Who is this James Cameron guy again? Yeah, you might have heard of Titanic, the movie ‘bout the boat? No? Maybe you came across Avatar, the Pocahontasy smurf adventure on another planet? No? True Lies maybe? Terminator (either one or two)? No? You might have never heard of James Cameron, which is very unlikely, but now you should start remembering his name, because he gave the world Aliens. And I thank him for that.
What is this fuckery, asketh-you, Aliens? Did not Mistress Ellen Ripley erase the one Alien that killed all her crew on that beautiful spacecraft Nostromo except for the awesome cat? Yes, my friends, so she did, but.
We are talking Science Fiction here, dear reader, so naturally Ellen Ripley, badassest woman of all galaxy, went into hibernation and hoped for being rescued at some point. That is where the sequel takes off. She does indeed get “rescued” or rather found, only to get hit in the face by reality real hard, cause our favorite flamethrowing heroine was in hibernation for 57, yes, fifty-seven fucking years.
That is where Alien 2 that is really named Aliens starts from. It was released in 1986 and saw Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as Ellen Ripley. And that is wonderful, of course.
So Ms. Ripley was in hypersleep for 57 years. That’s pretty long and the Alien was pretty dead, so who do we have to blame for another Alien battle? You guessed it: Weyland-Yutani, our favorite evil corporation. Cause that is once again and actually some more the theme in this movie: There are huge corporations dominating our lives, and what they want is money, they don’t care about your life. Therefore we have to revisit the homely planet of LV-426 again, where the Nostromo-crew landed in the first movie and encountered all those eggs. Surprise y’all, those eggs have hatched, and they have found some unwilling hosts.
Who are those unwilling hosts exactly? Another major theme just about to hit your head: Colonialism. Bam. Just like that.
Because although Aliens does not make it explicit, the history of colonialism on our planet had a lot to do with people wanting to make a profit and detaching themselves from the inhumane aspects of it by creating companies to approach the subject matter in a more practical manner. Market oriented. And Weyland-Yutani cetainly is that, cause they wanna make sure that their colony-equipment (atmosphere-converters? Hello future, you look grim and gritty) and colonists aka their investments are safe, and even if not, that they can at least still get their hands on the alien to profit from its extraordinary physique. Which is most likely the reason they sent those colonists there in the first place. This whole thing with the colonies is an interesting issue, really. Like, what is the movie even trying to get across as a message (on an unintentional level, methinks)? Colonialism is bad because ultimately the planet/species conquered will strike back an kill us all? That is kind of the terror of the whole Alien universe: We leave the Earth and get out there just to encounter something that is going to wipe us out. Though curiously, this really is usually what the colonist does. Human history lesson one: Colonialism, we all know, is not terrible because wah-wah, poor colonists, but because colonists destroyed millions of lives and wiped out entire cultures. And may I add: this happens here as well. Ellen Ripley, though I root for her, wipes out the little home the aliens have built for themselves. Given, those aliens killed all the humans first. Honestly, I can’t even really make up my mind about that point. But interesting to keep the colonialism-thing in mind (specially if you encounter the wonderful phrase about us living in postcolonial times….).
Speaking of colonialism, where would we be without our dutiful soldiers in Aliens? Nowhere that is. In good old Blackwater-fashion we have a company that is by the looks of it dominating the globe and probably dictating politics, with its own little army of GI beef to see their interest protected. Yup, they all turn out to be cannon fodder, but even though they are basically that, the few brushstrokes that the film uses to make them characters are eerily efficient, cause after the first initial killing in the tank-car is over, I find myself caring about those GIs. And yep, good old Ellen Ripley needs them, but haha, turns out, they need her even more. We need them this time around specifically because civilians won’t cut it anymore. There are more aliens now, all the eggs seem to have hatched, with basically all colonists dead by chestbusting, thus leaving us and Ripley with her soldier-crew with a multitude of aliens that are not happy about the violent visit.
This is where the movie could have gone terribly wrong, cause the first Alien movie was so efficient and forceful since there was just one terrible creature taking them all down, but this time, the interesting thing is when we get to realize that they took the colony over, made it their own and have a social structure. The alien is not a mere killing machine, it is a living organism, a being that cares about its reproduction and the safety of its existence. And that is one awesome twist for it gives the aliens an aura of realness, all the while having terrible implications about how interstellar racism could turn out to look like.
So with the aliens being a species with social hierarchies all of a sudden, we hit another major theme. Let us label it: Mothers amongst themselves.
The aliens have a queen. She is huge and scary and constantly laying her eggs. She is also furiously protecting them, but that does not sit well with another mother in this movie, namely: Ellen Ripley. Wait, whud? Ellen Motherfucking Ripley is not technically a mother (although she apparently was, but her daughter died while she was in hibernation), but finding the colonist girl Newt she takes personal responsibility for her and places the protection of her life above all else. That directly leads us to the showdown of mothers, meaning Ripley protecting Newt and the alien queen protecting every alien and egg on that damn station. And the tricky part of it is: I’m not even sure who I’m rooting for. Granted, it is great to see Ripley single-handedly bringing down the deadliest beings in the universe, but then again, those beings are so central and interesting by now, that everytime the alien queen appears on screen I’m totally excited for what awesome plan is sitting in her ginormous head. Elevator rides? Sneaking into spaceships? Fighting against giant robots? Miss Queen is not above those things, in fact, she fucking rocks at all of that
But once more some intellectual exercise: We, the feminists we are, wonder of course: what is the message? Mothers fight mothers? That is the driving force of the universe? Whatever happened to female solidarity? Letting the kids play together? Here it is either you or me with a lot of dead babies on team alien and raging fire from intergalactic superwoman Ripley. Does that make her a feminist hero? Or does it make her an anti-feminist warrior?
Interestingly, and again barely I’d say, we have Aliens passing the Bechdel-test (Ripley and Newt) and featuring super-butch Jenette Vasquez. So basically the characters who kick ass in the baddest way possible in this movie are a) Ellen MF Ripley, b) muscle-GI Jenette, and c) Alien Queen Herself. Making it a testosterone driven action vehicle that is actually more of a chick flick.
We haven’t even talked about the good Droid yet. Bishop is a robot who, unlike his predecessor, is actually caring about the human beings surrounding him and protects them, even if it means going against the profit interests of the corporation that sent him on that mission. Ripley hates him/doesn’t trust him, but ultimately finds out, that artificial intelligence is also intelligence and not too bad. Cookies and milk for everyone, thanks to resident robot Bishop we even have four surviving characters this time around. Okay, one is terribly hurt and in a coma, the other one is an Android and broken in half, but hey, the two girls made it!
Wonder what’ll happen to them….
Did I already mention: Aliens is a fucking fantastic film. So if you haven’t seen it yet, or it’s just been too long, go and re-watch!