- Entertainment and Media»
- Movies & Movie Reviews
ALIENS (1986) - Illustrated Reference
Aliens was directed by James Cameron and premiered on 18th July 1986. Starring Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Carrie Henn. Screenplay by James Cameron. Music by James Horner. 137 mins.
Ripley, the only survivor of the commercial towing ship Nostromo, is found adrift and in hypersleep by a salvage vessel. She finds that she had been asleep for 57 years and everyone she knew is dead. She is asked to accompany a team of marines on a mission back to the planet where the alien species was first discovered. All contact with a terraforming colony on LV-426 has been lost.
Born in Ontario, Canada in 1954, James Cameron was a big fan of Ridley Scott’s Alien, which was a major success for 20th Century Fox in 1979. After Cameron had a hit with the sci-fi action movie The Terminator (1984), he discussed the possibility of a sequel to Alien with producer David Giler who was enthusiastic about the idea.
In 1985 James Cameron sent Fox studios a 90 page script treatment for Alien II, they liked it. He, and his wife at the time producer Gale Ann Hurd, were given approval to make the sequel, scheduled for release in 1986.
Ripley: Just tell me one thing, Burke. You're going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.
Burke: That's the plan. You have my word on it.
Sigourney Weaver (1949-) / Ellen Ripley.
Born in New York City, Sigourney Weaver received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Aliens, she also received a Best Actress nomination for Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and Best Supporting Actress nomination for Working Girl (1988).
Weaver's films include – Alien (1979), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Alien 3 (1992), Alien Resurrection (1997), Galaxy Quest (1999) and Avatar (2009).
Michael Biehn (1956-) / Corporal Dwayne Hicks.
Born in Anniston, Alabama, Michael Biehn also starred in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and The Abyss (1989) other films include – Navy Seals (1990), Tombstone (1993) and The Rock (1996).
Ripley: These people are here to protect you. They're soldiers.
Newt: It won't make any difference.
Carrie Henn (1976-) / Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jorden, survivor of the colony on LV-426.
Born in Panama City, Florida, Carrie Henn won a Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Aliens.
Burke: Look, this is an emotional moment for all of us, okay? I know that. But, let's not make snap judgments, please. This is clearly an important species we're dealing with and I don't think that you or I, or anybody, has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.
Vasquez: Yeah. Watch us.
Paul Reiser (1957-) / Carter Burke, representative of Weyland-Yutani.
Born in New York City, Paul Reiser also appeared in Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Crazy People (1990), starred in popular TV sitcom Mad About You (1992-1999).
Bishop: The A2s always were a bit twitchy. That could never happen now with our behavioral inhibitors. It is impossible for me to harm or by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being.
Lance Henricksen (1940-) / Bishop, an android and executive officer of the Sulaco.
Born in New York City, Lance Henricksen has appeared in over 100 films including – Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Damien Omen II (1978), The Terminator (1984), Near Dark (1987), Alien 3 (1992), Hard Target (1993), The Quick and the Dead (1995) and Alien vs Predator (2004). Starred in TV series Millennium (1996-1999).
Ripley: They cut the power.
Hudson: What do you mean, "They cut the power"? How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!
Bill Paxton (1955-) / Private Hudson
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Bill Paxton’s movies include – Streets of Fire (1984), Weird Science (1985), Near Dark (1987), Predator 2 (1990), Tombstone (1993), True Lies (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Twister (1996), Titanic (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998) and Frailty (2001).
Vasquez: Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are.
Drake: Go, Vasquez. Kick a$$.
Vasquez: Anytime, anywhere, man!
Hudson: Right, right. Somebody said "alien" she thought they said "illegal alien" and signed up!
Vasquez: F@ck you, man!
Hudson: Anytime, anywhere.
Jenette Goldstein (1960-) / Private Vasquez
Born in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Jenette Goldstein’s movies include – Near Dark (1987), Terminator 2 (1991), Star Trek Generations (1994) and Titanic (1997).
Mark Rolston (1956-) / Private Drake
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mark Rolston’s films include Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Robocop 2 (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Eraser (1996), Rush Hour (1998) and The Departed (2006).
William Hope (1955-) / Lieutenant Gorman, Marines commanding officer.
Born in Quebec, Canada, William Hope’s films include – Hellraiser II (1988), xXx (2002), Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Captain America – The First Avenger (2011).
Apone: Alright sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill. A$$holes and elbows! Hudson, come here, COME HERE!
Al Matthews (1942-) / Sergeant Apone, Marines senior officer.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Al Matthews films include – Ragtime (1981), Superman III (1983), The Fifth Element (1997) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
Rounding out the cast is Ricco Ross as Private Frost, Cynthia Scott as Corporal Dietrich, Daniel Kash as Private Spunkmeyer, Collette Hiller as Corporal Ferro, Tip Tipping as Private Crowe, Trevor Steedman as Private Wierzbowski and Paul Maxwell as Van Leuwen.
Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters - no real ones - but there are.
Ripley: Yes, there are.
In early drafts of the script then titled Alien II, the android Bishop refused to land and save Ripley, Newt and Hicks at the climax because they might be impregnated with alien embryos and the risk was too great. Bishop radios Ripley and tells her “You were right about me all along” as he flies off without them. Ripley finds a shuttle and they escape the planet.
While negotiations were going on for Sigourney Weaver’s salary the studio asked James Cameron to have a script prepared which didn’t feature Ripley in case they couldn’t meet her pay demands. Cameron refused saying Ripley was central to the Alien series.
James Remar (The Warriors, 48hrs, The Cotton Club) was originally cast as Corporal Hicks, but he was replaced by Michael Biehn shortly after filming due to ‘artistic differences’ with James Cameron.
Aliens was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios, production lasted 10 months with filming starting in September 1985 and ending in February 1986.
The actors playing Marines were trained by the SAS (Special Air Service) a couple of weeks before filming started. James Cameron asked them to read Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers during training.
The Alien nest set was reused as the setting for the Axis Chemicals plant in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) which was also filmed at Pinewood Studios.
Due to budget constraints only 6 hypersleep chambers were created, mirrors were cleverly placed on set to make it look like 12 hypersleep chambers were being used.
Written in the script but not filmed, Bishop encounters an alien while crawling inside a tunnel near the finish.
A scene was shot where Ripley, looking for Newt, discovers Carter Burke cocooned and begging for help, she hands him a grenade and walks away. The scene didn’t make it to the Special Edition.
Conceptual designer Syd Mead designed the U.S.S. Sulaco, named after a fictional town in Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo, which was the name of the commercial towing ship in Alien (1979).
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
In those pre-CGI days the Alien Queen was a huge hydraulic puppet operated by 14 men and designed by the late Stan Winston and James Cameron. A small puppet was used briefly at the climax when the Queen grapples with a miniature model of Ripley and her power-loader.
The Special Edition of Aliens was 17 minutes longer bringing the total running time to 154 minutes. Restored footage includes Newt’s family discovering the derelict spacecraft, Ripley finding out that her daughter had died of old age while she was in hypersleep and scenes of automatic sentry guns being used against the aliens. We also find out Ripley’s first name in the Special Edition.
The photo of Ripley’s daughter as an old woman, seen in the Special Edition, is that of Sigourney Weaver’s real mother Elizabeth Inglis, an English actress who had appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935).
James Horner (1953-) composed the score for Aliens, one of his best. He claimed that he was given little time to finish it and had to use a few themes from his other scores (something Horner was notorious for anyway) but it paid off in the end when Horner received his first Oscar nomination. His music for James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) won him an Oscar for Best Music.
Aliens was nominated for 7 Academy Awards – Nominated for Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Music Score (James Horner), Best Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Sound and Winning for Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Aliens was also nominated for 11 Saturn Awards (The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films) and won 8 they are – Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Sigourney Weaver), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton), Best Supporting Actress (Jenette Goldstein), Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Carrie Henn), Best Writing, Best Special Effects.
Aliens cost $18.5m to make and was a commercial success grossing $85m in the US and $131m worldwide in 1986. The first Alien movie, released in 1979, had cost $11m grossed $81m in the US and $105m worldwide.
Hudson: That's it man, game over man, game over! What the f@ck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?
It would be 6 years before another Alien movie was released and it was a real downer too, Alien 3 (1992) was directed by David Fincher and again starred Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, she was killed off at the end of that film one of many aspects of the film that infuriated fans (Hicks, Bishop and Newt were killed off too).
But Alien 3 made money and the series continued with Alien Resurrection (1997) reviving Ripley thanks to the wonders of cloning. At least they gave Ellen Ripley a happier send off in this one.
Two more Alien films followed, this time they were set on present day Earth and pitted the lethal xenomorphs against another successful franchise the Predator in Alien vs Predator (2004) and Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007).
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is set in the Alien universe and was released in June 2012.
The Critics Wrote –
"Aliens proves a very worthy followup to Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi shocker, Alien. James Cameron's vault into the big time after scoring with the exploitation actioner The Terminator makes up for lack of surprise with sheer volume of thrills and chills - emphasis is decidedly on the plural aspect of the title." (Variety)
"For sheer intensity, the final forty-five minutes of Aliens is not likely to be matched by any movie soon. But the film is not merely a triumph of bravura action and masterfully slimy monsters. At its core is the ferociously urgent performance of Sigourney Weaver, who hurls herself into her warrior role with muscular grace and a sense of conviction that matches Cameron's step for step." (David Ansen, Newsweek)
“The special effects specialists are featured prominently in the credits that precede ''Aliens,'' and so they should be. Under the direction of James ''The Terminator'' Cameron, they have put together 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.” (New York Times)
“Suffers from a prolonged build-up which mistakes dragging things out for suspense, but after an initial encounter with the title character, Cameron switches to high gear and reverts back to the relentless action and suspense approach that helped make The Terminator such a massive hit." (Hollywood Reporter)
"The movie is so intense that it creates a problem for me as a reviewer: Do I praise its craftsmanship, or do I tell you it left me feeling wrung out and unhappy? It has been a week since I saw it, so the emotions have faded a little, leaving with me an appreciation of the movie's technical qualities. But when I walked out of the theater, there were knots in my stomach from the film's roller-coaster ride of violence. This is not the kind of movie where it means anything to say you "enjoyed" it." (Roger Ebert)