David on Aliens
After Ridley Scott left is indelible mark on cinema with Alien, it was only a matter of time before someone took the bait and made a sequel. Enter James Cameron, a filmmaker as subtle as an 800-pound gorilla. His greatest strength is tapping the vibe that keeps popcorn-eaters firmly planted in their seats, which often relies on the more-is-better philosophy: if one alien was scary, how about dozens of them?
Like Scott, Cameron is an admirer of strong women, so Sigourney Weaver's role would not be sullied by sexism. At the same time, he didn't shy away from high body counts, maintaining the film's sci-fi/horror crossover status, although he was more into overkill than gore. Aliens has enjoyed wide critical acclaim, a rare accomplishment for a sequel; indeed, it remains one of the highest-grossing R-rated films of all time. I believe its success lies in the fact that it (barely) avoided becoming a clone of Alien, with some welcome plot twists such as good android instead of evil android.
That said... my beef with Cameron's take on the franchise comes back to the more-is-better philosophy: more aliens are not necessarily scarier than one. Also, Cameron cast the aliens in full, strong light, whereas Scott kept it shadowed, which was far more effective. Worse, Cameron succumbed to the irresistible urge to go bigger, this time with a giant queen alien. While her fight with Ripley was certainly memorable, the queen made Cameron's motives all too transparent, which for me let all of the remaining air out of the film's tires.
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