Friday, November 5, 2010

1987 Hugo for Dramatic Presentation, 1986 Saturn – ALIENS

The return of James Cameron, as the future “king of the world” wins his first Hugo. I wish this happened more often with science fiction sequels: bring in a talented director with his own distinct vision who will take the franchise in a new direction while remaining faithful to the original material. We move from Ridley Scott’s claustrophobic horror film to a big action epic. This is also the best translation of military sf, and the mood or Starship Troopers, to the big screen.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakes from stasis following her horrific experiences in the first film into a world decades beyond her own time (Relativity!). Her employers, the greedy Company, debrief her but seem dubious of her claims. But, when they lose contact with a distant colony, they worry that the creature Ripley encountered may have struck again. A Company representative (a very slimy Paul Reiser) and Ripley join up with a tough group of space marines to check the situation out. The marines, both male and female, are tough and confidant, and Ripley warns them that they’re in over their heads. After a few encounters with a colony full of the aliens, they begin to get the point.

This is one of the great science fiction films: it’s well thought out, action packed, the effects are great and have aged well, and yet Cameron still takes time for character moments (and Weaver gives the performance of her career). It’s a completely different movie than its predecessor, but just as good. This is the last time I’ll be discussing the Alien franchise*: Alien 3 also garners a great director with David Fincher (Fight Club), but it’s early in Fincher’s career and he’s saddled with a weaker script that quickly jettisons the status quo established in this film – the results are much less satisfying. The fourth film is almost universally detested, though I don’t mind it as much as most – it’s a mediocre sf film that just looks really bad in comparison to the first two films.

*unless the prequel in development somehow actually manages to 1) get made, and 2) be good.

Grade: A-

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