Aliens is a surprising sequel in that it takes the story in a more action oriented direction. Credit goes to director James Cameron who turns a sci-fi slasher film into a tense thrill ride that is brimming with action and bolstered by strong performances from its main cast. If the first film is the scariest then this is the best and longest.
In an almost heart breaking twist Ripley is rescued after floating around in space for nearly sixty years. Shortly afterwards she returns to LV-426 with a group of heavily armed marines to wipe out the Aliens once and for all. Predictably things quickly go south after they land. While the numerous action sequences are undeniably well directed and entertaining it is slightly upsetting that the story trades atmosphere and slow build up for jumps scares. On the other hand the film turns this to its advantage by providing far more encounters with the Aliens which are much more exciting than before. One of the best moments is the final battle which tops the spine tingling climax of the original.
The visual style has changed a bit from last time, but is more or less the same. The Aliens remain untainted by CGI and because of this they look far more believable. The suits worn by the stuntmen were made more flexible to expand on the creatures aggressive movements. The Facehuggers and Alien eggs are just as good as before due to the fact that their design has not changed and are also animatronics. Miniature models were used for shots of the colony on LV-426 which brings back memories of the models from the Star Wars films. The Alien Queen is unbelievable. It is a fourteen foot puppet that was controlled by puppeteers, control rods, hydraulics, cables and a crane. Needless to say it looks utterly amazing.
The acting is even better this time and the characters are just as sympathetic and infinitely more badass. Sigourney Weaver has improved which is surprising because of how good her performance was in the first film. Ripley goes through some development which turns her into a more heroic figure. Corporal Hicks, portrayed by Michael Biehn, is the best of all the marines and the scenes between him and Ripley are some of the best in the film. Paul Reiser is excellent as the deceptive Carter Burke who has a ghastly agenda. Lance Henrikson is one of the most likable of the whole cast. He takes up the role of the android Bishop with precision which matches the rest of the cast. Carrie Henn is remarkably good as the survivor named Newt. Considering that she had no previous acting experience it is amazing just how good she is and she deserved the award she received for her performance.
It is generally accepted that most sequels are nowhere near as good as the original film. Aliens, however, is a great example of a sequel which defies all expectations and delivers an excellent story and more action than you could ask from an Alien film. The first film may be the scariest, but Aliens is and always will be the best.