Monday, October 25, 2010

"Get Away From Her, You Bitch!" part 1

The first two movies of the Aliens series, or, as I like to think of them, the ONLY two movies of the Aliens series, are both modern sci-fi masterpieces as they explore themes of corporate greed, humanity, and motherhood. I love these movies, and I'm helpless not to re-watch them anytime they're in front of me.

They're two very different movies, of course. The original 1979 Ridley Scott film follows the crew of the Nostromo mining and salvage ship in their struggle (and eventual failure, for the most part) to survive after picking up an alien life form. They pick up what might be an SOS signal and they land on an unexplored planet, LV-426. They do, indeed, find a crashed spaceship there, but it's not human. One of the men gets close to a large egg-like pod which opens and attaches a parasite to his face. He's taken back to the ship for treatment where we learn that Ripley is a complete bitch when she invokes quarantine and won't allow the stricken man back onto the ship. She's absolutely right, of course, but the rest of the crew is not amused. Attempts to remove the strange alien creature are unsuccessful. It eventually falls off on its own, but unbeknownst to the crew it has implanted an egg down the man's throat. Soon after, the second stage of the alien's odd lifecycle appears, literally bursting from the man's chest to disappear into the bowels of the ship. From there, it soon grows to full-size - a sleek black horror with its elongated skull, taloned claws, spearlike tail and vicious protruding inner-jaws. If all of that's not more than enough to kill a ship of seven miners, it has incredibly corrosive acid for blood. It's an unrelenting hunter that stalks the crew as they attempt to stalk it, picking them off one by one until only Lt. Ellen Ripley (played by one of the first true action heroines, Sigourney Weaver) survives. She ultimately sets the ship to explode, blasts her lifepod into space, and then in a final battle with the alien kicks it out an airlock. The whole film was more horror/sci-fi than anything else, made with a pervasive sense of dread beginning with the opening camera shots walking through the deserted ship and culminating with the alien right inside the lifepod with Ripley.

The 1986 movie Aliens, by James Cameron, is more of an action/sci-fi, with less fear of the unknown and more blowing stuff up. In the sequel, Ripley's lifepod is found floating through space some fifty years after the events of the first film. She's brought before a board of inquiry and found incompetent as an officer for her negligence in destroying the Nostromo. The board assumes she must have invented the story about the alien since there's been a colony on LV-426 for years with no sign of any alien life forms. Her employer, the mega-company Weyland-Yutani, cuts her loose, but its unscrupulous employee Burke (Paul Riser) isn't above sending an expedition to the coordinates where the Nostromo crew found the crashed ship, just in case. After all, a creature like the alien would be worth a fortune to Weyland-Yutani's bio-weapons division. A hapless family drive out from the colony in their land-rover and soon, before the eyes of their screaming daughter Rebecca (nicknamed Newt), the father is hauled back inside with an alien creature stuck to his face. The fate of the colony is sealed - before long, it loses contact with Earth. The Company decides to send an expedition force of Colonial Marines to find out what happened and set things right, and Burke wants Ripley along as an adviser. She reluctantly agrees, and soon she's back flying through space, this time with a team of high-adrenaline testosterone-junkies carrying every sort of weapon you'd want.They explore the colony looking for the missing colonists and all too soon they find them - cocooned into the walls around the base of their base's fusion reactor, waiting to be hosts for generations of new aliens. The hideous alien guards attack, wiping out half the marines in minutes. The remainder retreat back to the operations center, but there's a problem: their gunfire pierced the base's coolant system, and the reactor is going to overload. Complicating matters, the aliens are coming after them in swarms and the drop-ship needed to get them back safely into space has been destroyed. They hatch a plan to remotely call down a second drop-ship, but the aliens overwhelm their defenses and kill most of them before they can reach the landing-zone. Only Ripley, one Marine (Michael Beihn) and their android Bishop (Lance Henrickson) survive to reach the dropship. In the process, Ripley loses Newt, the young girl whose father was the first victim and who was found hiding in the bowels of the base. Ripley is determined to go back down to the base and rescue her in the few minutes remaining before the reactor goes nuclear. The Marine, Hicks, is too injured to help, so she arms herself and goes down alone. As the base collapses around her, Ripley finds Newt only to encounter the alien hive-mother, who pursues her up to the surface and even manages to hitch a ride on the drop ship. The queen tears Bishop in half and nearly kills Newt before Ripley appears in her iconic yellow power-loader, utters her classic line, "Get Away From Her, You Bitch!", and wrestles her out an airlock, ending the Alien threat once and for all. (Yes, I said 'once and for all'! I am pretending the further sequels don't exist, because they suck.)

Okay, so that's what the movies were about. But what were the movies about? Tune in tomorrow for my analysis of three key themes.

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