After a long delay, I finally got the entire review done of this massive 6-disc Blu-ray set and I will admit, this is easily the best movie collection on Blu-ray that I’ve encountered as it not only ported over every feature from not only the 9-disc DVD set.
Alien Anthology (1979 – 1997)
Fox | R – 477 min. – $139.99 | October 26, 2010
Directed by: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writer(s): Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (characters); Alien — Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (story), Dan O’Bannon (screenplay); Aliens — James Cameron and David Giler & Walter Hill (story), James Cameron (screenplay); Alien 3 — Vincent Ward (story), David Giler & Walter Hill and Larry Ferguson (screenplay); Alien Resurrection — Joss Whedon (written by)
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, Charles S. Dutton, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya, Brad Dourif
Theatrical Release Date: Alien — May 25, 1979, Aliens — July 18, 1986, Alien 3 — May 22, 1992, Alien Resurrection — November 26, 1997
Features: MU-TH-UR Interactive Mode, Cast and Crew Commentaries, Documentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Image Galleries, Test Footage, TV Specials, Isolated Scores, Trailers, TV Spots
Number of Discs: 6
Audio: All Films — English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1); Alien and Aliens — English (Dolby Surround 4.1), English (Dolby Surround)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen (Various ARs)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
THE MOVIES – 4.25/5
Since most people already know the Alien franchise and the first four movies in particular (discounting the Alien vs. Predator movies), I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on the movie review portion only giving my brief thoughts and then will move along to the features and audio/video categories which I feel are more important.
Alien (1979) — 4.5/5
Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror show is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that traps the viewer as the alien wreaks havoc upon a crew, taking them on one by one and thanks in large part to writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, they started a new subgenre that so many others have tried and failed to copy, hell one could argue some of the sequels failed at copying the formula.
One also has to commend O’Bannon, Shusett and, of course, a young and new-ish Sigourney Weaver for bringing forth one of the first strong female leads in an action movie. Her Ripley character showed that women can kick ass and look good doing it leading perhaps to other great and memorable characters across all platforms including Lara Croft in the video game realm. The supporting cast is also sharp with Tom Skerritt as the lead with John Hurt and Ian Holm making the biggest impact of the bunch as the corporate hack that caused everything to go into motion (including Alien Resurrection).
Aliens (1986) — 5/5
While Ridley Scott brought us one of the best sci-fi/horror movies, it would seem that James Cameron, a decade before he became “King of the World”, perfected it with one of the few sequels that managed to actually surpass the original. Like Scott, Cameron took the concept of the horror on a spaceship and expanded it to not only a ship but onto a foreign planet and giving more aliens to scare the crap out of the characters and in turn, us the audience.
Of course, Sigourney Weaver puts in a fantastic performance since at this point she is Ripley but it seems she encompasses the character and now she gets yet another amazing supporting cast headlined by Michael Biehn making a great action counterpart to Ripley while pre-“Mad About You” Paul Reiser fills in as the corporate hack quite well…
Alien³ (1992) — 3/5
So with two sci-fi classics in the book and despite some pre-production troubles, Fox moved forward with the Alien franchise handing the reins to a then unproven David Fincher coming out of the music video world. Of course, while Fox handed him the reins, they also held tightly on the other end giving it a tug so much and often that Fincher eventually left during post-production citing studio interference.
The behind-the-scenes soap opera antics aside, Alien 3 is a half-decent film covered up by a confused script and a story that fails to connect on any level. I appreciate that the writers (4 in total) try something new taking Ripley off a ship and onto a barren planet populated by felons turned religious zealots but nothing about the story really interested me and instead kind of bored me even during the alien kill sequences. Would Fox learn its lesson and go back to the basics or perhaps just leave the franchise be? Yeah… right.
Alien Resurrection (1997) — 2.5/5
So when you don’t succeed, try, try again. Fox decided to go into the Alien well one more time this time bringing Ripley back via cloning, a clone that still has the Alien baby inside of her as the Weyland corporation is trying to get the alien and after several unsuccessful tries (resulting in numerous Ripley clones in various forms), they find success and since Ripley is in good condition, they keep her alive and that’s where the so-called fun begins.
As a film, I probably find the background for Alien Resurrection a tad more intriguing if only because the script was written by an on-the-cusp Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series premiered the same year, 1997). I do commend Whedon for bringing at least an interesting story but still it doesn’t quite come together. Sigourney Weaver (who served as co-producer on the film) does an admirable job playing a different kind of Ripley and the supporting cast is fairly middle-notch with Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Dan Hedaya and Winona Ryder who also give it their all.
