Aliens are overrated. Here’s why James Cameron’s sequels failed to live up to Alien

Time has been kind aliensJames Cameron’s sequels from 1986 to 1979 Foreign. Various publications such as Crooked Magazine, KingdomAnd RogerEbert.com have unequivocally stated that the film surpasses its predecessor, and its influence as an action thriller continues to fade, decades later Foreigna creeping legacy of horror.

But in an era where there are more and more similar films aliensit’s clear that Foreign is a superior entry, and it is aliens represents, with good intentions, a betrayal of the instincts that made the first film great.

The film duplicates Alien in its attempt to honor it

Written based on the success of another Cameron script, Terminator (1984), aliens was the answer to 20th Century Fox’s prayers when it went into production, representing the culmination of a years-long process to capitalize on the IP of the original film, which was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and has become a phenomenon thanks to its atmospheric touch the incredible and the creature design by H.R. Giger.

The creative issue to be raised is how the tension of the first film can be justified and replicated without seeming to be duplicating. In the Foreigncrew of an interstellar cargo ship Nostromo lands on the exomoon, LV-426, after receiving a distress call from another crashed ship; The crew then encounters an alien species that implants an embryo in the crew’s executive officer. An alien offspring, a “xenomorph,” bursts out of an executive officer’s chest (we’ve all seen the scene, if not the movie) and begins taking Nostromocrew one by one.

Four people looking at the computer in Alien.
20th Century Fox

Rely on as Foreign does so on the slightly suspect premise that an all-powerful corporation, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, would find xenomorphs useful as objects of study, it’s perhaps unsurprising that justifying a return to a xenomorph-hosting overworld requires Cameron’s script to reiterate those circumstances. In the sequel, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the sole survivor of a xenomorph attack on Nostromo, rescued after floating in suspended animation for 57 years. Representative Weyland-Yutani (Paul Reiser) immediately asks him to return to LV-426 to investigate the silent human colony there. The company insists that they don’t want to bring the xenomorphs home at any cost, as was their deadly goal in the first film (of course they lied). Ripley and a team of marines depart for LV-426 on the ship named Sulacoa name taken from the 1904 novel by Joseph Conrad, afterward Nostromo has been named. (More recycling.)

There, to no one’s surprise, aliens (aha!) have invaded the colony, which is in contrast to the cramped and claustrophobic colonies. Nostromo, is a series of floors and walkways that surround a nuclear reactor, creating an oversized playing field. Here, the franchise pivots: Foreign giving us excellent, sweaty character actors, like Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm, moving slowly through oppressive halls as the creature stalks them from the darkness. aliens giving us entertaining, if slightly hollow, entertainment.

Image used with permission of the copyright holder

Alien is schlocky where Alien is scary

In his review of the original 1979 film, Gene Siskel aptly stated that “the alien’s final form is the least frightening of all.” It’s different today Mouth, Foreign does its best work when hiding the alien itself from the viewer’s view. The power of suggestion, as the xenomorph crawls past Nostromoits ducts, dripping with acidic blood and spitting through the floorboards (a brilliant move, allowing a brief glimpse into alien territory but not one to look at for too long), is downright terrifying. There aren’t many long shots of the adult xenomorph, played by 6-foot-10 Bolaji Badejo, and looking remarkably like a 6-foot-10 man in a rubber suit.

ALIEN 1986 LET’S ROCK! MOVIE CLIP SCENE – 4K UHD HDR Custom 17/33

In the aliens, we get nothing more than a long shot of that xenomorph – this time not a lone wolf, but a horde. And the visual effects haven’t worked out well. The creatures’ movements are inadequate and sluggish – their reaction times seem delayed, and they appear to attack randomly compared to the highly precise movements of the xenomorphs in the game. Foreign. Ripley and the Marines fight the aliens with machine guns and flamethrowers, but the fights themselves aren’t particularly interesting choreographically, aside from Ripley’s final showdown with the alien queen. The film’s sequences are much better, which is very rare, when the Marines retreat to lick their wounds, allowing for intimate character-based scenes with a great and underserved ensemble, including the late Bill Paxton.

Herein lies the problem – even in fantastic monster movies, the human stories are always more interesting than the monster stories, and the more aliens there are, plural, the less time we have with the people we really care about. Furthermore, Cameron’s beloved themes – unity, humanity, exploration, and general evil conquering evil – are incredibly clichéd compared to the issues of paranoia and terror covered by John Carpenter in 1982’s Theme. Matter (an obvious influence) and Scott exploits it brilliantly Foreign.

Ripley’s character was watered down

A team of explorers at a remote research station facing off against an alien power was a story structure that Cameron would use and abuse endlessly over the next few decades. (See abyss and both Avatars film, for two.) He also inevitably transitions into adolescence with his incessant involvement of an adorable little boy our hero has to protect – in the case of aliensNewt (Carrie Henn), a little girl who was the sole survivor of the LV-426 xenomorph invasion and who was taken over by Ripley.

Ripley’s preoccupation with Newt, ostensibly aimed at exploring her character’s “maternal” instincts, is a far cry from the character’s vaunted feminist heritage, which is often more associated with her daring sequences against walls. aliens rather than his desperate, sweat-filled race for survival Foreign.

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien.
Image via 20th Century Studios

But Foreign‘s Ripley is a recognizably human woman, one who reacts to her surroundings rather than being a saturated product of the genre. Mother-Ripley, come in aliens, is a cartoon mama bear whose attention to a small, red-eyed cub serves to distract us from the more interesting question of why Ripley would return to confront these nightmarish creatures for whatever reason (a character only hinted at by Ripley’s nightmares at the start of the film which inspired him to accept Weyland-Yutani’s offer). When he growls at the alien queen, who is cradling Newt, “Get away from her, bitch,” the audience is goaded into cheering at a moment that makes it seem as though being an actual action hero has debased girl power, to the point of gendered humiliation.

The beginning of the end of the franchise

Image used with permission of the copyright holder

The most iconic image of Ripley in media today is Sigourney Weaver wearing her mech suit and ready to take on the alien queen, a mega version of the regular xenomorph. But Ripley – armed to the teeth and painted with the broadest brush available – is never the version her creator intended.

Foreign is a story told in human proportions – right down to the body horror that tells us that the scariest thing is not being eaten from the outside in but from the inside out. It is said that Cameron encased Ripley in a giant metal robot suit rather than creating circumstances that would allow her to outwit her opponents as her opponent. human self. Setting the stage for the series critically panned sequel, aliens is blockbusterdom personified – everything that is big, bloated and exploits old, better ideas.

Foreign is streaming Upstream. Alien is streaming Max.

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