Reviewed May 04, 2012
Steve Grzesiak’s review:
Aliens is my favourite film of all time, and that has been the case for about 15 years now. I think that is actually really good going by anyone's standards for something jockeying to be someone's favourite of all time of any type. That said, I'm quite loyal to my favourites. Seinfeld is still my favourite ever TV show, Regret by New Order my favourite song, and Norman Whiteside my favourite ever Manchester United player.
Before I 'favourited' Aliens my favourite film was almost certainly Jaws. Aliens went on the road to displacing it when I was about 15 and I was looking through some old VHS tapes on a boring Saturday afternoon to see what was on them. I found Aliens, taped off ITV with all the swearing dubbed, sat down and watched it all. Repeat viewings over the next couple of years elevated it to being my favourite.
Much of the praise that Aliens gets tends to focus on people being amazed that it's a sequel that could actually be better than the original, and while that is understandable I think there are many more interesting things going on with Aliens that makes it such a truly amazing film in so very many ways.
The cast fascinates me. Each and every one of them are PERFECT for their roles, and the way all but Bill Paxton and Sigourney Weaver have failed to live up to the heights they hit in this film almost suggests that the careers of Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser and others were building up to this film. Even Paxton has rarely been better than here and Weaver, despite some subsequent great performances, certainly has not. Only Death And The Maiden comes close for me.
It's almost a reverse ensemble - a cast of actors and actresses relatively untried or unheralded, thrust into a Hollywood blockbuster sequel that had to follow one of the great sci-fi and horror hits of the preceding decade, yet all of them possessing their roles so completely that at no point do any of them look as though they are out of place or out of time.
The pacing of the film is incredible as well. A build-up of tension punctuated by one or two moments of drama and misdirection before things explode in the most spectacular and disastrous of fashion under that primary heat exchange makes things still unbearable even on a 109th or 110th viewing on my part. Then things calm down again - almost like that was nothing more than a preview of coming attractions. And it is.
Then, of course, there are the aliens themselves. We hardly see the alien in the first film, and it is all the more frightening for us not knowing what we're looking for. Here, James Cameron goes completely the other way, unleashing hoardes of them and showing that you can create terror by 'showing the monster' - especially if they pour in through the ceiling and come through the floor.
Aliens never, ever fails to amaze me as an achievement and as a film. It has everything that I think you could reasonably ask for from a Hollywood mainstream blockbuster film, and is so good that it goes way beyond that. It does make me sad that Cameron spends most of his time pissing around underwater these days - but he will never top this anyway, so maybe he's right to stay submerged.