way; Ripley is, of course, a capable, brave and strong female protagonist – one of cinema’s finest. There is no point where it seems she cannot fight back or create a plan of action, despite being scared.

Her relationship with Newt (Carrie Henn) is pivotal to the plot and to Ripley’s character. As her child had passed away while she was frozen in space, Ripley takes to caring for Newt in a show of grief and affection.

Carrie Hann and Sigourney Weaver in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
Carrie Hann and Sigourney Weaver in Aliens / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

This is why Aliens character development and creation is outstanding; Ripley becomes a mother to Newt, showing a kind, caring side to her that we all knew was there. However, she does not drop her gun or refrain from making decisions and plans for the team in order for them to survive.

She can quite literally do it all; she is seen as strong yet kind, smart and fun, sweet and battle-ready. Ellen Ripley is the ideal protagonist, and this movie really understood how to portray their characters, regardless of gender.

Moving on from the characters, it must be said that Aliens kicked it up a notch after Alien in 1979. This sequel, as opposed to its predecessor, had more music, more action scenes, and much more to work with in regard to sets and threats.

Newt has been found... / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
Newt has been found... / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

While Alien worked so well due to its lack of music, Aliens had more atmospheric tones, more places for the xenomorph to hide, and more characters to kill off, showing once again how formidable a foe the alien is.

The beast was definitely improved upon within this film, as more of its nature and traits were shown off. Aliens saw, for the first time, the way the creatures take over space and transform areas into a black, eerie abyss that serves as a place to cocoon victims and ready them for impregnation via the ‘face-huggers’.

Seeing this opened up a whole new frontier for this franchise, as it gave the xenomorph race more identity, and more ways for audiences to connect the sticky, almost jet-black substances to the giant aliens.

Another thing Aliens brought to the table, was the alien queen. When Ripley questions who’s laying the eggs in which the ‘face-huggers- reside, it was clear that we would soon find out.

The xenomorph queen is revealed in silence, as Ripley rushes to Newt’s aid when she is taken by an alien; Ripley stops in her tracks, and slowly connects the dots that lead to the colossal, terrifying monster.

The Alien Queen / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios
The Alien Queen / Picture Credit: 20th Century Studios

This reveal is one of the best scenes within this movie, as there is nothing except Ripley, young Newt, and a gargantuan alien creature surrounded by her reptilian-like children; it is a thing of utter beauty.

Aliens is, essentially, an iconic and unbelievably outstanding cinematic masterpiece. It has a clever narrative, incredible characters with personalities that complimented and clashed with others, a villain that is hard to outmatch even today, and a perfect protagonist that showed she was the boss – and she still is.

Watch the trailer for Aliens below:

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal

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