Previously: The costumes of Alien. Part 1: Uniforms and characterisation, and Part 2: Space suits, retrofuturism, and Prometheus.
Each film in the Alien quadrilogy is so different that it makes me wish they'd continued to make sequels in a whole bunch of other genres -- Western, romantic drama, buddy-cop movie, you name it. Alien is the tense, slow paced thriller of the series; Aliens is the bombastic Vietnam war-movie blockbuster. As reigning overlord of American action/sci-fi cinema from Terminator to Avatar, James Cameron's vision of an Alien sequel was to take Ripley and plant her in a scenario that involves as many loud and deadly weapons as possible. Unlike the ungainly and slow-moving ore refinery Ripley works on in the first movie, even the spaceship in Aliens looks like a gun.
|Ripley, Hicks, and the Sulaco.|
|"The risk always lives."|
|Private Hudson's body armour.|
|Burke visits Ripley and Jonesy at the Gateway Station hospital.|
For all that Aliens is a film about soldiers, the fact that Ripley isn't a soldier is her main asset. Viewing the xenomorph threat both as a civilian and as the only person who's encountered one before, she's the only character aside from Newt whose priorities aren't skewed by military conditioning or personal geed. Sigourney Weaver herself is very much anti-gun, which I think shines through in Ripley's character. For all that she ends up brandishing a flamethrower, she's someone who, after finding out that she can keep her head in a crisis and survive through tremendous violence and destruction, gets a job driving power loaders rather than pursuing a life of heroism.
|Ripley at her debriefing session on Gateway Station.|
|"Real strength and unpredictability comes from not having an obvious weapon." -- Sigourney Weaver.|
Finally, I can't help but post this: