Fresh off of The Terminator, James Cameron employed a powerful new weapon for his first big-budget* flick, and that weapon was The Ensemble. After only a few short scenes you could identify the players: By-the-book Lt. Gorman, oily company man Carter Burke, quietly creepy "synthetic" Bishop, tough-as-nails Vasquez, cigar-chompin' Sgt. Apone, and the quietly noble Corporal Hicks. Toss this crew behind Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and a little girl called Newt, and you've got yourself one helluva platoon. Having read the Alan Dean Foster Aliens novelization, I even know the difference between Ferro, Dietrich, Crowe, Spunkmeyer and Wierzbowski! (* Produced in 1985, Aliens cost less than $20 million to create. Think about that.)
Ah yes, I did forget someone. Good ol' Private Hudson. He starts out as your typical alpha male, a swaggering braggart with more guts than brains ... but when the mayhem gets underway, Bill Paxton's Pvt. Hudson becomes a stand-in for you, the viewer. He whines and blusters and cries and complains as the endless waves of aliens come storming in; he basically does what you or I would do in the exact same situation: Misery, denial, plain old panic. But Paxton, a damn solid actor even twenty years ago, knew how dangerously close this character came to being plain old obnoxious, so he brings an eye-rolling, quick-tempered bravado to the role -- and almost manages to steal the whole damn movie.
"Game over, man! Game over!" That's the line that even the casual Aliens fans will remember, but Hudson delivers a whole bunch of eminently quotable quips...
Upon discovering the location of several lost colonists: "Stop yer grinnin' and drop yer linen!"
On the news that a harmless little girl was able to avoid alien infection while hundreds of people did not: "So why don't you put her in charge?!?!"
Hudson, underestimating his enemy: "How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!"
The private's sarcastic yet ironic piece of foreshadowing: "Is this going to be a stand-up fight, sir, or another bughunt?"
Regarding a dropship manuever that would probably kill you or I: "We're on an express elevator to hell: Goin' down!"
On current events: "Maybe you haven't been keepin' up on current events but we just got our asses kicked, pal!"
And for all the guy's craven behavior and crybaby tirades, Pvt. Hudson still managed to go out like a man. In a fantastic death scene that always makes me cringe with disappointment, Hudson's final words are "Oh, you want some of this too?" And then those freaky alien bastards drag my one of my very favorite movie characters down to an inevitably gruesome demise.
Paxton's done a lot of great work in the two decades since Aliens hit the screens (particularly in Near Dark, One False Move, Tombstone, True Lies, Apollo 13 and Frailty), but to me he'll always be that wise-ass crybaby commando guy who found his courage just a little too late: the ever-amusing Pvt. Hicks.
"Hudson, sir. He's Hicks."