Alien: 6-Film Collection
- Street Date:
- August 15th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- August 28th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 20th Century Fox
- 727 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the Alien Anthology (Reissue), Prometheus and the new Alien: Covenant. To the delight of those who resisted the temptation of purchasing the movies separately, 20th Century Fox collects all the Blu-rays associated with the Alien universe into a single box set. Specifically, Luke Hickman penned the Movie Itself and Audio of Prometheus while M. Enois Duarte adds new Vital Disc Stats, Video, Supplements and Final Thoughts sections. Links to the original reviews can be found in the title sections of the movies.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Alien is the groundbreaking sci-fi horror masterpiece that catapulted both Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver to super stardom. The film is a virtuoso ride of terror and suspense with subtle philosophical meditations and substance writhing beneath its simple story of survival. Released at a time when the public was still swooning over George Lucas's romantic space opera, Star Wars, the movie told audiences that the universe and its vast darkness remained a place to fear and dread. For those who have watched Howard Hawk's The Thing from Another World and Edward L. Cahn's It! The Terror from Beyond Space, the plot isn't entirely original, but its effectiveness is a testament to the skilled work of the actors, writers, and skilled filmmakers involved at each stage of production. Most importantly, the film sprang from the masterly vision of Ridley Scott.
In the opening shots, the commercial towing spaceship Nostromo moves across the screen — from top to bottom — as if flying above us, intimating the same opening from Lucas's film, but Scott quickly abolishes the similarities and reveals an ugly, bizarre-looking structure floating in outer space, nothing like the sort we'd immediately associate with a science-fiction adventure. Then we move through the damp, silent, grungy halls of the ship and into the control room, where the electronic beeps and chimes of computers are intently watched by an empty helmet. By the time we're finally introduced to the cast, awakening from what can be described as a kind of embryonic sleep, the metallic stillness of the spacecraft has become suffocating and oppressively confining. Once threatened by the alien creature, these tight, enclosed areas are used to incredible effect, creating tension and suspense through space alone.
Ridley Scott shows he is a patient director, first establishing an ominous and foreboding atmosphere, biding his time before characters are forced to survive a ravenous and brutal monster. He is, of course, assisted by an excellent script by Ronald Shusett and Dan O'Bannon (Return of the Living Dead), who is said to have pitched the story as "Jaws in space." And like Spielberg's horror classic, Scott holds back from fully revealing his boogeyman. Even while it viciously kills the crew one by one, Scott gives viewers only glimpses of the hideous beast until the closing moments. Alien' is a well-constructed and ingenious movie with a great deal more to offer than frights, especially considering the fact that Ripley (Weaver) is our first female action hero. The narrative's underlying themes are ripe with imagery and symbolism of sexuality and politics.
Alien depicts a drab and uninspiring future where the struggles of the working class remain unresolved and continue to be problematic, a fact that engineers Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Henry Dean Stanton) bring attention to. It's in this space of already existing conflict that Ripley battles for her identity as a strong female voice. Her endless clashes with Ash (Ian Holm) are telling of this aspect within the story. With H.R. Giger's sexually-charged design for the creature and the derelict spacecraft, this tension is brought to the forefront and her fight for self-awareness is made even more apparent. The chestburster scene with Kane (John Hurt) is literally a perverse and abnormal childbirth. The alien kills the men by penetrating their bodies, but it changes modes of attack with Lambert (Veronica Cartwright). Ripley only defeats the deviant monster when she finally removes her androgynous uniform to reveal (and even possible accept?) herself as a woman.
Of course, this depends on how one chooses to enjoy Ridley Scott's beautifully crafted vision of a terrifying future in space. The 2003 Director's Cut still preserves these same underlying themes of the horror classic. The differences between the two are very minor, except that the original theatrical version is about a minute longer. The newer cut introduces mostly deleted scenes, like a physical altercation involving the two women of the ship and Ripley discovering a cocooned Dallas (Tom Skeritt), which add little to the movie. The reason for one being shorter than the other is the result of giving the later edition a smoother narrative flow. Scott has stated in interviews that he favors the 1979 cut — that it's perfect the way it is. I agree with that sentiment. Alien (1979) is a horror masterpiece. (Movie Rating: 5/5)
Hot off the success of The Terminator, James Cameron directed a follow-up to Ridley Scott's film and took the storyline in a slightly different direction. Making it completely his own, while still maintaining its roots as a direct sequel, Cameron steeped his plot with a heavy dose of action and adventure. In fact, Aliens pretty much raised the bar in that area, which is a striking contrast to the intense horror elements of the original. The movie is also vastly unique and distinct from the Star Trek and Star Wars movies many were cheering for at the time. Much like its predecessor seven years earlier, this sci-fi feature surprised audiences everywhere, using standard genre tropes and then defying them. Living up to its tagline, "This Time It's War," Aliens is a brash, bare-knuckle display of frenetic action and grandiose violence that, surprisingly, is just as good as Scott's film.
If the first movie can be described as "Jaws in space," as O'Bannon once did, then Cameron's sequel is essentially "Rambo in space." Instead of a commercial freighter crew battling one vicious monster, a gung-ho, trigger-happy Marine Corps will face off against an entire horde. Part of the excitement comes from watching the soldiers interact aboard the warship Sulaco, their aggressive and combative attitudes being a big focus of the first half. Led by the inexperienced Lt. Gorman (William Hope), the colonial marines refuse to show any fear or apprehension before landing on LV-426. They display a disregard for Ripley's caution and a lack of respect for the danger they're about to encounter. But both Ripley (Weaver) and the audience understand the seriousness, which creates tension and concern. Once they meet their enemy, in which most of the team is killed in a matter of minutes, the tune of those left is suddenly for survival rather than the seek-and-destroy attitude seen earlier.
