Sweat surges from my forehead, as I huddle in a gloomy corner like a prey awaiting the opportunity to escape. My only salvation is the pulse rifle pressed against my chest—held with white, trembling knuckles. I want to close my sagging eyelids, as I see the glossy-black, banana-shaped head round the curved corridor. My adrenaline swells, as my brain becomes a piston.
I snap the rifle to my shoulder and discharge a burst of molten-cased rounds. The ammunition dives through the creature’s exoskeleton, as skin-shredding acid sputters from its body.
“Nick, come get something to eat,” my mom yells as she pounds on the door. The claustrophobic corridors melt away, revealing a ten-year-old boy’s cluttered bedroom.
Every child fantasizes about hunting a fearful beast or adventuring with a favorite superhero. My enemy just so happened to be the extraterrestrials from the film Aliens, and my heroes were of course the elite squad of United Space Marines featured in the movie. After seeing Aliens at the age of ten, I felt more than an urge to become an Alien-fighting marine—I wanted to capture these dreams and create my own films.
What makes the film Aliens great enough to influence my future? Every aspect of this phenomenon of cinema inspires me, so much that I could write a doctorial thesis on the infinite qualities that make this movie special. When I was younger, the atmosphere, characters, and creatures intrigued my adolescent mind. Now, with a wiser eye, I see what a true prodigy in film Aliens is, as it has not allowed time to deplete its worth.
The atmosphere for the science-fiction masterpiece follows the intimidating, claustrophobic ambience of its predecessor, Alien directed by Ridley Scott. James Cameron, the writer and director of the sequel, takes Ridley Scott’s terror tactics and perfects them by creating an environment even more menacing. With a feeling of ultimate seclusion, an alien creature brings down a marine transport, leaving the troops with very little exits from the planet LV426. For me, the setting alone created tremendous tension. As a child, I was terrified by the images of marines cramming inside a small corridor, only to become reproductive necessities to a bug-like, yet perfect organism.
The design of this ultimate organism also inspired my love for science fiction. No movie monster can out-scare or out-battle H.G. Giger’s basic design of the majestic, biomechanical alien. The elusiveness of the creature stirred curiosity and an obsession with its every feature. What is more mystifying than an eyeless, elongated, ebony head resembling more of a shield than an animal? What is more terrifying than a silent killer creeping across ceilings and walls with soundless speed? What is more threatening than a thrashing, daggered tail and a vicious second mouth, ready to cocoon victims who will become hosts for another ugly alien?
A unique feature of Aliens is the patient method of revealing the space monster; the viewer cannot see it, but he or she feels the presence of an Alien army ready to destroy. Cameron’s greatest display of skill was his ability to foreshadow the ominous Queen Alien. When filming the original Alien, Ridley Scott used a deliberate pace, building up to the alien’s first appearance. Cameron, however, hinted at the Queen throughout the entire movie. He tricks the audience into forgetting the Queen when the human characters seize the forefront of the story. Then, abruptly, a character finds herself standing inside an egg-scattered nest, as the Queen leers over her. It is this ingenious writing that continually places Cameron as a leading member of the film industry.
The characterization in Aliens has influenced much of the ways I reveal the strengths and weaknesses of characters in my writing. The character Private Hudson, played by Bill Paxton, is one example. Hudson begins as a cocky, smart-mouthed joker, but when the aliens begin attacking, he becomes a whining pessimist with little hope for survival. In contrast, Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, enters the film as a woman broken by nightmares of her first encounter with the beast. By the end of the movie, she demolishes the Queen Alien with a piece of warehouse machinery. Through the skillful building of Ripley’s character, Cameron demonstrates a person’s ability to transition from fragile to strong. When she finds an orphaned girl with tattered clothing and dirt-smeared skin, Ripley acts as her protective mother and valiantly faces the aliens that once petrified her in order to protect the child. With Hudson and Ripley, Cameron realistically portrayed the positive and negative human reactions to unthinkable situations.
Aliens is the first movie that taught me to notice atmosphere, detail, and dramatics. Aliens’ influence has increased with my age, rather than becoming obsolete over time. With advancements in computer graphics and special effects, older films seem outdated and “corny” at times. Aliens, though, is still an amazing piece of cinematic history because its effect is comparable to the films of today. Aliens inspires me to create motion pictures equally as timeless so that someone else can write an entrance essay for a film school, hailing my movie for its inspiration.
Today, another marine stoops with a rifle in his clutch, awaiting the assault of a gruesome beast. Meanwhile, I capture frames of drama, as the alien rounds the corner.
“Nick, you need to get ready for work,” my wife yells, as I stop envisioning the future and smile.