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Aliens is one of my favourite movies ever. It stands right up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as one of the all-time classics of science fiction films, both on its own and as a sequel to Alien.
There's a lot in here that makes it work as a film. Almost every scene has something memorable, from the board meeting at the beginning to the final showdown with the Alien Queen. The characters all play their roles brilliantly, with both Ripley and the Marines serving as audience surrogates- Ripley for fans of the first film, and the Marines for viewers who are just jumping in now. Ripley is both familiar and unfamiliar with certain aspects of the situation. The Marines are endearing and deliciously quotable, which makes their being slaughtered later on all the more difficult to watch. The special effects are fairly impressive for the 1980s, and still hold up thirty years on. The Alien Queen in particular is an incredible sight to behold, and the practical effects make it feel all the more real.
Whilst Sequel Escalation is not always a good thing, Aliens is more subtle about it that most other examples, using the concept of the xenomorph established in Alien to explore new, though tangentially related, ideas. Alien was largely about sexual assault, and whilst the Freudian imagery is still present, Aliens features a chilling commentary on masculinity that remains relevant across cultures and decades, but in terms of how it addresses those themes, is embedded in the Cold War. Hudson's claim to being the 'Ultimate Badass' based on technological superiority is the exact mindset that led to embarrassment in The Vietnam War. The fact that the Marines, for all their bravado, are subservient to Weyland-Yutani, echoes the role of the Military-Industrial Complex in many aspects of the Cold War. Add this to the fact that women play an important role in both the narrative and the setting, makes Aliens a rare example of a feminist action movie.
TL;DR: Aliens is awesome. If you haven't seen it already, then it's been almost thirty years- you have virtually no excuse not to watch it.
Unless you're not a fan of science fiction, action or horror. That's fine.
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