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Aliens Review, Part 3

Ripley saves the day

In the previous review, we talked about how the marines confronted the alien species and things didn’t go according to plan. Ripley had to drive a tank into the complex to rescue the marines, and they tried to call in a ship to take them off the planet. However, the ship crashed, leaving the survivors stranded. To make matters worse, one of the structures providing energy to the complex was damaged during the ship’s crash, and the whole place it set to blow in four hours.

Bishop, the marines’ robot, goes to one of the facility’s satellites to call in another ship remotely, while the rest of the survivors barricade themselves in one of the complex’s rooms near the medical lab. They weld all the possible entrances into the place shut. Once this is done, Ripley tells Newt — a child who survived the aliens’ initial assault on the settlement — to go to sleep. The child does, and Ripley checks on her sometime later. The girl has been so traumatized by her experiences that she refuses to sleep on top of the tiny bed inside the medical lab. She ends up sleeping under the bed instead. It turns out this was a good decision because someone lets loose two of the parasitic aliens which try to implant eggs inside a host. These aliens had been kept in tubes for research when the settlers who’d been living in the facility were trying to understand the creatures attacking them. Ripley quickly realizes the danger and is barely able to save the girl in time. Then she quickly puts together that Burke, The Cooperation’s big wig, was the one who let the parasitic aliens out of their tubes. He wanted to implant Ripley and the girl with eggs, so he could sneak the adult version of the alien onto Earth. But before anyone can decide what to do about Burke, the aliens launch their attack, and surprise, surprise, the marines weren’t able to seal every entrance. The aliens manage to get past their barricade by climbing on the piping mounted to the roof.

Chekhov’s Gun Problem

This was lazy writing. We see the characters tediously studying the layout of the complex, looking for all the possible entrances to their chosen room. The aliens obviously had to break in so we could reach the climax of the film, but I wish the writers could’ve come up with something a little cleverer than the creatures climbing in through the rooftop. It seemed to me that would’ve been one of the first places the marines would’ve noticed. Furthermore, the writers go out of their way to point out a single access tunnel the aliens were using to move from complex to complex around the settlement. It was a choke point. If the marines were able to bait all the creatures into this single tunnel, they could’ve bombed the tunnel, and that would’ve been the end of the aliens. And honestly, I don’t understand why the writers bothered bringing up this single tunnel if they had no intention of using it in the film. It struck me as a Chekhov’s Gun problem. Chekhov’s Gun is an old theater rule which states that if you leave a gun on the stage, at some point in the play, the gun must be used. When a writer is dealing with a limited amount of time, he or she must be very selective about what details they chose to highlight. If you bring up a bunch of details that go nowhere, then you usually end up with a plot hole, because, many times, the abandoned details could be used to change the outcome of the story. Frankly, a climax where the marines faced off with the aliens in a vacant tunnel would’ve been much more compelling than the ending the writers chose to go with.

At any rate, a firefight begins, and it doesn’t last long. Everyone, except Ripley, Hicks, and Newt are picked off one by one. Bishop, who’s been directing the ship toward the planet from the satellite this entire time, manages to land the craft safely. But Newt — through of series of irritating coincidences — is kidnapped by the aliens, who wrap her in one of their cocoons so she can used as a host by their parasitic counterparts. To further complicate things, Hicks is seriously wounded as he and Ripley escape the facility and reach the ship. So, that leaves Ripley to save the little girl. She grabs a flamethrower and all the guns and grenades she can, then tells Bishop to wait for her since he’s the only one who knows how to fly the ship.

Ripley returns to the complex and manages to find Newt. She breaks her free of the cocoon, and the two begin their escape, but on their way out of the complex, they stumble across the alien queen. Ripley manages to escape by threatening the creature’s eggs, but just before she leaves, one of the eggs opens, and I’m not sure if Ripley thought the queen was going to send one of its parasitic kids after her or not. In any case, Ripley torches all the eggs with the flamethrower then throws her belt of grenades into the fire. This was a mistake in more ways than one.

The Queen and Her Hive

From a plot standpoint, it’s a mistake because the queen breaks free of the egg sack keeping her glued to her hive. From a writing standpoint, it’s a mistake because the queen breaks free of the egg sack keeping her glued to her hive! This is another personal pet peeve. I hate it when the situation is made worse by the hero. It makes the protagonist seem incompetent. You want your villain to be clever and intimidating, not lucking out because of the hero’s idiocy.

Anyway, Ripley and Newt have to outrun the queen. They manage to make it back to the ship and escape the settlement before it explodes. But just when we’re supposed to believe everything is safe, it turns out the queen managed to grab ahold of the ship. When, Ripley, Newt and Bishop are standing on the dock of the larger ship meant to take them home, the queen pops up out of nowhere and rips Bishop in half. Thankfully, he’s a robot, so this is just a bad day at the office for him. Ripley tells Newt to hide then climbs inside one of the loaders which is basically a giant robot with arms and legs. She confronts the queen. It’s a clunky but cool fight. She manages to force the queen into a pit where she jettison’s the thing into space. After that, she takes Bishop, Hicks, and Newt to their cryobeds. Then they all go back to sleep and the movie ends.

So, Aliens is much better than its predecessor. The plot remains mostly solid save for the dream sequence which really confused things in the beginning. But apart from that, the cast is fantastic, and I can see why people regard Ripley as an action hero. It’s neat to watch her rise up and become the unlikely warrior. She earns that transition, a transition which has become almost impossible for modern movies to replicate. With everything taken into consideration, I would say Aliens is worth watching. Between the first two films, the sequel is superior to the original, and is probably the real reason Alien is thought of as a classic.

Gary Varner

Gary Varner is the Assistant to the Managing and Associate Directors at the Center for Science & Culture in Seattle, Washington. He is a Science Fiction and Fantasy enthusiast with a bachelor’s degree in Theater Arts, and he spends his time working with his fellows at Discovery Institute and raising his daughter who he suspects will one day be president of the United States. For more reviews as well as serial novels, go to www.garypaulvarner.com to read more.

Aliens Review, Part 3