Aliens ★★★★½

“All right, sweethearts, you heard the man and you know the drill. Assholes and elbows!”

So far as being a sequel, Aliens gets just about everything right. Structurally, the piece is similar enough to the original that its beats and events seem familiar but the style, setting and tone are shaken up in a dramatic enough fashion that it forged its own identity entirely. Alien was a chilling, horror experience where its sequel is firmly an action thriller, and a really good one at that. All that being said, the similarities in plotting could be seen as a fatal flaw since there were more than a few times when Aliens failed to captivate and thrill me the way I think it intended too because it was too similar to its original. 

One area in which Aliens is an improvement, however, is in character. The leading ensemble of this picture prove much more memorable and interesting to watch than the largely nondescript team of scientists and surveyors from the original. Don’t get me wrong, I love that first film but the character work is certainly pretty thin and archetypical at its best for me. 

The pacing of Aliens was ultimately something I have mixed feelings about too. On the one hand, I enjoy how much time to breathe the audience is allowed and the brilliant world-building that seamlessly carries over from the ‘79 film to this. On the other though is that constant urge to shuffle in your seat, waiting for the team to stop sitting around and for the next alien attack. This is not nearly as tense an experience to sit through as its predecessor which I think hurts it a bit in the lead-up to action sequences. Then again, the characters are much better written and generally engaging so it is a double edged sword. 

Aliens is one of the best looking films I have ever seen. Visually, this film is fucking out of this world. I adore everything about this world and the visual effects and model-work is truly some of the absolute best I have ever seen. Just phenomenal. 

Make no mistake that Aliens is a great film. It perfectly balances the style and flavour of the original and the innovations of James Cameron at the helm and comes together as one hell of a good time at the cinemas. I do ultimately prefer the original but that is by no means a slight against what this very different film is attempting, and succeeding, to do.

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