Having not watched this movie in a long while, and actually not having seen the extended special edition at all; with the recent purchase of the Alien Quadrilogy box set, I thought I’d give it a look.
James (Terminator 2, Titanic, True Lies) Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action movie is the follow up to Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien, and turns a slow-burning horror movie into a gung-ho marines in space testosterone-fest. Sigourney Weaver’s iconic heroin Ellen Ripley wakes up 57 years after the first film, only to discover that a colony of settlers on the same planet that the alien was discovered originally, have ceased communication. Knowing that something may have gone horribly wrong, she leads a band of tough, cocky Marines on a search and rescue mission, only to come face to face with a nest of the deadly, vicious xenomorphs – and a battle for survival commences.
What makes this such a memorable movie is a great cast, with Weaver joined by Cameron regulars Michael Biehn & Bill Paxton, as well as a stand-out Lance Henrickson as android ‘Bishop’. Now compared to much sci-fi or any action movie of the time, this is all played VERY seriously, with a gruelling 2hr 35 minute run time, but the story and the atmosphere is solid stuff and I personally never got bored. Ok, it takes a while for the action to kick in, but by this time we’re already hooked by the characters and their situation, and the pyrotechnics are just the icing on the cake. This extended version adds some back story to little girl ‘Newt’ and some references to Ripley’s daughter, but don’t really make for a radically different film so if you’ve only seen the theatrical cut…you’re still seeing the best this movie has to offer – and the ending is stuff of cinematic legend.
I have to admit, director Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City) plays to the little boy in me and the movies that I would make if I had a hotshot Hollywood career – I mean hey, I’ve written stories that would so suit his sensibilities – that of throw it all at the screen and hope that something sticks, whilst adding lashings of babes, guns and gore.
Planet Terror formed one half of the disbanded ‘grindhouse’ project that bombed in America, not because the two films weren’t good – they certainly boast plenty of energy and ideas – but as a double feature, such energy was obviously too much for a modern movie lover’s taste not brought up on exploitation films that formed much of Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s miss-spent youth.
Here we get a solute to those 70s cheap thrill vehicles (complete with grainy image quality) with a virus outbreak turning the population of a small town into flesh eating zombies and a band of desperate survivors team up to battle the hoards. To explain the story beyond it being your usual zombie apocalypse bullshit, would be pointless because there’s so many nutty ideas and over-the-top mad action here that often you forget what the plot is and just sit back and enjoy the ride! We get a girl with a machine gun for a leg! (the mouth watering Rose McGowan), a lone drifter who just happens to be bad-ass with guns & knives (Freddy Rodriguez – no relation), a hate-filled husband & wife doctors (Josh Brolin on menacing form, and Heather Graham look-a-like Marley Shelton playing every guys idea of a hot momma) and tons of gore, ripped apart bodies, nudity, explosions and a brilliant guitar theme playing throughout.
So really its as simple as this – if you like your movies to hit you smack in the face but also make you laugh and cheer – this is going to make your day.
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