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Superior Sequels: Alien vs Aliens

Whenever the subject comes up of sequels that are considered better than the originals, three movies tend to stand out from all the others as prime examples: Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Godfather Part II and Aliens.

Whether these films truly are better is of course a matter of opinion. It’s very rare that a sequel betters the first instalment of any franchise, usually because originality wins out every time. Still, there are a lot of sequels that many would argue are superior to their predecessors.

Over the coming weeks I’m going to be looking at some of these movies and leaving it up to you to decide which are indeed superior and which are not. I'll also be giving my opinion on the whole thing.

This week we’re gonna kick things off with one of big ones:

Alien (1979) vs Aliens (1986)

Now, its hard to compare these two films because aside from the sci-fi element they’re two very different movies. One is a sci-fi/horror, while the other is an action/sci-fi/thriller. Personally I think it’s the action and the quicker pace of Aliens that makes a lot of people favour it in this case.

Ridley Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece. It totally redefined the sci-fi/horror genre and set a benchmark for not only any sequels that might follow, but also for any other sci-fi movies of its kind.

The story, the excruciating tension that starts building right from the opening credits, the iconic creature design by H.R. Giger, and the perfect casting of Sigourney Weaver as the strong female lead character, Ellen Ripley (not to mention a fantastic supporting cast) are just a few of the things that make the movie so re-watchable even today.

The chest burster scene is arguably one of cinemas most shocking and memorable scenes, and much like the shower scene in Psycho (1960) or the “You talkin’ to me?” scene in Taxi Driver (1976), it’s one most people are familiar with even if they haven’t actually seen the movie.

The film is so good that any writer/director would have to have some serious balls to even attempt to make a sequel. As it turned out, James Cameron happens to be fairly well equipped in that department.

What’s great, not to mention clever about his 1986 sequel, Aliens is how it faithfully follows the original story and its only surviving character, but doesn’t attempt to retread the same ground. It dramatically carves its own place in the saga, and as a result is very much it’s own movie.

At the time, James Cameron was relatively unknown having only directed three movies up to that point (a short, a sequel to 1978’s B-Movie horror, Pirana, and the The Terminator just two years earlier). It’s arguably his success with The Terminator that got him the job of writing and directing the first sequel to Alien.

The story takes place decades after the events of the first film and brings back Sigourney Weaver as the protagonist in true explosive 80s fashion. It sees her return to the place it all started (planet LV-426) in an attempt to rescue a colony of terraformers who have fallen fowl of the dastardly Xenomorphs (you'll need to watch the directors cut to see how). This time around she faces off against not just one but a whole hoard of the creatures. And as if that's not enough she has the egg-laying alien queen to contend with too. She’s joined of course by a colourful bunch of Colonial Marines, none of whom are quite prepared for the threat they’re about to face.

With action scenes aplenty, a brilliant score by James Horner, a teeth grindingly tense finale and iconic lines like “Game over man, game over!” and “Get away from her you bitch!” It’s not hard to see why fans consider this sequel superior to the original.

But which is the better movie?

Personally, as good as Aliens is, I have to say that Alien is the better film. Like I said at the start though, these are two very different movies so a lot of it really comes down to personal taste or simply the mood you're in at the time. However, in terms of originality, storytelling, set design, performance and sheer tension, Alien wins every single time. It's just a masterclass in sci-fi filmmaking.

But what do you think?

Am I right or is Aliens indeed a better film than Alien?

Have your say in the comments.

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