“River of Pain is the second Audible Original Original adaptation of a novel expanding the Alien franchise. The first, “Out of the Shadows,” was gripping enough and an effective drama. This, skipping the second in the novel trilogy, “Sea of Sorrows,” is better, boosted by closer and better continuity to the movie it’s most closely linked to, ‘Aliens.’ This film was James Cameron’s big screen stand off between Ellen Ripley and a band of colonial marines, and an army of Xenomorphs and their Queen. This is a direct prologue to that film, and skillfully weaves in key early scenes from the movie, as well as sometimes expending them a little (watch out for how they riff off “There goes our salvage guys”). This is fascinating and very well done. Kudos to the cast who brilliantly step into the skin of the originals, especially Laurel Lefkow as Ripley. You get some of the ‘Aliens’ original cast returning as well, including Mac MacDonal as unfortunate Colony administrator Al Simpson, and William Hope as Lt. Gorman (“you always were an asshole, Gorman”).
The action, flashing between early scenes from the film and parallel events on the terra-forming colony Hadley’s Hope on the planet Archeron (the mythical original of the titular “River of Pain”), leads to events starting with Ripley’s rescue by the salvage team, the arrival on Archeron on a new troop of marines led by the tough but principled Captain Damian Bracket (superbly portrayed by Colin Salmon) and up to no good Weyland Yutani scientists. The population of Hadley’s Hope are worn down and beleaguered by the grind of colony life, and are fighting amongst themselves. Newt’s mom and Dad are fighting (Anne Jordan is sympathetically played by Anna Friel), and when news come of a big mysterious site to explore that could prove lucrative, the Jordan’s seize on it as their possible salvation. Unfortunately the fate of the colony is rapidly being sealed. The first 2 hours effectively build up the tension and atmosphere of the world of Aliens. Fans will be delighted by familiar sounds, the distinctive whirring of the colony doors, the bleeping of trackers, and so on. Scientists, military, administrators all clash, and Ripley slowly works through the chain of events that slowly lead her to Archeron. It isn’t long before face-huggers, chest-bursters and warrior adults all do their violent thing and start munching through the colonists, or worse. It’s good drama when you know the colony’s fate and the fate of key characters, dread getting to that point but are behind them and rooting for them nevertheless I was expecting a very down-beat finale, and yes the horror of dreaded events is there, but there’s also an unexpected shot of hope and redemption at the end that will make you cheer. In fact there’s two, when we get to a first meeting between certain characters that the drama has been building up to.
Brilliant and recommended.