Although indeed Alien Resurrection is hardly a good movie, on a technical and visual level, I do think it’s a hair above Alien 3 but still so far away from the first two entries that I really wish Fox had resisted the temptation of even making the last two. It will be interesting to see what Ridley Scott will do with the two prequels, hopefully that will bring the franchise back on course.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 5/5
This 6-disc Blu-ray set is housed in a book with the discs sliding in to the cardboard pages (the backing is smooth making it easy to get the disc) while the book is enclosed in a sleek but sturdy outer case. There is a feature booklet inside; unfortunately they did not bring over the chapter list from the DVD list which was helpful in finding out what new scenes were added back into each film.
Each disc has something called MU-TH-UR Mode, a feature where you can choose, while watching the movie, “Auditory” options (commentaries), “Visual” (display and bookmark video/image options), “Datastream” (fact track) and “Data Tags” (display and organize bookmarked visual content made). The most interesting one is “Data Tags” where you can select different featurettes for viewing later and it will carry over and available to watch on discs 5 or 6, pretty cool and original feature.
In regards to each version (theatrical and extended/director’s cuts), I don’t really have a preference over the other. I do think that perhaps Alien³ gets the best out of the bunch, but it’s not a significant improvement. For the first four discs, I will lay out what’s on there, provide a few thoughts but the bulk of my focus will be on disc 5 and the numerous featurettes and documentaries.
DISC 1 – Alien:
There is the 1979 Theatrical Version (1:56:37) and 2003 Director’s Cut (1:55:49) with the latter getting an Introduction (0:57; SD) by Ridley Scott.
Audio Commentary #1 – Available on both versions, this track features Director Ridley Scott, Writer Dan O’Bannon, Executive Producer Ronald Shusett, Editor Terry Rawlings and Actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt. This track was recorded in 2003.
Audio Commentary #2 – This track is only available for the theatrical version and is with Ridley Scott. It was recorded in 1999.
You can also check out the Final Theatrical Isolated Score and Composer’s Original Isolated Score from Jerry Goldsmith if that sort of thing interests you (I prefer listening to these in my iPod).
Deleted Scene Index (6:39; HD) – With this, you can check out the additional scenes that were inserted into the director’s cut.
DISC 2 – Aliens:
1986 Theatrical Version (2:17:14) and 1991 Special Edition (2:34:26) with Introduction (0:34; SD) by James Cameron
Audio Commentary – This one features Director James Cameron, Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Alien Effects Creator Stan Winston, Visual Effects Supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung and Actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn.
Again, you have the option of listening to either Final Theatrical Isolated Score or Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner.
Deleted Scenes Index (19:57; HD) has the scenes included in the Special Edition version in case you prefer to watch the theatrical version.
DISC 3 – Alien³:
1992 Theatrical Version (1:54:52) and 2003 Special Edition (2:24:52) which is the “Restored Workprint Version”
Audio Commentary features Cinematographer Alex Thomson, Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund and Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen.
Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal is available to listen to in case you’re interested.
Deleted Scenes Index (49:28; HD) – With this you can check out what scenes were placed into the Special Edition either because you prefer the theatrical version or just want to know what exactly is different (fun to watch after viewing the Special Edition).
DISC 4 – Alien Resurrection:
1997 Theatrical Version (1:48:48) and 2003 Special Edition (1:56:08) comes with an Introduction (0:46; SD) by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Audio Commentary features Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Herve Schneid, Alien Effects Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Supervistor Pitof (yes, the famed director of Catwoman), Conceptual Artist Sylvain Despretz and Actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser.
Final Theatrical Isolated Score by John Frizzell is available in case you’re interested.
Deleted Scene Index (11:54; HD) is once again available in case you want to check out what scenes were inserted into the Special Edition.
Datasearch – With this feature, you can search for specific topics by actor or crew member and by film.
The Best Within: Making Alien (TRT 2:57:37; SD) – This 9-part documentary takes a look at the origins and production of Alien with archival and newish interviews (taped for the Quadrilogy DVD set) with Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt and others on the cast and crew.
Enhancement Pods (TRT 1:19:43; SD) – Each of the film’s documentaries comes with one with this receiving 27 vignettes that expand on certain subjects for, in this case, Alien.
Superior Firepower: Making Aliens (TRT 3:04:52; SD) – Another massive ‘making-of’ documentary takes us from the decision to make a sequel, hiring James Cameron and his contribution to the project and bringing together the cast. This one has 11 parts with each examining every aspect of the filmmaking experience.
Enhancement Pods (TRT 58:31; SD) – As if 3 hours wasn’t enough, you can check out 25 more vignettes that expand on the documentary.
Wreckage and Rage: Making Alien³ (TRT 2:59:55; SD) is by far the most interesting of the four documentaries as it is brutally honest about what went wrong with the production as certain members of the cast and crew point fingers at others as to how it just fell apart. Unfortunately David Fincher was not a part of this discussion and is only features in some behind-the-scenes footage but if you’re interested in the more chaotic side of Hollywood, this is the one for you. Interviewees included Sigourney Weaver, the writers, producers, Composer Elliot Goldenthal, Visual Effects Supervisors and the original hired director, Renny Harlin.
Enhancement Pods (TRT 1:14:03; SD) includes 29 more segments that didn’t quite fit into the documentary.
One Step Beyond: Making Alien Resurrection (TRT 2:54:05; SD) – The “shorter” of the documentaries, this one is much like the first two taking a look at the process of making one more Alien sequel and how certain producers felt it was a bad idea. Like the others, we get to hear from the cast and crew the experience. There is some newer interview footage which include Ron Perlman, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, writer Joss Whedon, Leland Orser and others although Weaver’s seemed to be from the set. A couple of the highlights in this one include filming underwater for 4 weeks and Sigourney Weaver’s amazing over-the-shoulder, nothing but net, basketball shot.
Enhancement Pods (TRT 1:15:17) include 15 vignettes to learn even more about the filming of Resurrection.
This disc contains mainly still galleries and some random vignettes. I’ll comment on a couple of these, but for the most part they are self explanatory. Each movie gets something, one more than the others.
Under “Pre-Production” we get Dan O’Bannon’s First Draft Screenplay; Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails and Notes which are Ridley Scott’s personal notes; a Storyboard Archive with six of them to check out; The Art of Alien: Conceptual Art Portfolio contains four portfolios; Sigourney Weaver Screen Tests (4:39; SD) have four tests and has an optional commentary with Ridley Scott; and a Cast Portrait Gallery with pics of, well, the cast.
“Production” contains The Chestburster: Multi-Angle Sequence (5:28; SD) with various angles of the famous scene with an optional Ridley Scott commentary; Video Graphics Gallery (5:31; SD) is a cool feature where you can check out the on-screen displays from the movie; 9 Production Image Galleries; some Continuity Polaroids; images of The Set of Aliens; view pics from Alien creature creator H.R. Giger’s Workshop.
And in “Post-Production and Aftermath” there are 7 Additional Deleted Scenes (16:33; SD); 6 Image Galleries (including Model Shop, Visual Effects, Premiere pics, etc); the 1979 original featurette, Experience in Terror (7:10; SD); the Laserdisc which are text info and images; The Alien Legacy (1:06:53; SD), a 1999 featurette; American Cinemathque: Ridley Scott Q&A (15:40; SD) filmed on September 14, 2001 and was a screening for Aliens after which Scott answers questions; last are a few Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (3:28; SD).
In “Pre-Production” there is the Original Treatment by James Cameron; Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics (3:13; SD) with optional commentary by Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung; Storyboard Archive; The Art of Aliens; and another Cast Portrait Gallery.
Under “Production” we have a few photographs including a Production Image Galleries (9 in fact), Continuity Polaroids, Weapons and Vehicles, and Stan Winston’s Workshop. We also get some footage, first is Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras (5:01; SD) which are fullscreen displays of the helmets used early on in the film, a Video Graphics Gallery (4:04; SD) and Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers (3:35; SD).
In “Post-Production and Aftermath” are a couple of Deleted Scenes (1:31; SD), a few Image Galleries, the Laserdisc Archives, the Main Title Exploration (2:55; SD), an Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright (4:05; SD) introduction video for a ride that was at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and some Trailers and TV Spots (5:27; SD).
“Pre-Production” contains a Pre-Visualization Storyboard Archive and Conceptual Art.
Within “Production” is a cool Furnace Construction: Time Lapse Sequence (4:35; SD), an EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette (2:02; SD) with a commentary by Alec Gillis; some Production Image Galleries and A.D.I.’s Workshop.