What ultimately works best — that is, other than the exciting action — is Cameron carrying over and expanding on many of the same themes explored in Scott's amazing work of horror. In Aliens, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is given a personhood through talking head Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a guy who immediately rubs us the wrong way. Whereas the first film only mentions human life as expendable and preserving an alien specimen as priority, this follow-up now turns it into a focal point of soulless corporate greed. Amid all the death and chaos, the company seeks to protect its investment and sees potential profit in the biological weapons area. In this gloomy and miserable future, even the military has been privatized for further commercial opportunities. Ripley is once again forced to battle two types of monsters and helped by Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Vasquez (Janette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton).
By placing our tough heroine in the middle of this harsh reality, Cameron is also able to expand on Ripley's character as a strong female voice. Just as in the previous film, she is compelled to prove herself as a woman within a masculine society, which is in sharp contrast to Vasquez's just-one-of-the-boys appearance and posture. In introducing little Newt (Carrie Henn) to the storyline, Ripley takes on a larger, more powerful role, readily accepting a maternal place without leaving behind those characteristics we've already come to admire in her. Indeed, this new attribute of protecting the child — who later eventually calls her "mommy" — from the other violent, monstrous mother, makes her more of a determined and confident hero than the soldiers. Ripley's relationship with Hicks and Bishop (Lance Henriksen) shows a masculine presence that can live peacefully alongside her, listen to her, and work as equals.
And just as in Scott's horror masterpiece, Cameron's Aliens can be enjoyed on the intense action and suspense alone. But for someone like myself, it's these aspects and qualities of the film which make it a well-crafted classic of science fiction. The 1991 Special Edition cut of the movie retains this same feel, if not actually making it more apparent to viewers. Most of the extra seventeen minutes in fact seem to add depth and motivation to the Ripley character, such as an early scene with Burke where the two talk about her daughter. It is later mentioned during an intimate moment with Newt, and the idea provides weight to their emotional hug at the end. Other scenes are neither here nor there, information that fans can do without, like Newt's family discovering the alien spacecraft and Hudson's "state-of-the-art" speech. Either way, both cuts are equally enjoyable in my book, and the theatrical version is a classic sci-fi actioner with brains. (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
With two amazing and highly praised films already mounting a strong following, a third follow-up sounded like a great idea at the time. But the movie was instead confronted by challenges, expectations, and controversy. From the beginning, Alien 3 seemed destined to disappoint, failing to live up to what Ridley Scott and James Cameron had previously accomplished. At first, the movie was conceived as a two-part epic with Corporal Hicks taking on a more prominent role. With Ripley not making an appearance until the second part, the idea was an all-out war against Weyland-Yutani and the alien species. Of course, that idea was never brought to fruition, and various stories went through the hands of different writers, including one treatment by David Twohy that eventually evolved into The Chronicles of Riddick. Producers David Giler and Walter Hill finally took over by melding the various ideas into one final script.
Sadly, their personal involvement and determination to see their script realized, along with the involvement of other studio heads, can be seen as the film's downfall. It's another disastrous case where outside interference ultimately ruins the potential for an amazing motion picture, especially when a stylized and talented director is hired. In this instance, we have a young, hot-shot music video director by the name of David Fincher poised to make a striking and vividly impressive feature-length debut with this installment. Unfortunately, the future filmmaker of such remarkable movies as Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac, and The Social Network was met with distrust and incredible doubt. Much of what he originally wanted with this picture was quickly shot down, and he was never really given the sort of freedom required to even make a film. In the excellently-made and surprisingly revealing documentary 'Wreckage and Rage' (which thankfully is included in its complete runtime on this Blu-ray set), we can see Fincher's frustration and anger with the production, the producers, and his overall experience.
I highly recommend watching not only that amazing documentary but also the Workprint Version of Alien 3. Not as a standalone film, mind you, but rather as a companion piece to the final product. For those unfamiliar with the language, a workprint is essentially a "work-in-progress" version. All filmed footage is made into a rough print from the original negatives which editors use for editing a movie, usually with the supervision of the director. Alas, Fincher walked out in the middle of this process, because at that point, he was simply too frustrated with the demands of the producers. Basically, this is a rare opportunity for fans, since workprints are never meant for public viewing, and it offers a unique glimpse into what could have been a brilliant film had Fincher been given a little more freedom and time with the material. The final version has always felt sloppy and rushed, and this cut shows certain scenes of dialogue that would have smoothed things out a bit more. More importantly, with everything seen in context, it seems Fincher wanted to augment the mythos of Ripley.
By now, it's apparent the Alien' saga moves between at least three different themes, each equally enjoyable as the next. And by that, I mean the films are highly entertaining no matter what spin anyone attaches to them. On the surface, the movies are about a war against a monstrous, perverse alien species. On a deeper level, it's a conflict in opposition to an evil and corrupt corporation which seeks profitability over human life. Deeper still, and my primary attraction to the series, this is Ripley's battle and struggle for self-identity, of being seen as equal to the men who surround her. Fincher's third installment, I would argue, is Ripley's journey into sainthood and viewed as a Christ-figure. I honestly believe that if David Fincher had been allowed the sort of creative freedom seen in all the other films in the franchise, this could have been an amazing addition. Looking at what we do have, the movie displays a great deal of potential.
