After almost 30 years, Aliens remains probably the best sci-fi action film out there. Released 7 years after Ridley Scott's seminal genre defining masterpiece, Aliens sees the return of Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. Drifting in space for 57 years after escaping the Nostromo and the Xenomorph that slaughtered her crew, she is called upon again by Weyland-Yutani, the shady corporation she worked for as a flight officer.
It becomes apparent that Weyland-Yutani have been busy on LV-426 (the planetoid where Ripley's first crew encountered the Xenomorph.) The geniuses have setup a colony on the desolate world and terraformed it with oxygen generators. Low and behold, they loose contact with the colony and Ripley is sent in with a platoon of colonial marines, and a company slime-ball named Carter Burke.
From the start the film has the same dark and tense atmosphere of the first film. And despite having more of emphasis on action, the characters are just as complex and memorable. Corporal Dwayne Hicks is the replacement to Captain Dallas in that that he is Ripley's closest alley in the group of rag-tag marines - and they soon find themselves in the middle of the alien nest, fighting for their lives against the Xenomorph horde.
A few characters in Aliens mirror those of the first film: Bishop the android for Ash, Hicks for Dallas, and Newt the young girl they discover crawling around the air-ducts of LV-426 represents the daughter that Ripley lost during her many years in hyper sleep. So the characters and plot follow on quite closely to the first film, the only different is the style of film. Aliens is an all-out action fest, here as Alien is a slow burner psychological thriller - a big change that some fans didn't appreciate. So really, Aliens can't really be compared with its predecessor to be fare, they are completely different kinds of film. This fact doesn't make the directing any less brilliant.
James Cameron nailed it with Aliens: well designed weapons, props, vehicles and clothing courtesy of the late H.R. Giger; a great script and characters, and, like all of Cameron's films, a great soundtrack. Still James Cameron's best film for me, and I think it will remain in my top five action-sci-fi's for a long time to come.