No, until a month ago, I hadn't seen Aliens. I'll be honest, I still haven't see Alien (no S), the first in James Cameron's sci-fi epic. I read the synopsis online prior to attending the Aliens screening with fellow blogger Ryan at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and honestly, I think I got the gist. These films have become so ingrained in our popular culture that I already knew almost everything I needed to know. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed finally filling this gap in my film knowledge (and on the big screen, no less.)
In the previous film, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), having survived an attack on her ship from a lone alien invader that burst through her crew-mates chest and proceeded to kill everyone (save Ripley and her space traveling cat), froze herself in suspended animation until someone found her floating through space. Eventually they do find her, and this is where Aliens picks up. Ripley has been in suspended animation for so long that everyone she knows is dead. She hasn't aged a day, though (and frankly neither did her breasts, despite the lack of bra). When she learns the company she worked for on her original trip set up a colony on the mysterious planet the weird alien called home, she pitches a fit and warns them to... well... GTFO.
They don't listen, of course.
Then, when the colony goes dark, Ripley is asked to accompany the Marines being sent in to investigate. They discover an abandoned colony, and a mysterious, feral little girl named Newt hiding in the walls. She warns them to leave, as does Ripley.
They don't listen, of course. What a bunch of dumb chicks, am I right?
Eventually, after half of the group is wiped out by what could only be described as a gaggle of aliens, they finally decide that, hey, maybe Ripley knows what she's talking about. They then race the clock to escape the planet before they are completely decimated by gigantic face hugging, spiky-tailed monsters, their queen, and a radioactive core that will explode at any moment.
The first thing to be said about Aliens is that it fancies itself a feminist film, and technically was when it was released in the 80s. While it's laughable by today's standards (or is it?), Sigourney Weaver as the action star lead was revolutionary at the time. We can feel her feminine frustration throughout the film as everyone ignores her warnings and fails to listen to her instructions even though she's right exactly all of the time (sound familiar, ladies?)
There are few other things, besides the feminine subjugation of course, that I took away after viewing (and thoroughly enjoying) this classic. First, nearly every single satirical action movie hero portrayal that I have ever seen is most likely based off of Bill Paxton's performance in this film. His gems of over-acting include "they're gonna come in here and they're gonna get us, man!" and "you're dog meat, pal!". He calls people "pal" a lot. It's some of the most enjoyable terrible writing/acting I've ever seen in my life.
I'm not even being sarcastic.
Another thing that can't be denied, of course, is the amazing advancements this film made in special effects. James Cameron, before he challenged convention with films like Titanic and Avatar, developed some seriously scary villains in this film. Even 27 years later, I was legitimately scared of these things. They're just... icky.
Finally, it's impossible to deny the fact that this film has impacted our society more than we may even realize, and I don't just mean with action movie cliches. It's easy to see how the Aliens storyline began to permeate our culture, not unlike the way George Romero's Night of the Living Dead forever wrote on the slate of zombie films for decades to come. Even one of my favourite video games, Mass Effect, borrows heavily from this film. I didn't know it when I played, but the hairs that stood up on my arms when the Collectors began harvesting humans was likely felt almost identically by audiences watching this film in 1986, 2 years before I was even born.
These are the blind spots that I really need to fill: films that, for better and for worse, have changed the face of the film industry through their innovation, guts, and undeniable star power.
Next: Jurassic Park.
... No I haven't seen Jurassic Park. Please don't take away my movie buff card.
What are your big blind spots? Check out Ryan McNeil's Blind Spot Series, and click here to see my other Blind Spots!