The original and best of the Alien saga, this is director Ridley Scott's masterpiece. The Company have directed the crew of the spaceship Nostromo to take an alien on board, but it's hostile, seemingly invulnerable, and it picks the crew off one by one. There's a horrible monster loose on the ship: I'm just going into this dark room by myself... In the end, only Ellen Ripley [Sigourney Weaver] and the cat survive.
What makes this so good is the off-screen horror: we hardly ever see the alien (even during the famous chest-bursting scene) except for skitterings here and there, right up until the finale. The tension keeps up at top notch all along; there are plenty of plot twists; and the cast acts some of the best fear I've ever seen.
retrospectively reviewed 29 December 1997
The aliens have taken over a human colony, and Ripley and a squad of Marines are sent in to deal with it. "Nuke 'em from orbit" Ripley wisely advises. But they can't do that: there might be some colonists still alive. So down they go, to be picked off one by one...
There are hundreds of aliens now, and given the havoc one wrecked on the Nostromo, it might seem a walkover. But they seem easier to kill this time; Ripley's got a big gun, and she's in a mean mood.
A very different film from Alien: that was mainly off-screen psychological terror; this, directed by James Cameron, is on-screen shoot-em-up splatter terror and sfx. But what it's really all about is Ripley kicking alien butt, and there's plenty of that. Along with a pleasantly uncute kid.
The Special Edition, released on video, has an extra 17 minutes of footage that helps explain how the aliens got to the colony in the first place.
retrospectively reviewed 29 December 1997
-- Helgi Briem, rasfw, Jan 2002
Not so much unfinishable as unstartable. I have refused to watch this one on principle: not because the shaven-headed Ripley dies at the end, but because the other survivors from the second film, Newt and the Marine Hicks, are casually and cynically snuffed at the start, presumably because of lack of plot room for them.
'reviewed' 29 December 1997
Newt's death (along with Hicks' death and the Evil Bishop II) negates everything Ripley went through in Aliens. The main thrust of Aliens was Ripley regaining her humanity after the tragedy on the Nostromo. She returned to Earth only to discover her family's long dead (from the director's cut) and unable to function in society (going from an XO of a long-haul freighter to a dock worker who wakes up with sweats every night). Aboard the Sulaco, she acts reclusive (not talking to the grunts when she comes out of hibernation, eating with Burke and Gorman instead of the grunts), untrusting (her reaction to Bishop), and emotionally fragile (breaking up when she tells her story to the grunts).
On LB-426, Ripley goes through a transformation. First she saves Newt, who brings out her mothering instincts (obvious in the director's cut where we see Ripley's reaction to learning of her daughter's death). She becomes romantically entangled with Hicks. She begins to trust Bishop (her trust falters then returns at the end). And she's willing to face her fears by going into the alien nest to rescue Newt.
This is a character arc. It's a very good one as far as action movies go.
The beginning of Alien 3 negates everything that happened to Ripley in Aliens. All that development is shot to hell because the filmmakers didn't try to replace Newt, and Michael Biehn didn't return. And not only were the characters not in Alien 3, they were killed in the most undignified ways possible. They weren't even awake. The autopsy scene is one of the sickest scenes (and not in a good way) in all of horror movies. The whole sequence was manipulative and exploitative.
In short, there is no Alien 3.
-- Reverend Sean O'Hara, rasfw, June 2001
The usual slime- and blood-fest: a bunch of stupidly arrogant scientists are trying to breed the aliens on a laboratory spaceship; something goes wrong and the aliens escape, to pick off the cast one by one; can Ripley save the day again? But there's a twist: Ripley isn't really Ripley, she's just clone number 8 of the real Lt. Ellen Ripley who died some 200 years earlier, she's not precisely human, and it's not quite clear just who's side she's on...
A much simpler plot than 1 or 2, this is basically just a straight-line race to safety through a dark, damaged, alien-infested spaceship. But there are enough minor twists along the way to make it interesting, the sfx are good (especially the underwater aliens, but I don't think terrified humans could really hold their breath for that long), and there are some great one-liners (mainly from Ripley). This time around the director makes no attempt to downplay Sigourney Weaver's height; she towers over most of the rest of the cast (especially Winona Rider), and looks suitably capable of ripping out alien throats single handedly.
reviewed 29 December 1997