Ripley After Ridley

Whatever happened to James Cameron? The “Aliens” director hasn’t done anything major since “Titanic.” That was back in 1997. Did he make so much money that he can afford a whole new world other than the one we, poor ones, share? Well, I sort of miss him. While I watched this movie, I was reminded what a technically skilled filmmaker he is (or was?).

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the sole survivor from the previous film, wakes up 57 years later to horribly find that the alien planetoid is being colonized by humans. She is sent with a bunch of gung-ho soldiers when the planetoid is suddenly incommunicado. Was the colony attacked by the aliens? Well duh. Among the supporting cast I only recognize two. Paul Reiser (of “Mad About You”) plays a corporate sleazebag and Bill Paxton fools around as the self-proclaimed badass who can be annoyingly funny.

This movie is like the role model for all sequels. Like the stunning “Spiderman 2”, this sequel builds on the original rather than simply recycling it. “Aliens” has its own originality but wisely retains the familiar but effective methods of its predecessor. The special effects have improved and the aliens even look more menacing in numbers. And the third act of the film memorably drains your energy even if you’re only sitting down. The conclusion is quite satisfying because it brings so much relief. The movie’s high level of suspense and tension can only be endured briefly.

The definite turn-offs of the movie are the 1980s vibe and lingo. It’s the only thing that makes the film feel outdated. I don’t think sampling Spanish words and hinting Latinos are illegal aliens will be all the rage of the future. The movie also falls into what I call “The Jack Bauer Problem”. Ripley is like Jack Bauer in “24” in the way her gut instincts are always right. It’s like the character read the script ahead of time. Maybe she’s unconsciously a psychic – now that’s a rage of the future I could believe.

Grade: A