April 26, 2016 was celebrated nationwide as Alien Day, or Alien Day 426 as a sly nod to the film (LV-426). Alamo Theaters held screenings of the popular Ridley Scott original and James Cameron sequel, with some hosting series’ stars such as Jenette Goldstein (Pvt. Vasquez) and Carrie Henn (Newt). The New York Screening I was at had none other than Ellen Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver! In re-watching the iconic classic Aliens, it is quite evident that while ‘Alien Day’ may be over, Ripley is forever!
I’ve been a fan of the Alien series for almost my whole life now. I grew up in the shadow of the Ridley Scott Alien and around the time of James Cameron’s Aliens. 1997 was very exciting for me as Alien Resurrection was set to release that November. While most kids my age grew up with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, I was much more interested in the likes of Sigourney Weaver than Amy Jo Johnson. I frequently went to Toys R’ Us and Kay Bee Toys to pick up those great Kenner action figures and Ripley, the Colonial Space Marines, and universe of Aliens left an undeniable impact on me, as it did many others.
The last time I watched the Alien anthology of films was back when 20th Century Fox released them on Blu-ray six years ago. It’s been almost a decade since I watched Ellen Ripley; see the crew of the Nostromo killed off by a terrifying xenomporh, learn the insidious plans of the company, fall into sleep stasis for 57 years, get rescued, join the Colonial Marines, watch that crew get killed off by more xenomorphs, ultimately save the day while becoming a surrogate mother, fall back into sleep stasis and eventually relive the nightmare in Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection (which according to Weaver may soon be considered non-cannon).
When I first was e-mailed about Alien Day from the PR team at Fox, I immediately responded with an enthusiastic write up that could be read over at What’cha Reading. But the immediate Alamo theater playing a screening in New York was a little out of my ways. But when I received a follow up concerning the announcement of Sigourney Weaver attending the New York City Aliens screening at The Town Hall, I enthusiastically presented that write up as well, over at What’cha Reading and bought my tickets asap.
A little sidenote: I’m a huge fan of Sigourney Weaver and I love her performance as Ellen Ripley in all four films. I cannot wait for the fifth installment being written and directed by the visionary Neill Blomkamp and over the past few years, I’ve tried collecting nearly every Ripley collectible out there. Be it finding the Kenner Ripley figure carded (US and Canada edition, there were two versions), obsessively trying to purchase the Reebok Alien Stompers (something Marlene at Tumblr knows all too well about), and finding just about anything else with Weaver’s cinematic hero.
Watching Aliens with a nearly 1,500 person crowd of those just as enthusiastic as I was is/was an experience I won’t soon forget. As an Aliens fan, to celebrate Alien Day with fellow fans was a must. To watch it with Sigourney Weaver (who also hadn’t seen the movie in some time), was essential and could not be missed.
Another little sidenote: I met Sigourney around the age of 9.
While Alien Day might be over, Ellen Ripley is forever! The character was written by Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusett and brought to life by Sigourney Weaver in such a powerful way that the character is not only often seen as one of the most significant female protagonists of all time, but as a wholly developed character transcendent of the sci-fi genre. Actually Jenette Goldstein’s scene stealing performance as Vasquez is up there too with April Wolfe of The Village Voice writing, “Vasquez is Universal.” But the character of Ellen Ripley is a character with an enduring allure and legacy that despite Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection not necessarily bringing the character to the same heights as Aliens did, is not tarnished in any way. Fans have universally regarded Ellen Ripley as a hero, icon, and role model. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background may be – Ellen Ripley is for everyone!
Ellen Ripley never falls into the cliche of damsel in distress in a film series that went from being categorically horror, to action, to science-fiction true and true. While there’s a lot to be said in regards to the character, in every film, we could save that for another time. But for now, especially in re-watching Aliens, the film holds up in a remarkable way. Not only are the effects extraordinary, but Cameron’s usage of models works very well. Be it the ships and the aliens, the film which worked off a budget between $17 to $18 million, is quite an impressive achievement deserving of every accolade its received since its 1986 release. James Cameron, who wrote the screenplay off of a story he co-wrote with David Giler and Walter Hill made absolutely every effort to depict Ripley in as best a light as possible. Ever real and always woman.
“To have a role where I could get the job done without being in a skimpy little costume. For me I would’ve never wanted to go there. I don’t want to horrify the audience. I’m sure I wore little makeup. It has to be real and you wouldn’t be thinking about any of those things. None of [the directors] would ever say, ‘That would be more attractive if you did it this way,’ or something. No one has ever said that to me, and I don’t think I’d take it well.” – Sigourney Weaver during NYC The Town Hall Aliens screening.
Ellen Ripley is played perfectly by Sigourney Weaver, capturing the nuance of someone battling PTSD, being a mother (in the extended version), and faced with a harrowing ordeal that most of us would probably not survive. Aliens is a solid film that develops her character in a progressively forward way. The Power Loader scene, both of them, “Where do you want it?” and “Get away from her, you b****!” to “I will never leave you. That’s a promise,” to Newt; it’s hard to find a scene not worth talking about.
It’s also fantastic that we see Ellen Ripley presented in a way not all that different from the heroes that occupied the Universal Monsters movies. They weren’t and she wasn’t an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. We didn’t have a one man/woman army going up against an unimaginable threat. We had real people. In Aliens, when the late 80’s and early 90’s machismo was introduced by way of the Colonial Space Marines, we see the majority of them killed off just about an hour into the film. Yet it’s Ripley, a “civilian adviser” who not only expertly takes over the operation but also navigates Newt and Hicks to safety. Oh and she also fights the Alien Queen and ejects her into space!
Sigourney Weaver was 30 years old when she first played Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley of the Nostromo, and 37 when she reprised her role in Aliens. As of right now Alien 5 is happening and Sigourney Weaver has promised that it will be worth the wait. As Ridley Scott wanted his Alien: Covenant to release first, the earliest we’ll probably see Director/Writer Neill Blomkamp’s film will probably be 2019/2020. At that time, Sigourney Weaver will be close to 70 years old and the character of Ellen Ripley will have been with audiences for over 35 years!
Yes, Ellen Ripley is forever!
On AvP and AvP: Requiem: Well, I haven’t seen them. Because I heard that the Alien doesn’t beat the Predator and I thought, ‘F*** that.’ – Sigourney Weaver
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)