57 years after the events on LV426 (from the first movie, Alien), Ellen Ripley’s escape pod is found and she is revived. When she returned to Earth, she is charged with destruction of property and has been discharged. She also learns that a terraforming station has been set up on LV426. Having been found guilty of negligence, she is discharged from the company, but not before giving them a dire warning about the alien lifeform on the planet that could kill the colonists.
Her unheeded warnings come to pass as Carter Burke, a corporate manager, informs her that the colony has not responded to any of their transmissions. So the United States sends a platoon of Space Marines to investigate. Ripley is restored to spacefaring status and accompanies the Marines to LV426.
Upon landing on the planet, the Marines find a gruesome sight of colonists having been strung up in an alien substance. Along the way, they stumble across a young girl named Newt, who managed to survive the alien swarm without being infected. Before they could investigate further, the Marines are attacked and there are many casualties. With the platoon leader dead and the commissioned officer completely ineffective, Ripley moves in to rescue the Marines.
The surviving members assess the situation and prepare to evacuate the planet. Unfortunately, the aliens have also infected their drop ship and the ship crashes on the surface. Complicating the mission even further is the station itself; a reactor destabilizes, which meant that it would only be a matter of time before the colony would be destroyed in a nuclear explosion.
The marines work to get the second drop from their transport by remote, but the aliens begin to move against them. After several pitched firefights, many of the remaining marines have died. And, for some reason, Newt is kidnapped by the aliens. After the android Bishop retrieves the drop ship, Ripley arms herself with weapons and leaves to rescue Newt. This brings Ripley face-to-face with the Alien Queen, who seems to know that her burgeoning brood is about to perish in the explosion. After Ripley frees Newt, they try to escape, but Ripley decides to burn some of the Alien eggs. She then goes further by emptying her machine gun on the rest of the eggs, after which she fires her entire complement of grenades into the Queen’s birthing chamber. The Alien queen releases herself from the birthing chamber and pursues Ripley and Newt.
Ripley and Newt make it to the platform where the dropship landed, only to find that the ship is gone. The alien queen is in close proximity to their position, and Ripley has no ammunition left. As the queen appears, Bishop appears in the dropship once more. Ripley and Newt jump on board, but an explosion rocks the ship into some debris on the landing pad. The dropship manages to make a last second escape before the explosion and they fly up to the USS Sulaco.
The battle, however, is not over; Bishop is torn in half by the Alien Queen and Newt is menaced by the Queen. Ripley immediately runs to a robotic powerlifter and battles the Alien Queen. After a fierce fight, Ripley ejects the Alien Queen through an airlock.
With the Aliens finally defeated, Ripley places Newt, a barely functioning Bishop, and Hicks – the last surviving Marine, into hypersleep chambers for the trip back to Earth.
This movie was trying to say something about rampant militaristic jingoism and the evils of corporatism/capitalism. From First Sergeant Apone’s rousing pep talk to the dropship pilot’s condescension of Ellen Ripley’s involvement to Drake and Vasquez’s behavior when confronted by the aliens, these were supposed to be examples of Soldiers Behaving Badly – and how Militaristic Behavior is an Anathema.
At the same time, Cameron was also trying to say something about Corporate Capitalism, which is where the character of Carter Burke comes in. Every single action he takes is based on the corporation’s bottom line; which happens to include his attempt to infect Ripley and/or Newt with an Alien egg. However, the Corporate Bottom Line is best shown in the beginning of the movie, where the Corporation was only concerned with the fact that Ripley destroyed a multi-billion dollar space ship than with the hostile alien life-form that killed the entire crew of the ship.
However, the movie fails to make either point well. And the reason for that stems much from the next section.
Action Heroine Handwave:
It should be noted that despite the fact that Ellen is the main character and she acts with many of the qualities that are ascribed to Mary Sue characters, Ellen Ripley gets no character development whatsoever. But because it gets drowned in an orgy of bullets and horror movie evil aliens with just the right amount of mix, it gets overlooked. This also happens to be one of the characters that many people who call themselves feminist or feminist allies praise to almost no end.
Unfortunately, like nearly all of the published material featuring Strong Female Characters, this movie trades in the same racism and gender issues as their male counterparts.
There are 2 black men in this film, First Sgt. Apone, and a soldier carrying a Flamethrower.
There are also 3 women in the unit; a dropship pilot, a flamethrower soldier, and a heavy gunner named Vasquez.
The black men in the film are dead within the first thirty minutes of the film. Two of the three women in the film are dead before the first hour. None of the women besides Ripley and Newt (cute blond white kid) survive.
There are no women of color whatsoever in the Marines, according to Cameron.
Additionally, not only are there no LGBTQ characters in this movie, the homophobia and transphobia in this movie is thick enough that you can cut it with a broadsword. Most of the homophobia is directed towards Vasquez, although there are other moments in the movie where it is clear that the Marines are clearly homophobic.
And as is the case with these movies, those who are looking for Strong Female Characters to praise simply Handwave the Race!Fail and Gender!Fail issues to give praise to Ellen Ripley.
Women of Color Sidenote:
There are no Women of Color in this movie. Lt. Vasquez is played by Jeanette Goldstein. There is an exchange in the movie between Private Hudson and Private Vasquez during the briefing which Hudon cracks on Vasquez mistaking the alien hunt for an Illegal Alien hunt. This was because Jeanette dressed as a stereotypical New York Latina with big hair and an accent when she appeared for a casting call for Aliens. Cameron and crew were so taken by Jeannette’s pseudo-Latina performance that she was added to the cast.
“Liberal” Hollywood at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.
Ellen Ripley = Mary Sue
Once the Alien attack occurs and the Black Sergeant dies, I dare you to find one scene in the movie where a problem occurs that isn’t solved by Ellen Ripley.
Who decides to “charge” in and save the Marines inside? Ellen Ripley.
Who suggests to evacuate the planet and destroy the terraforming station with the transport ship’s nuclear armament? Ripley.
Who suggests to use a remote unit and pilot a second dropship to rescue them? Ripley.
There is a scene just before the aliens attack where Ripley “notices” the Marines are walking through an area that is extremely dangerous if they use their weapons. While the main purpose of this scene is to “disarm” the Marines so the aliens can eat most of them for dinner, it does seem odd that:
A] No one from the corporation provided the Marines with a floor-plan of the colony; and
B] No one from the corporation provided the Marines with any information about the nuclear reactors in the complex.
I know that this movie was supposed to make a statement about Corporate Capitalism, but even that is stretching things a bit.
Military Staffing Sidebar:
Who is the genius that decided that a transport ship does not need an actual transport pilot? Or a reserve squad on standby onboard the Sulaco?
Oh, and what contingency plan did the United States have if LV426 required a fast evacuation action? Or taken over by a hostile alien or human army? Or anything but the Aliens?
Basic stuff, yes. But for Ellen Ripley to be considered a Strong Female Character, the basic stuff had to be ignored.
If can stomach the racism, homophobia, transphobia, gender inequality, and pseudo Anti-Militarism and pseudo Anti-Corporatism, then this is a good movie. Unfortunately, it is enough to sink it for me.