Ripley’s showdown with the alien queen at the end of Aliens is one of the most thrilling scenes in cinematic history. With young Newt in peril, the loading doors suddenly open and there stands her protector, clad in a power loader suit, impressive hydraulic claws at the ready. The fact that Ripley’s wielding of this suit of armour doesn’t just come out of the blue is a great example of why Aliens is the perfect action film.
After Ripley is recovered from the Nostromo lifeboat at the beginning of Aliens, she attempts to re-integrate into society after floating through deep space in hypersleep for 57 years. She is subjected to a hearing in front of the Wayland-Yutani corporation board, which finds her story of what happened to the Nostromo (the events of Alien) questionable and rules to strip her of her flight credentials. When Carter Burke of the company tries to convince Ripley to return to LV-426 and help determine what happened to the colonists since located there, she initially refuses. This is the important part: Burke dangles the prospect of her being reinstated as a flight officer on starships if Ripley accompanies the team to LV-426, after mentioning that he knows the only work she can get currently is loading cargo. Ripley, of course, eventually agrees to go, and while on the Sulaco spaceship heading back to the planetoid of the original film, she offers to help out and states she has a “Class-2 rating” on a power loader. She then demonstrates her prowess with the machine. So we are reminded twice, in plot-integral ways, that Ripley knows her way around a power loader.
Which sets up the brilliant, exciting finale of Aliens, with Ripley donning a power loader suit and taking on the alien queen. Aliens is a brilliantly constructed action film, where nothing comes out of left-field…. except for perhaps that drooling xenomorph hiding in the darkness. Fun facts: during shooting, the suit was either suspended from wires or mounted on a crane. There was a stuntman in the suit sitting directly behind Sigourney Weaver, and it was he who was actually controlling it.
Of course, Ripley and the alien queen weren’t really enemies. Here’s a picture of them chumming around between takes: