Decidedly different from the masterful sci-fi horror original, Aliens in its own right is a thrilling action/suspense sequel that launched the series -- really re-created the series in its own image -- and took no prisoners. Boasting a colorful and memorable cast, the film hits all the right emotional notes. Sigourney Weaver owns the character Ripley, but she has plenty of talent to work off. From Michael Biehn's reluctant corporal-turned-commander to Jenette Goldstein's tough-as-nails Vasquez, to Bill Paxton's quote-making-masterpiece as doomsayer Private Hudson, to Lance Henrikson's quiet but emotional performance as the android Bishop, you feel for the characters and their hopeless situation of escaping from hundreds of Aliens.
James Cameron's ultimate strength remains in weaving memorable characters to a well-paced plot and action. (Did I mention James Horner's score is awesome?) Once caveat is that length does not necessarily make a film better, so I'll have to disagree with him that his 1991 director's cut (157 minutes) is better than the original theatrical cut (135 minutes). I have to side with the studio that the twenty minutes of footage actually serve to draw out the lengthy beginning of the film -- you don't even see an Alien until well-over an hour in. While this works in Jaws, I didn't feel it worked to make a better film here. In the original, Ridley is rescued, you get her situation, get the urgency of the colony, and bam-- we are on our way. Forty-five minutes of tension is plenty before all-hell breaks loose, but either way, Aliens still stands up as one impressive piece of action-filmmaking.