…With Your Best Shot: Aliens
Things aren’t as solid as they seem, pardon the expression, in James Cameron‘s Aliens, although we’ve been taught that lesson in the first film, Alien. In Ridley Scott’s masterpiece we get the breakdown of facades, each crew member suspecting each other of harboring the alien inside of them. When he finally get to see the alien that everyone is afraid of, it doesn’t look as gooey with its shiny exoskeleton.
Running opposite to the impervious behemoth of the spaceship in the original film, Cameron takes this lesson further by making the inanimate featured in the film more flexible, as if they have a life of their own. We see this in the beginning, when Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) pod thing docks into this Metropolis like port, although there’s something fluid about the pipes, or the way that mechanic arm moves as it frees Ripley from her pod. The colony planet’s suspicious too. Would you set up a colony where rock formations look like arms? Even if I was the CEO of a greedy, careless, callous company, I’d say EFF NOO!
My ‘best shot,’ or the one that captivates me the most, is the one above when the new, militaristic crew enters the colony’s gates. Metal and wires jut out of the ceiling like tentacles. You’d expect a cheap scare to come out after, that’s how eerie this place looks. This animistic structure that this depopulated colony has become foreshadows the gooey tentacles insulating the underground levels for alien egg-laying purposes. Or when the aliens are actually crawling in the ceiling on top of the soldiers. You’d think that Cameron had a termite problem while writing this script in the 80’s. Did he?
An inanimate yet uncanny object of note is also Rebecca ‘Newt’ Jordan’s (Carrie Hehn) decapitated doll head, her most prized possession. A series of attacks and escapes leads Newt and the team to some water-filled sewage area where one of the aliens kidnap her. Since she can’t holler out her ‘final’ ‘Help me, Ripley!’ in her British accent, here’s the doll doing it for her. That doll and her fake eyelashes is the second greatest actor in the history of cinema.
The humans, in turn, become more machine-like. A close-up of Ripley that make her seem uncanny, Bishop who actually is uncanny, the muscular body types of the soldiers – speaking of which, it’s strange seeing guns, installed binoculars and exposed skin on these soldiers at the same time. On that shot above, Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) isn’t ‘fully covered’ as soldiers would be in other movies about planets in outer space. And of course, the forklift Transformers-like machine that Ripley hops into that is really useful for her in one of the film’s most gratifying scenes.
Apocryphal information: my first Weaver film is not the Alien movies. Maybe it was Dave but it was most likely her turn as Lady Claudia Hoffman in that Hallmark movie Snow White: A Tale of Terror. Do you guys know what I’m talking about? This TV movie was awesome. It also had “Dawson’s Creek’s” Monica Keena as our Snow White Liliana Hoffman and Sam Neill is the oblivious father. It’s strange seeing Keena as the good girl and Weaver as the bad woman, but that TV movie cemented Weaver as an icy villain/anti-hero in other movies where I’ll watch her. Also, one of the ‘dwarves’ was a tall guy with a scar who’s also hot.
Digression! I remembered my introduction to Weaver because of the first scene, where she is Snow White. The frost covers her pod and everything. I’m not the only one who sees this, Vasquez points that out too, using the comparison to point out how ladylike she in comparison to the soldiers. I’m not sure if and how the metaphor sticks, since the original story is about a young woman’s blossoming sexuality and Freudian issues avant la lettre. Here instead, Ripley has both lost her status as a mother and is an exile. The mother alien is thus her evil mother/stepmother?
Lastly, Newt reminds me of the screaming child in The Bad and the Beautiful, both of whom remind me of young Cossette. I won’t be making more allusions.
This post is part of Nathaniel Rogers’ Hit Me With Your Best Shot series.
- Daily Dialogue — May 11, 2011 (gointothestory.com)