Monday, May 28, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Aliens (1986) ****

R, 137 min.
Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill, Dan O’Bannon (characters), Ronald Shusett (characters)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henricksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, William Hope, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston

“Aliens” is proof that the Hollywood way is the wrong way. Generally when Hollywood makes a sequel, they do everything they can to repeat the same formula exactly the way it worked with the first film. It’s true that when audiences go into a sequel there are certain things they expect to see. With “Aliens” we needed to see some facehuggers, some chestbusters, acid for blood, and Sigourney Weaver being a tough-ass bitch.

James Cameron is a smart filmmaker. He gave us those things, and he changed just about everything else. There is one other element that he kept, which Hollywood might’ve discarded. He kept it about the company putting human lives at risk for the sake of profit and speculative investment. But, everything else he changed.

Instead of a patient, terrifying thriller, he turned Scott’s foundation into a special effects action flick. While this genre change would ruin most franchises, Cameron made it work for what Scott had built. He replaced blue-collar workers working for a dollar with Marines who know they’re working for the man. He put the company man in the action and he made the artificial human a sturdy anchor, rather than the wild card. He gave us hundreds of aliens, instead of just one. And, most dramatically he inserted a second thematic element, that of motherhood, which plays out for the heroine and for the aliens.

About a month ago, Cameron became the first man to spend seven hours at the deepest depth of the ocean any man has ever been. In an interview at that time, he was asked about this summer’s “Alien” prequel “Prometheus”. Directed by that film’s original director, Cameron was quick to point out that he and Ridley Scott had discussed the possibility of Cameron directing the sequel to the prequel. Such collaboration between two franchise directors would be unprecedented. He spoke of it as if he had Scott’s blessing and that both of them had definite directions they wanted a sequel to go in Cameron’s hands. Seven years passed between “Alien” and “Aliens”, from what Cameron has said, it will probably be another long break in between movies because his plate is currently full with “Avatar 2”. But this fan couldn’t be more excited about such a prospect. 

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