Alien 3' doesn't play to this idea of sainthood in a straightforward manner. Instead, it's ironic in its imagery and narrative. While in cryonic stasis, Ripley crash lands on a penal colony called Fiorina 161. The prison facility is run by a warden (Brian Glover), but it's really controlled by Dillon (Charles S. Dutton) who governs the place much like a monastery. She soon aligns herself with these men, these outcasts of society, dressing in their drab, colorless uniform and even shaving her head. It's not that she's trying to gain their respect as much as she understands their position of being shunned for not falling in line with society's norms. Keep in mind, the alien hasn't been discovered yet, but she expects a rescue within a week. Meaning, she doesn't have to do this. When we consider the ending, her ultimate sacrifice, she sees these men, who have committed hideous crimes against women, worthy of salvation. There's some really powerful imagery in this film, and I wonder what could have been accomplished if the producers only gave Fincher more creative control. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Alien Resurrection (1997)
Funnily enough, Alien Resurrection can be seen as what happens when given a bit too much creative control. Looking at this movie as part of a whole, it is ultimately the odd duck of the entire franchise, the one which simply doesn't sit well with the rest of the series and the storyline. I can admit this, both as a huge admirer of the films (obviously) and as a skeptical critic. But at the same time, there's something about its weirdness and outlandish plot that I still find oddly enjoyable. Set 200 years after Fincher's take, the idea of Ripley being cloned so that another mysterious organization can save an alien queen, in all honesty, sounds ridiculous, and the movie makes the whole thing look rather cartoonish. Also, the many leftist, progressive themes suggested in the first three films are discarded here for a sci-fi actioner with space pirates, military cloning experiments, and an overly emotional Winona Ryder.
Sadly, it pains me to say much of this because I usually love weird, eccentric motion pictures. And it pains me even more because this fourth installment comes from Jean-Pierre Jeunet — also making this flick an oddball feature within his own canon of movies. I love every single one of his original, fantastical and bizarre tales that seem to come out of nowhere. From Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, Jeunet has not disappointed in the least, with Amélie being his most popular and a favorite amongst many film lovers while his MicMacs was an amusing surprise. Alien Resurrection even stars Dominique Pinon, the only actor to appear in all of the director's films. Jeunet is a highly imaginative and visionary filmmaker who's shown to possess incredible skill and control of the camera, providing his work with plenty of child-like humor. So the big question here is how exactly is he right for sci-fi horror?
Trying to figure why producers think the way they do is as difficult as trying to understand why they didn't allow Fincher more creative control, especially since the same group of people are involved. Part of the problem I find is that Jeunet's style is simply not the right tone or approach to the series. His direction and control of the camera, working with cinematographer and long-time collaborator Darius Khondji, remains just as smooth and engaging as his other works. But it's not of the type required or expected for a science fiction story about fighting alien monsters. 'Resurrection' is also the only one of his directed features that he didn't personally write, but the look and feel is still very much a quirky Jeunet production. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity) actually wrote the script, and he's even admitted it's not a badly-made movie, just not the movie he wrote. I might be willing to give Whedon that, but can he explain how the ending with the whole mother-child aspect was a good idea at all.
No matter how we look at it, Alien Resurrection doesn't fit with the storyline of the franchise. And if not for Sigourney Weaver returning as the iconic heroine Ripley, the movie shouldn't even be considered part of the series. Instead, it goes along with the AVP line as another entity unto itself. Then again, that might be seen as rather extreme. But as far as I'm concerned, Ripley's journey came to an end on Fiorina 161, giving fans a better and more satisfying conclusion to a great action hero. Resurrection is like a bad "what-if" fantasy, starting with the whole cloning angle — one big, empty, meaningless "what-if," in fact, with very little to attractive followers. Jean-Pierre Jeunet makes the movie look good and somewhat entertaining, but this is not the best way to remember one of the most beloved characters in movie history. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)
Read the full in-depth review by Mr. Hickman HERE.
The first time I watched Prometheus, I saw it functioning just as much as a remake as a prequel. The manner in which the story unfolds originally seemed similar to that of the first Alien, but after four viewings (once theatrically on a standard 3D screen, another time on an IMAX 3D screen, on a standard 2D Blu-ray and also on Blu-ray 3D), I no longer view it that way. I have put a lot of thought into this film (especially after watching it four times and seeing all seven-plus-hours of special features that appear on the 3D Blu-ray release – not this one) and realized that it's a completely original formula with ties and imagery connecting it to Alien. With each viewing, I learn something new about it, something that makes me appreciate it even more – so much more that I have been tempted to boost my original rating up to five stars. Perhaps I'll be inclined to do so on my fifth viewing.
Like all good science fiction, Prometheus is a story about the morals of science. When science fiction films exploded in the early days of film, many of them were cautionary tales disguised at entertainment. Think about it. I'll use Godzilla as an example. Think of what was going on at the time that Godzilla was made. Man invents the atomic bomb – this horrible weapon whose fallout is atrocious, immoral and inhumane. The radiation – something that scientists barely knew anything about at the time – resulted in mutations. This was taken to the far end of the spectrum in Godzilla, the result being a monster of enormous size. Who created it? Man. What does it do? It destroys man. Science was scary in those days. It held unknown consequences. Many people thought that perhaps we were playing with something that we should not have been playing with.
While Prometheus is an ensemble film led by Noomi Rapace's character Elizabeth Shaw, when you look at it in terms of themes, there are two groups of characters: Shaw and her boyfriend, and everyone else. The story of Shaw focuses on religion, creation, the beginnings of human life. In some ways, her story is like that of The Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. She's seeking God and just-so-happens to find a way to get to him – but we all know how well that turned out for the Babylonians.
The story that belongs to the remainder of the characters is brilliant. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the old tycoon who is funding Shaw's deep space mission, has sent a few of his own employees along with Shaw and her boyfriend. The most important and interesting of them all is David (Michael Fassbender), a humanoid robot. (If you know the Alien movies, then you know already know this type of character.) The story that David commands is not unlike that of Godzilla – man, or a robot in this case, is toying with science, unsure of what the consequences will be. When these two stories collide, Prometheus fires on all levels. (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Essentially abandoning the ridiculous, sophomoric pseudo-philosophizing of Prometheus, Ridley Scott returns to direct the sequel to that ambitious but ultimately bloated prequel in Alien: Covenant, a title that even comes across as somewhat apologetic by evoking the original 1979 classic. In fact, Jerry Goldsmith's creepily thematic score is repurposed in this production as a haunting motif suggesting the direction of this particular script, which took four writers to complete. The filmmakers are correcting the disastrous collision course of the previous installment and are finally steering it on track to dock with the familiar, much-preferred storyline that introduced moviegoers to the lethal Xenomorph monster and the iconic heroine Ellen Ripley. This again is where the title change plays a significant role, as the plot feels more like a return to the franchise's traditional horror thriller roots rather than some absurdly heavy-handed pursuit for humanity's creator. By no means is this a great film. However, it is good filmmaking that vastly improves on its predecessor by simply being entertaining while adding an arguably satisfying twist to the alien's genesis.
Of course, this will be disputed among those who appreciated the lofty goals of Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof's screenplay, likely feeling betrayed by a sequel that basically asks viewers to pretty much scrap the events of the first movie. And in many ways, it does. Rather than continuing on Elizabeth Shaw's obsessed spiritual quest with the coldly indifferent android David (Michael Fassbender), fans are made to focus on the crew of the Covenant en route to colonize the remote habitable planet Origae-6. And this is one of the better aspects because these aren't scientists gloating their particular area of study while making really stupid mistakes. They are the ship's crew, regular people with believable faults, with only one responsibility but sidetracked with investigating a faint distress call, a decision made by the visibly afflicted first mate Chris Oram (Billy Crudup), the new captain after an accident killed his predecessor. This generates tensions with the rest, especially the newly widowed Janet Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Stupidity abounds, for sure, which is an inherent necessity for horror, but at least, it's not caused by people who should know better.
Granted, a few are experts of something, but their shared undertaking unites them to a more poignant purpose, one that's been impeded by a neutrino burst, damaging the ship and risking the lives of over two thousand colonists. This is what leads them to explore a remote but potentially habitable alternative. The whole thing feels vaguely familiar, as though audiences have taken similar steps towards to a horrible doom some thirty-eight years ago. Only, the filmmakers have added the awkwardly mawkish device of making the entire crew married to one another, which feels both clumsily forced and cheap to gain sympathies as well as unnecessarily weird. It works at giving the cast the opportunity to overact when spouses begin to die one at a time, but leaves viewers out in the cold. The same can be said of Fassbender playing dual roles as androids: the original David and newer model with slightly less autonomy Walter. It's interesting to watch the award-winning actor interact and play opposite himself, but at the same time, it can feel heedlessly weighty and a bit dull, as though conceived solely for Walter learning to play the Prometheus theme on the flute.
On the other hand, at least the interaction between the two androids leads to something more impactful than their human counterparts, who ultimately serve no other purpose than be fodder. Whereas David's sinister machinations was more implied and suspicious, in Alien: Covenant, the filmmakers make it apparent with his involvement within the franchise's history more shocking, much to the disgruntled moans of some, I'm sure. But the success of this new installment is a return to a classic atmospheric approach to the story, slowly building the suspense and leaving much of what the colonists will discover a complete mystery. The photography of Dariusz Wolski (The Martian, Pirates of the Caribbean series) bathes the entire screen with a gloomy, dispassionate feel that complements Scott's direction, keeping the action tense and effective. Distancing itself further from the first prequel, the film is significantly more violent and gorier, relying more on scares than nonsensical moralizing outside of David and Walter. And this is sure to please horror-hounds, a return to the franchise's genre roots, keeping the plot simple as a straightforward creature-feature. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings the entire Alien franchise to Blu-ray once more, dubbing the box set as "6-Film Collection." All six Region A locked, BD50 discs are housed inside a slightly oversized blue case with a pair of center panels that hold two discs on either side, and the whole thing comes inside a shiny side-sliding, cardboard slipcover featuring the different alien creatures, a facehugger and the Disc Jockey.
The package also includes six collectible art cards of the original movie posters and separate flyers for Digital HD Copies, which can be redeemed via FoxRedeem.com but only available in HD SDR and HDX on VUDU. There is also a SteelBook version of the collection box set. At startup, viewers are asked to choose between the original theatrical version of a movie or the Special Edition cut. Afterward, the standard menu selection appears at the bottom of the screen on top of what looks like a computer screen displaying various layouts and schematics in connection with the movie or showing full-motion clips.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Simply put, Ridley Scott's Alien arrives on Blu-ray with the same phenomenal 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1). The sci-fi horror classic shows incredible detail, far better than anyone could have imagined for a nearly forty-year-old film. We can clearly make out the intricate design of the Nostromo's and the crashed alien spacecraft's interiors. Every distinct line in the metallic, claustrophobic halls, the mess hall, the air shafts, and all the computer gadgetry is made plainly visible. We can even see pores, wrinkles and small defects on the faces of actors while the alien's body reveals the hard work done by the designers. At times, the picture appears as though some digital noise reduction was used to clean it up a bit, but it's very mild and doesn't ruin the movie in any significant way.
The film has always been dark with harsh, oppressive shadows, but delineation remains strong. Contrast is pitch-perfect, and blacks are often intense and deep, much better resolved with clean gradients than on previous editions. There are a couple moments with noticeably weaker resolution which take away from the brightness levels somewhat, like the scene when Kane wakes up in the infirmary. But for the most part, the image is consistent and beautiful. The palette is rather limited since more emphasis is placed on generating a brooding, ominous atmosphere, but the colors we do see, particularly reds, are rendered accurately and vibrantly. There is also another small change in color timing with a slight push on blue, giving the video a steelier, metallic appearance. Again, this is only noticeable if one wishes to carefully examine the differences, which honestly does nothing to spoil the film's enjoyment. All things considered, this high-def transfer of 'Alien' makes a stunning presentation on Blu-ray and remains the horror masterpiece it's always been. (Video Rating: 4.5/5)
The classic sequel erupts on Blu-ray with the same somewhat controversial "de-noised" and "de-grained" presentation. But like its predecessor, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) looks stunning and spectacular on Blu-ray, exhibiting plenty of natural film grain throughout. The picture shows astounding resolution and clarity in the clothing, weapons and exposes intricate, distinct lines in the architecture of the Hadley's Hope colony. Facial complexions display amazing lifelike definition and texture. Blacks are deep and penetrating, often rich while contrast levels are crisp and precise. The balance is so good, in fact, that early sequences in space can easily serve as demo-material for calibration purposes. Shadow details are also superb and revealing. Colors are deliberately limited, but accurately rendered, especially in the primaries, with strong variation in the palette.
The one major caveat in the entire presentation is also a rather significant change from all previous home-theater releases, something Cameron also mentioned in the interview linked above. Of course, the application of some digital noise reduction and sharpening is a considerable alteration for fans and purists, as it is quite noticeable in a couple scenes. However, it's not obtrusive or distracting enough to ruin the movie. The issue here is with the change in color timing, from warmer redish hues with a strong blue push to an obvious green-teal appearance with orange hues. This is most apparent when characters arrive on LV-426 in Chapter 9 and at the beginning of Chapter 11 when the team walks around the research lab.
Admittedly, since this was scanned from the OCN, it's possible this is how the film was always meant to look and previous home editions are wrong. But it's equally possible James Cameron made the change due to some kind of revisionist mentality many filmmakers are lately suffering from. Whatever the case may be, this is an observable and noteworthy change that fans ought to be aware of. Ultimately, this will come down to personal preference for each viewer (I'm not sure I like it too much myself) given that the color timing revision doesn't completely spoil the picture quality of Aliens. The high-def transfer of this classic sci-fi actioner is still beautiful and remarkable on Blu-ray either way. (Video Rating: 4.5/5)
Unlike the previous two films, this third installment to the favorite franchise is not all that impressive, despite still being a reasonable upgrade from its standard definition counterpart. Although the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) shows several moments of softness, the picture often displays really nice details and clarity throughout. The stylized video shows plenty of clear definition in the faces of actors and the prison facility. Contrast is comfortably bright, allowing for great visibility of background info and strong shadow delineation. Black levels are fairly deep and resilient, providing the image an attractive cinematic quality. The color palette is intentionally muted to give the movie a drab and gloomy appearance, but secondary hues are accurate while reds are bold and vibrant. The transfer looks pretty good overall, but several soft spots brings it down a notch. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Like the last video, the third installment doesn't appear to have received the same restoration effort as the first two movies. Don't get me wrong, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) is mostly an upgrade from its DVD counterpart, but it's not really a hands-down, decisive winner. Of course, this being a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, the image is highly stylized with a warm palette that artfully emphasizes secondary hues. Fine object detailing is pretty good and improves during close-up shots. Contrast is nicely balanced while blacks are deep and attractive. However, there are a few instances of crush and questionable shadow delineation. There is also some evidence of sharpening and digital noise reduction in certain scenes, such as at the 14-minute mark of Chapter 6 in the Special Edition cut. We can see plenty of natural film grain throughout most of the movie, but the transfer tends to be rather inconsistent, with several moments of softness. By and large, the stylized picture looks good in high-def, but it never really reaches the quality of the first two discs. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Read the full in-depth review by Mr. Hickman HERE.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of Prometheus is astounding, doing perfect justice to the film's beautiful style. If you find the visuals as breathtaking as I do, then get ready for your next demo disc.
The video quality is crisp, clear, sharp, and detailed. Textures abound, from the smooth movements of the life-destroying black oil to the slimy skin of a ginormous face-hugger. The skin-tight "away team" space suits that the crew wear contain defined texture. When wicked winds pelt the ship and crew with metallic rocks, you can clearly see each of the thousands of rocks that blast across the screen. From CG to practical images, details aren't an issue. Despite being set in mostly dark locations, through creative and well-planned lighting and rich black levels, these details don't waiver. There is always an object or a set of objects on-screen worth gazing at. This, of course, is due to the amount of clarity and sharpness within the image. The massive sets are elaborate, especially within the bridge of the juggernaut.
Compression errors don't arise either. Bands, aliasing, artifacts and digital noise are absent. Edge enhancement and DNR are not applied.
My only complaint with the Blu-ray release is a personal gripe. On IMAX screens, the frame was opened up from the standard theatrical 2.40:1 ratio to 2:1. Because 'Prometheus' is such an epic film on a grand scope, more is better. My wish is that at least one of the two Prometheus Blu-rays would have featured the IMAX 2:1 ratio – but neither do. (Video Rating: 5/5)
Alien: Covenant (2017)
The Ridley Scott sequel sets forth on a dangerous expedition of Blu-ray with an impressive, reference-quality 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, featuring a darkly atmospheric palette that looks beautiful.
Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski shot the entire film digitally but stylized it in such a way as to give it a creepy textured quality, layering much of the movie in pitch-black shadows that penetrate deep into the screen. Brightness levels are one of the more impressive aspects, delivering rich, inky blacks that never engulf the finer details in the darkest portions of the screen and maintain superb gradational differences during many poorly-lit sequences, adding depth and distance in every shot. Viewers can plainly make out the stitching and threading in the uniforms, and the surrounding foliage is continuously distinct from a distance. The lettering on computer monitors and walls is legible even during many wide shots while the tiniest detail on the surface of the spaceship is striking and detailed. Although complexions deliberately seem pale and sometimes pasty, faces remain natural and highly revealing, exposing every pore and blemish in the entire cast.
Contrast is also heavily subdued and controlled, giving the entire 2.40:1 image an emotionless grayish and dispirited tone that perfectly suits the planet's downcast environment. Thankfully, whites remains crisp and vibrant with excellent distinction and clarity in the various light fixtures without blooming. As would be expected, colors are greatly affected by the filmmakers' stylized intentions, noticeably limiting the secondary hues to toned down earth tones and the usual teal-orange palette with most of the video's colorful pop coming from the orange, green and blue lit computer monitors. Nevertheless, primaries remain accurate and well-saturated, particularly the blue sky of the planet and the crimson red blood of various bodies. (Video Rating: 5/5)
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Scott's Alien is not a film with a whole lot going on sonically, and that's really more by design than any technical limitations. This DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack appears faithful to that, where silence becomes a terrifying character in and of itself, and doesn't add any artificial effects in the surrounds. Most of the attention is given to the fronts, with well-prioritized vocals and an expansive dynamic range. The other two channels display the discrete, off-screen sounds of the ship accurately and flawlessly, creating a wide and spacious soundstage. Bass is not all that active, but there is a noticeable low-end present throughout, adding good depth and some force to action scenes. Rears are essentially reserved for very light atmospherics and faint echoes that nicely expand the soundfield. Ripley's escape during the self-destruct countdown exhibits the most activity so as to raise the suspense and energy. Jerry Goldsmith's artfully subtle score also makes good use of the back speakers with mild bleeds. This lossless mix of a sci-fi horror classic sounds excellent on Blu-ray. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
James Cameron's follow-up to Scott's horror landmark arrives with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio option which also appears faithful to the movie's original design. This is understandably a front-heavy presentation with great fidelity and acoustical presence. Dialogue reproduction is terrific and precise, even amid the loudest moments. Channel separation and movement feels expansive and convincing, creating a spacious and engaging soundstage. Sharp, room-penetrating dynamics exhibit plenty of clarity detail, keeping things lively and entertaining, while the low-end packs a clean, responsive wallop during explosions. Rears are not always active, but subtle ambient effects are employed on occasion to enhance the soundfield and can envelop the listener satisfyingly. James Horner's musical score receives the biggest upgrade by spreading to the background evenly, adding to the imaging and pulling viewers into the action persuasively. Overall, Aliens sounds terrific on Blu-ray. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack accompanying the film sounds much better than the movie looks, although it does come with one important issue. Vocals tend to be overwhelmed by sudden bursts of action and music. It can sometimes be very difficult to hear certain conversations. This is a shame seeing as how the rest of the lossless mix sounds great. The front soundstage exhibits imaging that's wide and welcoming with expansive dynamics and sharp acoustics. Low-frequency effects can be quite powerful and broad, but not as responsive or cleanly rendered as I would have liked. Elliot Goldenthal's score fills the entire system with amazing detail and clarity, drawing viewers into the action and story.Rear activity also displays a good amount of ambience and movement, though it never feels wholly convincing or immersive. Nonetheless, Alien³ provides a highly enjoyable lossless mix on Blu-ray, except for some rather weak vocals. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
As the newest addition to the franchise, Alien Resurrection comes with the most activity in the surrounds, and this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack delivers a fun, action-packed experience. Discrete, off-screen atmospherics create an enjoyable soundscape that's engaging, and movement between the channels is convincing. The scene where everyone emerges from the water into a gunfight is a good moment of immersion. John Frizzell's musical score also spreads into the background with charisma, pulling viewers into the movie. Dynamic range is wide and detailed, providing the soundstage with a nice, welcoming presence. Low bass is punchy and deep, giving each explosion and gunshot some serious impact. Dialogue is well-prioritized and clear, even in the movie's loudest sequences. In the end, Jeunet's film sounds great on high-resolution audio. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Read the full in-depth review by Mr. Hickman HERE.
If I could give 'Prometheus'' 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track a rating higher than 5 stars, I would. Hearing it cranked up on a 7.1 system, I heard sounds that I never recognized during my theatrical viewings. The first time I screened 'Prometheus,' I was immediately reeled into the film by the beautiful score overlaying breathtaking landscapes during the opening credits. Hearing the score via this mix is just as wowing. It establishes a grand tone equal to that of the movie that you're about to see.
Once the film takes us into the flight deck of the Prometheus ship, the mixing of the effects makes itself apparent. The effects emitting from every channel are clearly audible. As quiet as some might be, you can easily hear them all - sensors beeping behind you, controls being toggled to the side of you, thrusters outside the ship causing a low bassy rumble. When we're taken to exterior shots of the ship cutting its way through the atmosphere, those same thrusters combined with the atmospheric friction create a deep and resonant LFE that will shake your theater room. One of my favorite sounds in the film is that of the LV-223 storm rolling in. The gusts blast small pieces of metallic rock through the air. As they collide with one another mid-flight, the high-pitch clanking sounds amazing. One thing that I never noticed until listening to this 7.1 mix was that when Prometheus lands on the surface of LV-223, the downward thrusters kick up that same metallic gravel and those same sounds can be heard.
The imaging effects of this mix are seamless and astounding. Take, for example, this same storm sequence. It's obvious that it was shot with the audio in mind because every shot of the storm shows the rocks blowing from left to right. Not a single frame shows it any other way. This causes the wind to relentlessly throw debris in that same direction. It's furious and never lets up. The non-stop left-to-right sound is unnerving. I found myself wanting the shot to switch angles just so that the left-to-right motion would let up. The level of detail put into these imaging sounds is phenomenal. It sounds as if you can literally track these individual blowing rocks from one side of the theater to the other – and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them.
The vocal detail of this mix is also worth noting. The character that warrants the most attention vocally is David. Fassbender's voice resonates with a rich, deep bass. There's one effect applied to a certain character's voice that I'd like to explain to you, but I cannot because it would reveal a major plot point. (If you want to know, ask me in the forums.) Just like I did with the effects mixing, I heard vocals in the Blu-ray mix that I didn't know existed during my theatrical viewings. They say that no one can hear you scream in space; well, we can surely hear them scream on the surface of LV-223. I didn't hear the many screams Rapace and Charlize Theron let out throughout the film until now.
If you can't watch 'Prometheus' with the audio cranked up because the kids are in bed, don't watch it. This lossless 7.1 mix deserves to be heard as loudly as possible. (Audio Rating: 5/5)
Alien: Covenant (2017)
The sci-fi horror flick blasts onto screens with a splendid, demo-worthy DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack that continuously immerses the listener and pulls them into this dark, creepy world of Xenomorphs. While aboard the Covenant ship, the digital beeps from the computers are heard in the background and the hollow metallic pings echo all around with superb directionality. While exploring the planet, the surrounds suddenly grow silent, which is intentional and eerily effective, but the wind and thunder storm are occasionally heard to remind viewers of the potentially hostile conditions of the planet while thunder roars overhead.
For a majority of the runtime, the design is incredibly subtle but very well done and incredibly satisfying while tensions slowly escalate and the screen suddenly erupts into action-mode. While the mix of familiar musical motifs and Jed Kurzel's new score fill the entire soundstage with minor bleeds into the sides, imaging continuously feels expansive and spacious. Various effects travel flawlessly with discrete accuracy between the channels and off-screen, providing the visuals with an outstanding sense of space and maintaining extraordinary crystal-clear clarity during the loudest, ear-piercing segments. The dialogue and constant yelling is never drowned out by all the ruckus, and the low-end delivers a powerful, hearty rumble to the engines of spaceships and the explosions. (Audio Rating: 5/5)
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Most of the same supplements are ported over for this six-film package. Missing is an extra pair of Blu-rays containing the exhaustive documentaries for each film, the "Anthology Archives" and the interactive features such as the enhancement pods and the MU-TH-UR Mode feature.
DISC ONE: ALIEN
Audio Commentaries: Two commentaries are available on this disc. First is from the cast and crew which was recorded separately and then edited together, so the entire track can be somewhat choppy and all over the place. Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett talk mostly about the story, script and where ideas came from while also throwing in a few compliments about the production. Ridley Scott is given the most time, appearing twice: once by himself; and the other time with Sigourney Weaver. These comments are quite informative and the most entertaining of all. Every now and then, we also hear a few words from John Hurt and editor Terry Rawlings that are scene-specific. The loudest is a group recording with Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, and Harry Dean Stanton. They really enjoy each other's company and have lots of fun talking.
The second commentary comes from Ridley Scott flying solo this time, and it is a recommended listen for any fan of the film. The director is very enlightening and revealing about the process of making a movie, specifically one with so much creative design meant to terrify audiences. He also provides comments on specific scenes, as well as behind-the-scenes anecdotes on the challenges he faced as a director — only his second feature-length film at the time. The track is unfortunately only available on the Theatrical Version.
Deleted Scenes Index (HD, 7 min): The same seven scenes from previous releases.
Introduction (SD, 1 min): The same short intro from Ridley Scott at the start of the 2003 Special Edition cut of the movie can only be viewed when selecting that version. It's not made available as a separate option in the bonus features.
Deleted Scene Footage Marker: Available since the 2003 version, selecting this option allows the disc to highlight with a small "x" icon on the lower right corner indicating added footage.
DISC TWO: ALIENS
Audio Commentaries: Similar to the track on the first disc, the commentary features several participants recorded separately and edited together later. James Cameron is by his lonesome and of course, talks heavily about the production, design, and filming techniques. Producer Gale Anne Hurd and special effects wizard Stan Winston discuss issues that arose during shoots and a few comments on the creatures, especially on the Queen. Visual effects supervisors Robert and Dennis Skotak spend their time on specific scenes along with the photography and the film's overall design. Pat McClung is the effects supervisor of miniatures, and his voice is only heard when his work is seen on screen. The last group is the cast Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn. The group may not be as rambunctious as in the first movie, but they definitely have a good time and talk about their time together in great length. The track is available on both versions of the movie.
Deleted Scenes Index (HD, 20 min): The same sixteen scenes from previous releases.
Introduction (SD, 1 min): This is a short intro from James Cameron for the 1990 Special Edition cut where he explains his preference for that version over the theatrical..
Deleted Scene Footage Marker: Available since the 1990 version of the film, selecting this option allows the disc to highlight with a small "x" icon on the lower right corner indicating added footage.
DISC THREE: ALIEN³
Audio Commentaries: Understandably, David Fincher did not participate in this commentary track, which is available on both cuts of the film. And like the previous two, the audio is edited from separate recordings, starting with Editor Terry Rawlings expressing some kind words for Fincher and talks generally on piecing the movie together. Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff converse with visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund on the production, photography effects, and certain camera techniques. Cinematographer Alex Thomson mentions how he became involved and his creative style for lighting the camera. We also have some scene-specific comments from actors Lance Henriksen and Paul McGann. The track is available on both versions.
Deleted Scenes Index (HD, 50 min): Thirty-one deleted and extended scenes are collected here which can also be watched integrated into the movie by watching the Workprint Version.
Deleted Scene Footage Marker: Available only on the Workprint Version, selecting this option allows the disc to highlight with a small "x" icon on the lower right corner indicating added footage.
DISC FOUR: ALIEN RESURRECTION
Audio Commentaries: Yet again, this is another commentary track with participants recorded individually and edited together later. Jean-Pierre Jeunet talks about the many creative decisions made throughout the production and explains the several different ideas he had in making this movie. Editor Hervé Schneid and concept artist Sylvain Despretz discuss the many quirky elements of the film, while effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff converse with visual effects supervisor Pitof about the design work and make several funny scene-specific comments. Finally, we have Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman and Leland Orser sharing anecdotes about the production and working with the cast. It's not a bad track, but it's also not a wholly exciting one either.
Deleted Scenes Index (HD, 12 min): The same eleven deleted and extended scenes, which have also been integrated into the 2003 Special Edition cut.
Introduction (SD, 1 min): Same short intro from Jean-Pierre Jeunet for the 2003 Special Edition cut explaining this version is not a Director's Cut and that he's satisfied with the theatrical version.
Deleted Scene Footage Marker: Available Special Edition version of the 'Alien Resurrection,' selecting this option allows the disc to highlight with a small "x" icon on the lower right corner indicating added footage.
DISC FIVE: PROMETHEUS
Audio Commentaries: Audio Commentaries: A pair of commentaries kick off with director Ridley Scott explaining how this project fits in the franchise, the challenges of making the film and his creative decisions while also tossing in a few anecdotes from the production. The second track features an amusing conversation with writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof discussing the plot, some of the details that went into creating this storyline and various other themes.
The Peter Weyland Files (HD, 19 min): The four promotional videos that went viral prior to the film's official premiere, and they can be watched sequentially or individually.
Happy Birthday, David
Ted Conference, 2023
Deleted Scenes (HD, 37 min): A collection of 14 alternate, extended and excised sequences.
DISC SIX: ALIEN: COVENANT
Audio Commentaries: In a rather dry and monotone voice, director Ridley Scott shares his thoughts on the movie, its place in the franchise, the stylized visuals and his creative decisions.
Master Class: Ridley Scott (HD, 56 min): Ignoring the somewhat misleading title, this hour-long documentary is actually an in-depth look at the making of the film and broken into four parts that can be watched separately (Story, Characters, Setting and Creatures). Featuring a host of cast & crew interviews interspersed with tons of BTS footage, viewers can learn a great deal on the director's creative style and approach to the plot, the characters, the visual effects and the shooting location.
USCSS Covenant (HD, 17 min): Three more individual pieces that work as a faux advertisement for the latest android models, a roundtable discussion, or found-footage of the crew before cryo-sleep.
The Last Supper
Sector 87 - Planet 4 (HD): Three segments providing some exposition and background to the plot.
The Crossing (3 min)
Advent (7 min)
David's Illustrations – still gallery
Deleted Scenes (HD): Collection of twelve excised and extended sequences.
Production Gallery (HD).
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Aside from the six collectible poster cards, there are no high-def exclusives.
Fox Home Entertainment reissues the same Alien Anthology Blu-ray discs in a sleek six-disc box set that now includes Scott's two prequels, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott's initial film remains a sci-fi horror classic, a masterpiece of suspense and terror that could possibly never be topped. The sequel from James Cameron is arguably the best and most impressive follow-up moviegoers have ever seen, delivering a suspenseful thrill-ride of action and adventure.
David Fincher's third installment was a troubled production from the very beginning, made worse by the little confidence he was shown by the producers and studio heads. Still, the potential for an amazing film with a great deal of intelligence underneath can be seen in the final product, just never fully realized. The fourth film from French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet takes a really strange turn for the bizarre and comical, definitely the most outlandish of the series with an even weirder payoff at the end. In the end, the franchise is remembered best for the first two films, as they are the ones which have left the strongest impression.
Ridley Scott's prequel sets the stage for a reboot series that attempts to explain the origins of the deadly Xenomorph without ever actually using or showing the iconic monster. The end result is an ambitious and ultimately bloated sci-fi thriller that quickly grows too grandiose for its own good. The director followed up that entry with a six installment to the franchise that abandons the sophomoric philosophizing of its predecessor. Although fans of the first movie are sure to be disappointed, the movie is an improvement and far more entertaining, largely because it's a return to the horror roots of the 1979 classic.
This Blu-ray edition of all six films is an attractive package, especially for those who patiently waited for its inevitable release. The films by Scott and Cameron display the same absolutely gorgeous high-def video transfers and audio presentations as before. Fincher's and Jeunet's movies also look good and sound better; however, they don't quite match the quality of the first two. And the final two prequels by Scott feature reference quality audio and video presentations. Many of the same supplements are ported over from the Anthology collection and the separate releases of the last two films. Although this new package doesn't quite compare to its predecessor in terms of bonus features, it remains pretty exhaustive and a worthy purchase for those who did not buy the previous box set.
- Six-Disc Box Set
- 6 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
- French DTS 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
- Audio Commentaries
- Theatrical and Special Edition Cuts
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Isolated Score Track
- Still Galleries
Exclusive HD Content
- Poster Cards