This foregrounds the survivor's guilt integral to the sequels, and keeps enough of Vincent Ward's concept alive (the novel low-tech texture), that I always find it easy to overlook its failures. Specifically, the thematic confusion regarding religion -- and "confusion" is charitable, as it never develops the topic once the plot proper gets underway -- has never bothered me. Mostly because this is, for all of the bruised male egos that battled through its creation, Weaver's film. Weaver as auteur has primarily been suggested regarding Alien Resurrection, but already in Aliens there are sequences that rest entirely on her performance: the descent into the nest is really a sequence of linked, highly emotive close-ups, as if Cameron realized just how powerful a star he had, and knew he could essentially turn a gooey-monster setpiece into silent cinema. This is more prevalent here, perhaps because the chaotic production diverges the other creative voices, and Ripley, being a familiar constant, naturally commands focus. Which would be boring if it weren't for the fact that Weaver manages to add layers to the character. Particularly, as she accepts her death, she develops a (somewhat metatextual) sardonic relation to her misery, so much so that she's even able to pull off the "It's a metaphor" line regarding the alien in the basement. Shades of Milla Jovovich's Alice -- and pursuant to that comparison (not original to me, of course), the development of Weyland-Yutani's omnipresent threat also adds to the oppressive atmosphere (it's easy to forget this film takes place in a for-profit prison). So, it's a very expensive clusterfuck that counterintuitively becomes a very interior film: Ripley and her traumas. It would've made perfect sense for the series to end here, with the self-immolation of its star.

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