Aliens: The Returnby James Cameron, celebrates 36 years of its premiere and it is still a powerful and intelligent film that surpasses the original in many respects. The above may seem like an exaggeration with Alienby Ridley Scott, turned into a classic, but it is an in-depth look at the genre.
Where Scott opted for clever camera tricks and unbreathable tension, Cameron did so with spectacularity. In addition to delving into a newborn universe that he endowed with a vibrant aesthetic that is still dazzling. Between the two films there is a reformulation of the central approach that made something clear: it was an evolution.
One that made Scott’s mysterious, claustrophobic, and fearsome concept turn into something more forceful. For better or for worse, Cameron’s decisions gave the Alien franchise its own identity. And they did it under the understanding of the power of a story that he was much more than his monster capitulate.
Cameron was the first to understand that while the nameless alien monster was the most striking part of the plot, it was not the most important. Or not at least when speculating on the power of Alien as a franchise to dialogue with an avid sci-fi audience. With the premise of the incomprehensible and indestructible monster that they had already used in Finishedr, Cameron endowed Alien of great ambition.
For Scott, intergalactic danger was twisted, mysterious, and inexplicable. But for Cameron it all boiled down to a battle for survival in an increasingly spectacular setting. If currently the franchise of Alien still arouses interest is thanks to Cameron and his interest in the human in the saga. Beyond a violent monster, Alien is also the story of those who confront him and fail.
‘Aliens: the return’, a battle to survive
One of Cameron’s big decisions in Aliens: The Return was to create the conditions for the universe of the film to grow. While Alien Scott’s was a silent, suffocating reflection on terror, Cameron bet on action.
And he did so with the conscious perception that the alien creature Giger created was much more than a well-constructed camera stunt. For Cameron, the eyeless alien was an expression on the confines of galactic horror. So he opened up the blueprint for his way of life, what he could do, his ruthless elegance, and what kind of ruthless enemy he could be.
He also analyzed the fact of the cast. In the original film, the corporate conspiracy, the fear of the different and the group of apparently expendable characters gave birth to a circumstantial heroine. Ellen Ripley survived, but only because she was the most resourceful and the most aware of the danger she had to go through.
Cameron asked himself the question in Aliens: The Return about what made Ripley a character capable of taking on such a creature and succeeding. And with Sarah Connor as a role model, he created a structure of power and ability that gave Sigourney Weaver’s character a whole new dimension.
She was no longer a random or accidental survivor, but a powerful character who used fear as a deadly weapon. Ripley awoke from a 57-year-old dream to find that her worst fears had come true. And he faced them in the middle of a futuristic and powerful scenario in which Cameron allowed his character to grow at all levels.
That despite criticism about how Cameron abused Ripley’s maternal instinct appeal on Aliens: The Return to take the character to his best scenes. In the extended version of the film, and in which edited footage is included, the message is much more powerful. Also more congruent with the film’s performance as a sequel.
Ripley is not just an item rebuilt to be a powerful foe to a relentless creature, she is also a mother. The director’s cut includes the relationship with his daughter, which makes his behavior in the footage understandable and more emotional.
Even more interesting is the fact that Cameron endowed Ripley with the same iron toughness that Sarah Connor would later have. Between the two there is a common thread: the notion of existence beyond themselves. And especially, a fighting objective that completely humanizes the character.
A triumph of science fiction
While Alien of Ridley Scott became an instant classic thanks to his handling of horror, Cameron toasted Aliens: The Return can. One that broke with the pessimism of the original film to add urgency.
While Scott’s characters died one by one in rapid succession, Cameron’s characters fought the enemy. The battle took the argument to a new level and the perception that the saga Alien it could be so much more than a butcher shop. And while Cameron’s movie indeed is, it is also a futuristic struggle with characters trying to find a way to face fear.
Alien Ridley Scott set the bar high for anyone trying to emulate his success. Cameron managed to give science fiction a radiant moment. With Ripley battling relentlessly for her life, that of others, and for her redemption, she opened the way for portentous heroines.
The combination of both made the sequel a momentous event. The birth of a franchise that even in its worst moments pays an enthusiastic tribute to genre cinema.