For the penultimate episode of Hit Me With Your Best Shot's second season (the finale is Rebel Without a Cause next Wednesday, join us) we're venturing into the Alien franchise, Aliens (1986) to be specific for its 25th anniversary (this coming Monday). We'll be spilling some acid blood, ducking into airshafts, doubting synthetic humans, and flame-throwing with Lt. Ellen Ripley a few times this week to celebrate. Yay, theme weeks!
Though Sigourney Weaver's iconic "Ripley" is the the franchise's true star (H.R. Giger's alien beasties are formidable but only runners-up; you know that's true!), one of the most commendable things you can say for Aliens (1986) is that James Cameron understands the importance of a strong ensemble and the value of teamwork. Many blockbuster franchises spin around one seemingly indestructable protagonist and though that's true here as well, the team around the good lieutenant never gets short-shrift. There's a brilliantly paired set of shots midway through the picture when Hicks and Ripley have just lost adopted daughter surrogate "Newt". Hicks rescues Ripley, dragging her to safety and then she rescues him in return when alien blood splatters on his chest plate and she drags him to their next destination.
Cameron has often been lauded for promoting women to lead duties in action pictures, but isn't it really only that he tends to balance the masculine and feminine throughout, rather than the far more common and totally lopsided cinematic impulse (i.e. heroic "doer" men and the decorative women that are there to be rescued or supportive or both). What's more, Cameron's action heroines are never just men in drag -- note this great shot of Private Vasquez (Cameron regular Jenette Goldstein) prepping her huge gun for war. It's hard not to miss her large breasts, especially since the shot begins with a closeup of them and they aren't taped down (Contrary to Mr. Lucas's famous edict, there will be jiggling in outerspace). Earlier in the picture a fellow marine asks Vasquez if she's ever been mistaken for a man. Her simple inverted quip "No, have you?"
But given Ripley's place in the sci-fi and action pantheon it's fitting that the film peaks with its most female-centric setpiece: Ripley with her new child ("Newt") in her arms enters the lair of the Queen alien who is surrounded by her children; the room is littered with her violent egged babies, like sentient grenades just waiting for their pins to be pulled. Ripley begins to back away, after what amounts to a face/off and stand down with the Queen until one egg hatches and she realizes what she must do.
This shot, one of the most iconic close-ups of 80s cinema and maybe all of film history, is the climax of the mostly silent standoff between this franchise's two queens, underscored less by movie music than by their mutual heavy breathing. It's all in the steamy exhaustion, Ripley's heroic impulses, and that Oscar worthy head tilt from Sigourney Weaver.
10 Fellow Colonists
- The Red-Headed Invasion hands, reaching out, touching you
- Tom Clift The moment when Ripley becomes.
- Okinawa Assault it's all in the art direction
- Film Actually 'the shit hits the fan moment' ...nightmares!
- Movies Kick Ass mommy metaphors
- Dark Eye Socket "payback time"
- Intifada "sharp sense vs. tantrums"
- Awards Nazi it still gives me shivers
- Awww, the Movies mother and child
- Oncoming Hope Ripley as Gaia