Picks and Pans Review: Aliens

updated 07/28/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/28/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

So much for the theory that sequels never equal the original. Director James (The Terminator) Cameron has expanded and improved on Ridley Scott's 1979 smash, Alien. Guaranteed to knock the wind and wits out of you, the follow-up is more than just scary. Try stylish, rousing and amusing for starters. Sigourney Weaver, a warrant officer on the first trip of the spacecraft Nostromo, is the only cast member to return. She and her cat were the only survivors of an alien attack on the ship's crew, which included Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright and John Hurt. Most people remember Hurt best since the alien burst angrily out of his stomach to wreak bloody carnage. Be warned that Cameron repeats that effect and takes it a few steps further. Effects expert Stan Winston, who worked with Cameron on The Terminator, has designed the meanest, mangiest, slime-drippingest creatures to ever inhabit a moviegoer's nightmares. But to reveal more would spoil the fun (yes, these stomach-churners are a hoot for some of us). Let's just say that Weaver has made it home after 57 years. Don't worry, she still looks gorgeous, having whiled away the years in suspended animation. She returns to the alien-infested planet of Acheron because sneaky Paul (Diner) Reiser tells her that families have moved there with no idea of the danger. So Weaver (sans cat) jumps on board with a new crew, who carry sophisticated weapons but trade the kind of quips you hear in old Westerns and WWII combat films. "Saddle up," says one. There's a love interest for Weaver in the personable Michael Biehn, also from The Terminator, and a charmer of an abandoned child (Carrie Henn) for Weaver to mother. Nothing new here except the clever way Cameron uses humor and heartbreak to get the audience rooting for Weaver. Despite the competition from the hardware, Weaver comes through with a spirited, knockout performance that dominates the film. Her final duel with the alien queen would shame Rambo. If you want your juices stirred by experts, leave Aunt Nellie home and check out Aliens—a sure bet to be the class-act thriller for many summers to come. (R)

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