Whenever anyone has asked me about the idea of going back to an ex I’ve said that it’s a waste of time; I’ve always taken Morrissey’s stance and deemed it pointless to go back to the old house. Some people, girls in particular, seem incapable of moving on, never wanting to turn the page. Yet, as far as I’m concerned, going back can only ever lead to disappointment; whatever you existed at the time of the relationship is not the same you looking to return. I guess, in a way, I understand why people do it. Most people like familiarity, they find comfort in what they know [or what they think they know]. I’m not like that. I like new things, new experiences. This attitude, at least partly, explains why I feel a resistance to re-reading books or re-watching films.
A couple of days ago, however, I was with someone and we wanted to watch a movie and couldn’t come up with anything worthwhile. Then I remembered that that she had told me that she had never seen the Alien series of films. So, I suggested the second, Aliens, which, yes, I had seen before a few years ago, but, with it getting late, I was at least sure we would both enjoy it. And, y’know, I wasn’t wrong, but we enjoyed it for unexpected reasons, mainly that it is so hokey as to be fucking hilarious.
I am assuming that most people know the plot. I thought I knew the plot too, actually. Yet, I didn’t. The running time is something like 2h 10mins, and the action, by which I mean all the alien shit, the stuff that I really remembered, doesn’t kick off until well over an hour into the film. I imagine that would be frustrating for some viewers, but I found that I dug the slow build-up most of all. It’s an old trick [best utilised by Friedkin in The Exorcist] to suggest that something, some horrible presence, is out there, only to keep you waiting, for what seems like forever, for it to make its way onto the screen. Your frustration in these circumstances, or mine at least, transforms into a kind of creeping unease. I like that.
My issues with the film kicked-in around the time the marines are enlisted in order to find out what has happened to the people who had been colonising the planet LV-426 [hint: they got aliened, yo]. Anyway, these marines are like something out of Tropic Thunder. There’s a cigar-chewing black major who keeps calling his troops sweethearts, in what I think was meant to be an attempt at Full Metal Jacket style humiliation, but, instead, came across as terribly camp. There’s also a woman who could only have come out of an 80’s movie. I don’t know if you have ever seen that guy, El Vez, y’know, the Mexican Elvis, well, this girl is clearly the Latin American Rambo [Ramón?].
Add to those two a most remarkable turn by Bill Paxton, who somehow manages to be less lifelike and believable as Private Hudson than he was as Chet in Weird Science.
Honestly, this film is monstrously stupid. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the mother Alien, the Queen Bee. There’s a brilliant scene [and by brilliant I mean funny as fuck] where Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver [who, also, I might add, surprisingly cannot act for shit] appears to kind of silently bargain with the mother Alien. Let me explain: Ripley and a little girl have stumbled upon the queen bee plopping out eggs and there’s a kind of mexican stand-off. Then, Ripley notices that one of the, uh, worker Aliens is starting to creep closer and, through the use of non-verbal signals, Ripley essentially communicates to the mother Alien that she needs to tell her minion to back the fuck off. Which she does!! Marvellous, marvellous nonsense.
I don’t want to give the impression in this review that I think Aliens is bad, because I don’t. I’m sure at the time it was very impressive, certainly the special effects still look fine. And it is, despite its stupidity, a very entertaining film, and not just unintentionally [i.e. hilariously]; the pace is very good and I was always engaged. My problem is that I recalled it being a film of high quality, a kind of serious horror film in space, and that it most certainly ain’t.