Friday, March 30, 2007

Scene Gems: Ripley and Co. Run Away from Blips in 'Aliens'



James Cameron's Aliens (1986) is a great sci-fi action flick that cranks up the tension throughout and never relents. It's a sequel that matches or betters the original (although I think its an apple-and-oranges comparison), is very well-made, and delivers on every one of it's promises.

It's a cinematic fact that what you can't see is always more scary than what you can, and Aliens has a perfect device to illustrate this point. The "Motion Tracker" is a gizmo that shows movement as radar-type images. In this sequence, you don't see the monsters coming (or cheesy POV shots), only Tracker imagery and the panicked look on the actors faces as impending doom approaches. Sound design also plays a part as the Trackers emit a higher and higher pitched alarm (almost a scream) as death gets too close for comfort.

This was Cameron's first film after his success with The Terminator (1984), and he really hits this one out of the park. Not only does the guy know camerawork, atmosphere (lots of red light insinuates fear, hell, etc.), and technology, he writes great characters as well. Notice that the women are just as strong as the men, and it's Ripley that discovers what the baddies are up to, not the well-trained Colonial Marines.

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