One sequel that surpasses the original. Director James Cameron dumps the decorative effects of Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien in favor of some daring narrative strategies and a tight thematic focus (1986). Sigourney Weaver, the sole survivor of the first encounter, returns to the scene as an adviser to a military mission sent to exterminate the alien scourge. The first half of the film is virtually actionless, as Cameron audaciously draws out our anticipation by alluding to past horrors and building the threat of even more extreme developments; the second half is nonstop, driving action, constructed in a maniacal cliff-hanger style in which each apparently hopeless situation feeds immediately into something even wilder. At 137 minutes the film is a bit long, and Cameron does overplay his hand here and there, pushing things just a shade further than he should to maintain audience credibility. But unlike the original, the action is used to develop character, and the central image—the alien spores as a monstrous parody of human birth—finds an effective resonance in the plotline.
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