On its release in 1986, Aliens was an immediate commercial and critical success and consolidated writer-director James Cameron’s status as a major new Hollywood player. Reprising some of the features of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and expanding them in a number of crucial ways, Aliens managed to reinforce the audience’s attraction to the still fairly new Alien franchise and insert into it the seeds of narrative and visual changes that would be further explored in subsequent instalments of the series.
Aliens is an endlessly fascinating mixture of different genres: sci-fi, revenge movies, action, war films—and more specifically Vietnam War movies—all contribute in creating a visual experience that is dynamic and emotionally enthralling. The great care devoted to set and prop design gives the film its distinctive industrial and dirty atmosphere, while the narrative and psychological evolution of the Ripley character creates a modern and engaging heroine that would have a strong impact on genre cinema.
This volume in the Constellations series examines in-depth James Cameron’s film within the context of genre studies, with a particular eye to Aliens’ nature as an example of hybrid science fiction. It provides readers with a detailed visual analysis of the film and an overview of its major themes, from its metaphorical reading of the Vietnam War to the representation of motherhood and family.