Quick Bit: ‘Aliens’ (1986) and the Exo-Suit Fight Moment
Film: Aliens (1986)
What it’s About: A sequel to Ridley Scott‘s space/horror film Alien (1979), Aliens follows Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) return to Earth, only to head back to LV-426, the planet where the first alien was discovered, as the colonists there are not responding to communications due to the swarm of Xenomorphs that have overrun the facility.
Quick Bit: Ripley travels to the outpost with a squad of highly-trained marines, who prove no match for the devastating powers of the creatures. On the planet, they also find a little girl named Newt (Carrie Henn), the only survivor of the entire colony. In this scene, Ripley has rescued the girl from the compound, and along with Bishop (Lance Henrikson), an advanced human-like android, make it back to the orbiting space ship, barely escaping a nuclear blast from the failed power core on the planet. Unfortunately, the Queen mother of the beasts has stowed aboard and is not too happy about the events on the planet, having seen many of her eggs incinerated by Ripley. Time for a showdown. Strapping herself into a massive re-enforced exo-suit cargo-loader, Ripley emerges into the loading bay as the alien nears the unprotected child and calls out to the frightful monster with one of cinema’s greatest battle cries: “Get away from her, you bitch!“
Why it Matters: Written and directed by James Cameron, the entire film is a masterpiece of action and pacing. Cameron has always been good at setting up his best sequences, and does so here as well, providing an earlier glimpse at Ripley in the suit at the start of the mission, hinting at her abilities and their use later in the film. That comes to fruition in this thrilling finale as the resourceful Ripley refuses to give up, and after an already lengthy set-piece back on the planet, continues the fight up in space. With the brilliant introduction of the exo-suit and the brief peak at Ripley in it from before, audiences are straight away familiar with the device and feel a great sense of satisfaction at seeing its return. An already empowered female character, she basically becomes a superhero in this wildly exciting fight that pits her against a far more aggressive species that would easily dispatch her without the suit. What Cameron cleverly does though, is mirror the beast in the machine, giving it exaggerated clasping hands, like the Queen, lots of sinewy cables and fluids, like the Queen, and even a deadly spray up near the headpiece that shoots fire, similar to the secondary mouth that fires out of the creature. There is also no music in the entire fight, with only the hissing and howls of the monster matching the mechanical whirs and whines of the machine she is fighting echoing her throughout. But nothing beats Ripley in the suit making her way to the fighting ground. It’s a brilliant moment and a memorable, influential image.
James Cameron (story), David Giler (story)
Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn