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Alien Anthology - Blu-ray Review

Alien Anthology Blu-ray Review


Three of the greatest directors in the world have essentially cemented their feet in the movie business through this franchise; a series of four films that have now spanned four decades (and will enter a fifth with a fifth movie from Ridley Scott soon).

The Alien Saga’s entries are as disparate from each other as opinions are worldwide on which one is the best one—but they all left us wanting more. These Geiger created beasts, easily the most terrifying movie monsters ever conceived, have indelibly crept into our minds and stayed there, both feared and simultaneously loved.

This series is a cinematic gem.

In the 1970s, a broke and despondent Dan O’Bannon (rest in peace, and very sorry you didn’t get to see this on blu-ray) hauled his ass off his buddy Ron Shusett’s couch and set down what would become one of the most celebrated science fiction films in history.

Unknown British director Ridley Scott was chosen to bring what was originally conceived to be a low-budget b-movie to life; and due to a talent that has never faltered in all these years now past, Alien became something much more.

What followed made Sigourney Weaver a star, had audiences lining up around the block to run from the theatres puking, and gave 20th Century Fox is second juggernaught sci-fi franchise in as many years.

Unlike today, where studios are announcing work on sequels before the first one has earned a dime, Alien’s follow up didn’t come until well into the next decade, where a brash and soon to be legendary unknown writer/director, James Cameron, had an idea. Wisely avoiding Scott’s unmatchable aesthetic, Cameron jettison the haunted house mould of the original and injected our favourite monsters into an adrenaline-fuelled, balls to the wall action movie called Aliens. It was a resounding success, and is commonly argued to be a superior film to Scott’s.

The early 90s saw another unknown director, David Fincher, then a music video director, attempt to bring the Alien franchise out of a lengthy and failed development in Alien 3. With no coherent script, and the studio allegedly undermining him at every turn, the young filmmaker eventually walked from what many consider to be a significant drop in quality for the saga. Well, despite Fincher—both then and now—wiping his hands of the production, his efforts still did well enough to keep us hungry for more.

And so, about five years after Ripley died, writer Joss Whedon found a way to bring her back. With French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet on board, Weaver, along with the likes of Winona Ryder and Ron Perlman, returned to try and push the franchise in new directions. While not the complete disaster some bile-spitting critics announced it to be, Alien Resurrection was the film where everyone pondered maybe it was time to retire our favourite acid for blood nasties.

Until now. Ridley Scott is coming back to the universe that made him a household name. A prequel, Ripley-less (or so we assume), it will be interesting to see what the man who started it all does to further the franchise, and very interesting to get an answer to the question I am sure everyone is pondering (especially after the stinking, piece of shit Alien vs. Predator movies): can there be an Alien film without Sigourney Weaver?

What can be answered quickly as easily is what a pleasure it has been to watch this series in high definition, and equally easy is to confirm that Fox has gone above and beyond to deliver the most generous and expansive box set yet offered on the new home-video format.

Before we get to the box set details, a brief rundown of the films:

Alien Anthology Blu-ray ReviewAlien
5 Stars

An isolated group of space truckers, hauling a monstrous refinery, are ordered to set down on a seemingly uninhabited planet and investigate a derelict space craft. When one of them comes back with a strange creature attached to his face, the group decides to get the hell out of dodge. But it’s too late. The creature attached to his face has implanted a parasitic creature that unleashed unholy hell and starts picking them off one by one. It becomes a young and idealistic lieutenant’s (Sigourney Weaver) burden to survive, escape, and destroy the terrifying Alien.

Claustrophobic, tension-filled, and shit-scary sci-fi gold.

Alien Anthology Blu-ray ReviewAliens
5 Stars

Ripley, who’s been asleep for a lifetime (literally), is discovered in her escape pod by a deep space salvage ship. Awakened, she is informed that the planet that caused the death of her entire crew is now inhabited by terra-forming colonists... who have mysteriously stopped transmitting home. Ripley reluctantly agrees to consult on a marine-led mission to the planet, seemingly to rescue the colonists. Of course all is not what it seems, and shit goes bad quickly. Trapped inside the colonist settlement, Ripley and the marines discover a lone survivor, a small girl, and the awful truth that they are trapped on the planet with hundreds of aliens until a remote ship from their space fairing vessel can provide their escape.

One of a teeny tiny select few sequels that equal its originator. Its own animal, Aliens is the perfect sequel to prove sometimes a follow up is warranted.

Alien Anthology Blu-ray ReviewAlien 3
4 stars

Ripley awakens the sole survivor on a penal planet filled with murderers, rapists, and all manner of flotsam and jetsam. Hicks and Newt, her fellow survivors from Aliens, are dead, and she has a long wait before she can leave the god-forsaken place. If that were her only problem, Ripley could handle it, but a face hugger has stowed away inside her escape pod and sets to its ghastly task on a Rottweiler (At least in the theatrical version; Ox in the exteneded cut). The alien that emerges is fast and vicious and all too quickly gets the criminals’ minds off Ripley and onto survival. Ripley and one of the criminals devise a plan to lure the alien to its death, but to succeed the unlikely group of collaborators must band together.

Stylish, violent, and unrelenting; what a film this might have been had people left Fincher alone to do his thing. Nevertheless, this is not a bad movie; its quality elements manage to outshine its flaws more than once.

Alien Anthology Blu-ray ReviewAlien Resurrection
3 Stars

Greedy people just won’t learn. 200 years after Ellen Ripley threw herself and the Alien Queen chest-burster into a molten pool of metal, those greedy twats have finally succeeded in cloning her and the monster within... or do they? Separating the Queen from the clone Ripley, the ship full of company men are breeding aliens for their nefarious purposes, thinking they have everything under control. Of course they don’t. A group of mercenaries come on board to steal an alien, but that is the least of the clone Ripley’s problems: the aliens, spawned from her queen, are far more intelligent, vicious, and have plans of their own. The clone Ripley must again try and ferry those few survivors to safety, but this time, she must also decide which side of her DNA is strongest—Ellen Ripley or the alien?

This is a slickly made film that amazingly does give Weaver a completely new angle to play with her character. Overall, though, there is very little in the way of a fresh approach, and for the first time an Alien picture feels a little stale. 3/5


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 26, 2010
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Six-disc set (6 BDs)

This is the blu-ray box set to grab this year. Just like the previous Alien offering from Fox, the new Alien Anthology is the most meticulous, expansive, and generous collection of material a viewer could ask for in one little box.

Just as in the DVD Quadrilogy, you get two version of the film, hours of documentaries and featurettes, a stylishly designed box and digi-pack—it’s just quality all the way. In addition to collecting the features from the laserdiscs, the Alien Legacy DVDs, and the Alien Quadrilogy DVDS, you get ‘Pod Enhancements’: hours of extra tid bits from all four pictures. You get ‘disc unbound’ for an Alien movie marathon: a genius function where, as you swap from disc to disc, they skip all the usual bullshit and get straight into the movie. And you get Mu-th-ur mode: a function that allows you to customize the 60+ hours of content and the films to your own personal requirements.

Video quality will give all technophiles and nerds an entertainment orgasm and blow any regular folk away. You have never seen these films like this before. The 4K AVC encodes on all four films make viewing them a first time experience—you have never seen them in this level of detail. Alien, heavily reliant on its blacks for atmosphere, is a glorious gothic splendour of detail, with strong detailed shadow and contrast. For those who were gasping when Cameron mentioned DNR in the same sentence as his Aliens clean up, fear not; the grain is intact, and Cameron’s signature blue palette has never looked this sharp. What really pops in this transfer is the depth of field, which really puts you in the complex and surrounding area like never before. Alien 3’s grimy copper palette renders the picture a little softer than the previous two, and the optical effects show their matte lines glaringly in hi-def, but this dark film is, again, the best its ever looked. The brighter, high-contrast look of Jeunet’s Resurrection really highlights the contrast advantages and detail of blu-ray. It’s not as spectacular as the first two films, but it’s not far off them.

Sound on all four films, a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 remaster for each, is nothing short of spectacular. All speakers will get a workout, dialogue is clear, and the disparate ambience of each film is effectively conveyed: Scott’s unsettling atmosphere will frighten the neighbours; Cameron’s bombastic world will deafen them; Fincher’s work print audio problems from the DVD have been solved, with Weaver and company adding new ADR; and Jeunet’s effort— aurally at least—match Cameron’s in balls out noise.

There really wasn’t much more that Fox could have offered (Also, this set is available in a Sideshow Collectables Alien Egg box set, so I guess they could!). This is a reference quality set that will blow away any home cinema. If only all film series would take a page out of their book. First class all the way.


Disc One: Alien

Disc Two: Aliens

Disc Three: Alien 3

Disc Four: Alien Resurrection

Disc Five: Making the Anthology

Disc Six: The Anthology Archives


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