It probably doesn't happen often, but if for whatever reason the phrase 'seventeen days' comes up in conversation, do you react by saying:
"Seventeen days?! We're not gonna last seventeen hours!"
Some of you don't know what I'm talking about. But some of you nod. We understand each other.
ALIENS, the second movie in what has come to be known as the Alien Legacy series, was directed by the masterful James Cameron (THE TERMINATOR, TERMINATOR 2) and written by Mr. Cameron, David Giler (ALIEN, ALIENS [story]) and Walter Hill (ALIENS [story]).
At the end of the first film Ripley (Sigourney Weaver: ALIEN [all] GHOSTBUSTERS [all]) and Jones the cat are the only survivors from the cargo ship Nostromo. This movie opens with Ripley and Jones in hypersleep (suspended animation) on board a lifeboat spacecraft. A much larger ship approaches and docks and someone cuts through the lifeboat airlock. Spacesuited figures come aboard and seem disappointed to discover Ripley is alive, because that means the loss of their salvage rights.
Ripley wakes up in a hospital apparently in orbit around Earth. She's told, by Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a representative from Weyland-Yutani (The Company), that she's been in hypersleep for 57 years.
Ripley the survivor, admirable for her strength that got her through the events of the first film, is a basket case. The story feels that much more real and Ripley more like a real human being because of her vulnerability. She made it home but the nightmare she went through is still with her. Severe post traumatic stress syndrome.
And that's not her only problem. The cargo ship Ripley blew up in a failed attempt to kill the Alien warrior was property of Weyland-Yutani (worth $42 million in adjusted dollars, we are told). An inquest is held and nobody believes Ripley's story about the creature. She's assumed to be at fault and her career as the 22nd century equivalent of an officer in the merchant marines is over.
I say 22nd century just as a guess, because the events in the first movie seem at least a century in the future. Add 57 years of hypersleep and you're talking late 22nd / early 23rd century. You'd think Ripley's career would be over anyway because her skills would certainly have been made obsolete by advances in technology. Not that she couldn't be retrained.
When Ripley asks why the Company doesn't just check out her story by sending someone to the planet where her crew found the derelict Alien ship, she's horrified to hear that during her long sleep the planet has been terraformed (made earthlike) and colonized. She's told 60 or 70 families have lived there for years.
Ripley starts her life from scratch, working as a cargo loader in a docking bay. Not great work but better than being chased around by Alien monsters. Then Carter Burke shows up again, accompanied by Lt. Gorman (William Hope: HELLRAISER II) of the colonial marines. The colony on LV-426 (didn't anyone ever get around to giving this planet a decent name?) has gone silent. The marines are being sent in to find out what's going on and Burke (a nominal civilian but Gorman defers to him, giving a clue as to the Company's clout) wants Ripley to come with as a consultant. He offers her reinstatement as a flight officer.
She refuses outright at first but eventually says yes. Why? Actually, it makes a certain kind of psychological sense. Traumatized Vietnam veterans often found themselves volunteering for another tour of duty in the place that had so damaged them. It becomes an obsession. It's all you can think about - you relive it in your dreams every night anyway - so going back finally becomes a comfort in a terrible way.
An apparently fully automated troop ship, the Sulaco, brings Ripley, Burke and Gorman's platoon of colonial marines to orbit around LV-426. Immediately some soldiers stand out, including Hudson (Bill Paxton: THE TERMINATOR, NEAR DARK, PREDATOR 2, FRAILTY), Hicks (Michael Biehn: THE TERMINATOR, MEGIDDO: The Omega Code 2) and Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein: NEAR DARK, TERMINATOR 2). Also on board, much to Ripley's dislike, is an android (who prefers being called an 'artificial person') named Bishop (Lance Henriksen: THE TERMINATOR, NEAR DARK, ALIEN 3, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR). Ripley's previous experience with androids (the character 'Ash' in the first movie) has made her a bit skittish around synthetics.
In an awesome sequence a dropship brings them to the surface and the troops cautiously
approach the apparently abandoned settlement. The power is still on
and there's no outward signs of damage, but the people are gone. All but
one: a half-crazed little girl named Newt (Carrie Henn) who clearly has been living here alone for some time.
So where is everybody? I can't tell you that, so to make up for it I'll give you a!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
I've heard other (lesser) science geeks point to the dropships "drop" from the Sulaco as a mistake. They were in orbit - and thus in free fall - and simply releasing clamps on the drop ship should not have caused it to fall so precipitously from its mother ship. I have no problem with this scene because clearly (given the way people are moving around on the ship) these people have generated gravity technology. Given that, it's easy to imagine that the drop ship is accelerated by a pulse from the gravity generator, giving the appearance of a dramatic "fall" from the Sulaco.
Too bad this movie also has an!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
The Unfair Racial Cliche Alert counts even if you hire a white person to play a minority, as was the case with actor Jenette Goldstein (NEAR DARK), who played Private Vasquez.
For a complete list, go to UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT. But BEWARE, there are SPOILERS.
This is THE sci-fi/Thriller movie that other films aspire to be. Of course Ripley faces her worst fears and then some, and we learn a great deal more about the Alien life-cycle. There is heroism and betrayal, courage and cowardice. It's just one of those movies that no matter how often you see it, you never get tired of it. That, by definition, makes it worth 5 shriek girls. ALIENS definitely earns the big 5.
Go to the ALIENS: SPECIAL EDITION Review
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