The debate of “which is better – Alien or Aliens?” is a subject that still burns on, fuelled by hardened fan sites and contested unequivocally between film buffs that prefer either their pulse set to racing, or pulse set to pulse rifle. This afternoon, at the Royal Albert Hall, no such questions exist. It’s all about Aliens. Today is the cherry on top of a year that has seen Aliens celebrate its 30th anniversary in some style. Aliens: Live. What makes this iteration of Aliens on the big screen so special and thrilling is the backing of a full orchestra, performing James Horner’s iconic score to full tilt. At such a prestigious and grandiose venue, it’s the perfect marriage to remember the late, great James Horner (1953-2015) and appreciate just how bloody phenomenal Aliens is as a movie. So, is it any good? Or more fittingly, does it still hold up? For those uninitiated with the adventures of Ellen Ripley, it’s been 57 years since the events of the first movie. Not much has changed for Ripley. She’s been drifting through space in cryo, having self-destructed the ship of the first movie and escaping on a lifeboat (small shout out to the Alien she “blew out of the goddamn airlock”). But when she’s found and woken up, she’s a bit disgruntled to learn that the dark and dangerous planet she and her crew set down on in the first movie has been colonised. Cue lost contact. Cue colonial marines. The rest is best described as an express elevator to hell.One thing is for sure, defining Aliens success can’t be deciphered to a single component. After all, it was a film nominated for 7 academy awards. Observing the crowd this afternoon and reflecting partially on Alien 3’s reception, the characters are absolutely stand out. Bill Paxton’s blue-collar stand-up portrayal of roughneck Hudson hits every. Single. Time. His quips are received like that of a joke heard for the first time. Hicks (Michael Biehn) effortlessly radiates ‘cool’; Bishop (Lance Henrikson) atones for a certain android’s malfunctioning in the original film, going some way to reversing the android stigma. James Cameron’s script is so fleshed out, no character is left underdeveloped. The atmosphere was palpable in latter scenes between Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Newt (Carrie Henn); the Royal Albert Hall audience having foresight that things didn’t quite work out as one’s film conscious mind might envision.
“One thing is for sure, defining Aliens success can’t be deciphered to a single component”
Remarkably, Aliens effects are as impressive today as they were in 1986. Naturally, miniatures are distinguishable from full-scale sets and some of the blue screen is, you know, a product of the time. However, the marquee moment of the film encapsulates a timeless final act. Ripley vs the Alien Queen in the mother of all cinematic battles. Preceded by “Bishop’s Countdown”, which James Cameron notes in the programme “most hold some record for the number of times it was used in movie trailers and temp scores”; the finale continuously tightens its grip until the final notes of Horner’s “Resolution and Hyperspace” releases you. Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the Oscar-nominated score is as riveting as it’s even been. And as a theatrical experience, they don’t come much more wholesome than Aliens.ALIENS: LIVE has finished its current tour, but for tour information and dates head here