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2016 marks a very special birthday for James Cameron‘s sci-fi sequel Aliens, this year the film is thirty. As part of the big 3-0 celebrations London’s Royal Albert Hall screened a very special edition of the classic as the film accompanied by a live orchestral score courtesy of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Ludwig Wicki.

Aliens is one of this writer’s all time favourite films. A sequel to Ridley Scott‘s Alien, the film turned the conventions of a sequel on their head. Rather than following the same haunted house / ten little Indians formula of the first film, director James Cameron made an all-out, war-heavy, gun-toting action film. Thrusting Sigourney Weaver into the role of action hero, the story sees Ripley return to the planet (technically moon) of the first film. Her mission is to locate some missing colonists alongside a group of colonial marines. It’s not long into the exploration though that they realise that the colonists were as unfortunate as Ripley and have had a very close encounter with some exceptionally aggressive extra-terrestrials. Ripley must face her fears head-on if she is to have any chance of surviving round two with the nightmarish xenomorphs.

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It’s a film often lauded as one of, if not the, greatest sequel to ever exist and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it flip the rules of the first on their head, it also offers a unique blend of action and story. Yes this is a war film, but it’s also about a woman struggling with PTSD and a bucket-load of guilt. Weaver gives such a fantastic turn that she earned herself an Oscar nomination, the first woman to ever get a nomination for a film in this genre.

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Underpinning all the fantastic visuals, acting and gun-fire, is an eerie and energetic score by James Horner. To hear it live whilst watching the film unfold is simply sensational. Ethereal strings and brash brass mix with guttural drums to transport your mind directly to the heart of LV-426. The sequence in the sub-level of the atmosphere processing station is a particular highlight. With a little bit of dry ice in the auditorium, it would have really felt like we were there, and we’d have been checking behind our seats for threats.

Aliens Live managed to capture the same awe and wonder that I had the first time I saw it – other kids had Star Wars, I had Aliens (far too young for it I know, but it worked for me). For someone who has easily seen this film 500+ times it was amazing to have the film feel fresh and new again. Both impressive and immersive, this is the pinnacle of movie watching.

We caught a similar event for Jurassic Park earlier this week, and can safely say that this Aliens screening was easily as amazing as that one. The next film for the simultaneous screening and scoring is another James Cameron classic, Titanic. It screens in March and, given how strong this season has been, we highly recommend that you book tickets now.

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