Aliens ★★★★½

Hey out there in Letterboxd Land, who likes this movie? Yeah. I know you do. Everybody likes this movie. It does what sequels ought to do but seldom ever do, it goes bigger and badder without sacrificing its quality. Better? Well, I don’t think so but it’s different, apples to oranges, but I do love it and it comes pretty damned close anyhow. Sequels are incredibly hard to pull off successfully, particularly sci-fi sequels, yet Sir James Cameron (fuck you I’ve knighted him) has two of the greatest of all time under his belt. Maybe the next Avatar is going to be a hoot. Round 2 is where he likes to come out swinging apparently.

I’ll try to be brief on why I love Aliens so much. Even the title, Aliens, is in itself perfect. What, there is going to be MORE of them? Shit Yeah. Gimme swarms. And he does, even though Cameron only had a handful of bug suits to work with and could only show so many at the same time, his brilliance as a director allows him to create the illusion of many more. Give this guy a dollar bill and he’ll turn it into a 20. Literally. This movie has it all: a big bug squishing car, they take the story out of the ship and onto a more open planet environment, great quotes, more bugs, more violence more everything. When Ripley suits up in the mech-loader to square off against the Queen, Aliens delivers one of if not ‘the’ best action fight set piece of all time. It’s in the argument anyway. The film completely changes tone from the first one even though it’s tackling the same subject. It is less oppressive and terrifying but more action packed and entertaining. It will depend on your personality which of those 2 you inevitably like better. Nevertheless, I don’t think that anyone is arguing that this is anything less than a stellar entry into the franchise.

Of course, there is the team of ‘ultimate badasses’, a platoon of marines sent along with Ripley to face off against this deadly presence and the real reason I am doing this write-up. Now, approximately 3 out of every 4 times that I hear this film referenced, I hear “Game Over Man, Game Over” quoted. This infectious and immortal line was delivered by none other than the late Bill Paxton. Paxton was a wonderful actor whose youthful boyish charm seeped through every one of his performances right up to the very end. His presence on screen, especially in massive films, often reminded me of a simple country boy dumbfounded and in great awe of his first sights of the Big City areond him. Characterized by an immediately likeable personality and his broad, toothy grin, Paxton was an actor who would make the most of even the smallest roles giving every ounce of himself to the parts and even though he was seldom the leading man for much of his career, his were the characters that became the most memorable from some of our most treasured viewing experiences.

His marine Hudson in Aliens personified Paxton’s gift to steal scenes seen early on in his maniacal screaming when Bishop is stabbing a knife between his fingers. He acts as our tour guide introducing the other characters with his playful, ball-breaking banter and his child-like naiveté sets the tone that lets us know that this film is a party and we are there to have fun instead of crawl out of our skins. As his character is quickly faced with the fact that he has absolutely no idea what he is dealing with we watch him rapidly descend from a character of brash egotism to one of sheer panic and dread like a young child pissing himself. You have to keep in mind that this was a HUGE movie folks. Paxton’s name was not headlining any marquees or drawing the people in by the thousands getting butts in the seats. Yet 30 years later, the moments he provided us are some of the ones that we most cherish about the film. Paxton planted his flag in this film making something great out of what could have been a completely forgettable part, something he did so often throughout his career.

You will be greatly missed Bill.

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