And in “Post-Production and Aftermath” is a Visual Effects Gallery, Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive, an Alien³ Advance Featurette (2:56; SD), a Making Alien³ (23:24; SD) featurette and more Trailers and TV Spots (7:25; SD).
“Pre-Production” has Joss Whedon’s First Draft Screenplay, some Test Footage: A.D.I. Creation Shop (9:51; SD) with Optional Commentary with Alec Gillis, Test Footage: Costumes, Hair and Make-Up (4:40; SD) for Sigourney Weaver, Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals (2:52; SD) containing 2 angles and 2 audio mixes, a Storyboard Archive, The Marc Caro Portfolio: Character Designs and The Art of Resurrection.
In “Production” we have some Production Image Galleries and a look at A.D.I.’s Workshop.
And last in “Post-Production and Aftermath” is a Visual Effects Gallery, Special Shoot: Promotional Archive, HBO First Look: The Making of Alien Resurrection (25:40; SD) hosted by Ron Perlman, Alien Resurrection Promotional Featurette (3:56; SD) and Trailers and TV Spots (5:33; SD).
Alien Evolution (2001 Original TV Version) (48:58; SD) – Originally aired on October 13, 2001 on Channel 4 (not the BBC as I originally wrote), this featurette explores the origins and legacies of the Alien franchise.
Alien Evolution (2003 Alien Re-Edit) (1:04:33; SD) – This is similar to the 2001 TV version but is edited to focus primarily on the first movie. It originally was made for a planned 2-Disc Alien DVD but was eventually put on the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set.
The Alien Saga (1:49:02; SD) – This behind-the-scenes documentary, released in 2002, chronicles all four Alien films from its origins to the final film and is narrated by John Hurt.
Aliens 3D Attraction – You can check out the script and conceptual art for a theme park attraction to be a part of the Everland Theme Park in Korea. Based on the description, this attraction never came to be.
Aliens in the Basement: The Bob Burns Collection (16:54; SD) – With this featurette, you can take a look at the various Alien creature models owned by collector Bob Burns.
Parodies (2:19; SD) – You can watch Alien parodies featured on “Family Guy” and Spaceballs.
Lastly is the Dark Horse Gallery and Patches and Logos Gallery.
VIDEO – 5/5
All four films have been given the 1080p high-definition treatment and I’m happy to report that it seems Fox resisted the urge to utilize the oft dreaded digital noise reduction tool.
The original Alien (5/5), for a now 31-year old picture, looks absolutely gorgeous with crystal clear visuals and a good balance between the dark levels and lighter scenes. There is some natural film grain but overall, I was impressed at how well it looked.
Aliens fares probably a little just as well as it also is well detailed throughout. I did notice some unevenness from scene to scene (one would be heavy with noise while the next not so much) but I feel that’s probably due to the shot rather than any flaw with the transfer.
In regards to Alien³ (4.75/5), the picture this time again is crisp and free of dust/scratches. I will say that how this film was shot lend to a picture that looks a tad oversaturated throughout so it might not be the prettiest high-def picture, especially given a majority is pretty dark, it’s still an upgrade over the DVD version.
Similarly, Alien Resurrection (4.75/5) doesn’t look the best but it’s no fault of the transfer as the picture itself is, again, clean of dust and/or scratches while the detail levels are excellent. However, there are several scenes that look a tiny bit oversaturated and looking at the DVD version, is present there as well so it is a stylistic choice by the director.
AUDIO – 5/5
All four films have been given brand spanking new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. First, all four easily have a 5/5 rating so this section will cover each film. I knew I was in for a treat when the scores, for each film, are immersive before getting into the film where it continued to make full usage of every channel. The dialogue levels are also great and don’t have the flatness you often find with certain older films and the sound effects (such as the alien screams), which is probably the highlight on each movie, gives you the full home theater experience that I often miss out on even for recent releases.
OVERALL – 5/5
What else is there to say about the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set? It’s a massive collection of every feature that has ever been released and is now better organized making it easier to view certain features, thanks in large part to Fox’s “MA-TH-UR Mode” that gives the user the option of tagging certain features and watch them later on another disc. Of course, we must not forget that we do get two of the best science-fiction films ever made with another two that have their moments and in the case of Alien³, a remarkable behind-the-scenes account of how that production fell apart.
There’s no doubt in my mind that with the excellent audio and video transfers for all four films and the extras, this is well worth the cash even if you already have the DVD set.
The “Alien Evolution” documentary was shown on Channel 4, not the BBC. And the original televised version of it was over 2 hours long.