Thursday, July 12, 2018



PLOT - "Aliens" is a sequel to "Alien", so you would expect the usual retread. But where "Alien" is a horror movie, "Aliens" is an action thriller. Ripley accompanies a squad of Marines back to the planet where the Nostromo encountered the alien. Noone knows what has happened to the mining colony there. Ripley's suspicions are confirmed in the worst way. The plot is nearly perfect. The characters are well developed. It retains some of the horror elements of the original, but this one is mainly a battle for survival against a horrific enemy. The action sequences are outstanding and the periods of calm are ominous. GRADE = A+

"Battle: Los Angeles" is basically a WWII combat movie where the aliens replace the Japanese. The plot uses two common war movie tropes. The first half is a lost patrol scenario as a unit of Marines (featuring a hardened veteran in need of redemption and his young charges in need of bloodying) who are tasked with rescuing civilians behind enemy lines and before a saturation bombing. That mission accomplished, the survivors move into a commando mission scenario which clicheishly involves destroying the enemy "brain". Nothing you haven't seen before, but done with verve and a to hell with the critics vibe. There is plenty of action and even some character development. It's all competently done which helps explain how the movie made over $200 million. GRADE = C+

STRATEGY AND TACTICS - As a war movie, "Aliens" is a small unit combat movie. The strategy is to locate the missing colonists. Possibly because of evil corporate interests, the Marines have no real plan for a worst case scenario. Therefore, they are taken completely by surprise. The tactic used was typically Marine (apparently, the Marines do not change in the future). They make a frontal entry into the danger zone with no reconnoiter. It takes a civilian, Ripley, to change the tactic in order to get some of the squad out of an ambush. The rest of the film is basically a last stand scenario. GRADE = B

In BLA, our strategy is to hold the line and the aliens are attempting to conquer and exploit our resources. Standard stuff. Since the movie is a small unit movie, we get small scale tactics. The squad movement seems realistic. There is some covering fire as they move. They establish perimeters. Targeting the enemy's command and control is a common military tactic. The aliens appear to use swarming tactics aided by control of the air. Their small unit movement is similar to the Marines. No one does anything particularly howling. GRADE = B

WEAPONRY - All of the main weapons are modeled after current firearms that are cosmetically enhanced. The M41A Pulse Rifle is built around a Thompson machine gun. It has a capacity of 99 rounds of armor piercing. It includes a pump action grenade launcher. Vasquez and Drake are armed with M56 Smart Guns which are heavy machine guns based on the German MG42 of WWII fame. Famously, Ripley combines a pulse rifle with a M240 flame thrower to rescue Newt. The weapons combine firepower, explosions, and fire = the trifecta. As far as the aliens, they don’t need all that firepower. They have acid blood and killer teeth. It's a fair fight. GRADE = A

The movie is set in contemporary time and had a low budget so the Marines are armed with current weapons. Most of them carry the standard M4A1 carbine. You also see a lot of M16A4s and even a SAW or two. A Copperhead 155mm laser-guided artillery round is used to take out the alien headquarters. This is the only artillery the movie references. There is a brief appearance of a tank, but no helicopter gunships and no bombers. The alien infantry have six-barreled machine guns welded to their right arms. It includes a grenade launcher. They use a walking rocket volleyer which is intimidating, but wildly inaccurate. Their big advantage is their drone fighters (Wedge Ships) which quickly get air superiority. They can reach Mach 7 and are highly maneuverable. They are armed with direct energy cannons. Overall, the fight is more even than in most sci-fi war movies where the humans are normally very overmatched. GRADE = C

SPECIAL EFFECTS - "Aliens" justifiably won the Oscar for Visual Effects. Surprisingly, the movie does not rely on CGI. The aliens are gymnasts, dancers, and stuntmen in suits. Mannequins were also used. The mother alien was life-sized and stood 14 feet tall. It required two puppeteers inside and sixteen others to manipulate it. Unlike many horror movies, the audience gets clear views of the monsters and they are extremely scary. GRADE = A+

The visual effects in BLA were predominantly CGI, but it is not a cheesy movie. The aliens are not given a lot of screen time, but appear to be standard alien bipeds. They are tall and skinny, but not particularly scary. The drones show some creativity. They appear to be designed to look different than the Star Wars type fighters. Considering the low budget, the special effects are surprisingly good. GRADE = C
BLA is not a terrible movie, but it is not in a league with "Aliens". "Aliens" is one of the greatest sci-fi movies. They share some similarities in that they are both small unit movies. However, where in "Aliens" the unit is just trying to survive, the soldiers in BLA are more proactive. BLA is more of a traditional war movie and is entertaining in that respect, but "Aliens" takes the genre to the future with an alien that is much more visceral. BLA is a fun watch, but it is not memorable.


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