A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the relentless, ravenous clawed monsters in Aliens, the sequel to Alien, are likely to give small kids (and others) nightmares. It's even more violent than the original. Besides the rerun of the grisly moment when embryonic aliens burst out of people (in reality and in dream scenes), we also see quick cuts of victims seared with acid, getting set on fire, and blowing themselves up with a grenade. Gunfire, bombs, and flamethrowers are directed at the aliens. Most disturbing of all -- or, at least, the most nakedly manipulative -- is the perpetual threat of ghastly violence/death/contamination directed at a frightened, screaming little girl. There's also a plethora of swearing and lots of adoring fondling of guns and high-powered weapons.
What's the story?
Revived from a coma-like state 50 years after aliens massacred her crew, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is forced to take on menial spaceport jobs in ALIENS. When communications with the new colony are lost, a slimy Company executive (Paul Reiser) convinces her to go back to the planet where the massive battle took place. Ripley sets out with a heavily armed squad of interplanetary Marines, all itching for action. At first, the colony seems deserted, except for a cowering girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But a little more searching -- and nightfall -- brings out the aliens; hundreds of jaw-snapping, fanged, acid-bleeding horrors, unafraid of guns, who cut through the panicked Marines. It's Ripley who has to take charge of the mission (and uncover yet more Company treachery) if any of them are going to get away alive.
Is it any good?
This sequel to Alien is bigger, faster, and way more amped-up than the moody, gothic-style interplanetary chills of the original. If it errs, it does so when director James Cameron insists on squeezing every last cliffhanger out of a nightmare scenario about being stranded in a remote place with a bunch of vicious, clawed creatures out to get you. Cameron conjures up a strong Vietnam metaphor (or U.S. military misadventure of your choice) in the proud, gung-ho warriors charging into battle with their fancy hardware, only to get shredded to pieces by hordes of a primitive enemy that keeps on coming. And Aliens is more than a little hard to take seriously when Ripley, forsaking even body armor, slaps together a gun-flamethrower combo and charges alone into the alien nest.
The director really seems to go over the line with the manipulation, putting the screaming little (orphan) girl in hideous peril every time the opportunity arises, and conniving to make sure that opportunity always does. Commentators love to point out, though, that both Ripley and the queen alien are essentially driven by mothering instincts -- Ripley to find a replacement for the child she lost while is suspended animation -- and they serve as mirror images of each other.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the military metaphor in Aliens; it's said James Cameron had Vietnam on his mind when he depicted a group of gung-ho Marines charging into tunnels only to get shredded to pieces by hordes of an enemy that keeps on coming. What could the characters have done differently?
What do you think of the showdown between the bereaved mother Ripley and the monstrous mother alien queen?
How do think this sequel compares with the original Alien?
- In theaters: July 16, 1986
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 1999
- Cast: Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Sigourney Weaver
- Director: James Cameron
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Great girl role models, Space and aliens
- Run time: 154 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: monster violence, and for language.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.