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*Also starring: Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

Director James Cameron does well with action films starring tough, strong-willed female leads. "Aliens", the long-delayed sequel to 1979's "Alien", was worth the wait since it was an ideal project for Cameron's strengths, and likely would have been a lesser film if directed by anyone else.

"Aliens" picks up 57 years after the first film left off. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been in living in suspended animation in a spaceship sleeping chamber, until rescued by a salvage team. No one really believes her story about the murderous alien with acid for blood, until contact is lost with a colony on the same planet that Ripley had battled the alien.

Ripley is sent as an advisor on a rescue mission to the planet, along with android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), creepy 'company man' Paul Reiser, and a crew of wisecracking, gung-ho Marines. They soon encounter the colony's only survivor, a little girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn). Of course, they find the aliens as well, which are disgusting, frightening and ubiquitous.

As in the first film, Weaver is most impressive as Ripley, whose character should be out of her element, but always proves to be tougher (and smarter) than those around her. Even when Ripley's actions are wildly risk-taking (especially when rescuing Newt at film's end) her actions seems credible. Credit is due first to Weaver, then to Cameron, and then to the special effects department for making those nasty aliens look so convincing.

In addition to the tense and frequent action scenes, "Aliens" is interesting for its psychological aspects. Ripley, who is a loner by nature, not only conquers the aliens, but builds for herself a substitute family. Newt becomes her daughter, Michael Biehn her husband, and Bishop her father. As in "Alien", there is a sabotaging character (Reiser). My favorite supporting character, though, is the whiner (Bill Paxton), who provides the sole comic relief. Henn acts very well for a little kid.

"Aliens" was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Weaver). Its only Oscar was for Best Visual Effects, but perhaps it should have won for the great sets (Peter Lamont, Crispian Sallis) as well.

Copyright 1996 Brian Koller

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