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Featured Blu-ray Review: Alien Anthology

November 4th, 2010

Alien Anthology - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon

It has been just over 30 years since the first Alien hit theaters and around seven years since the franchise Box Set came out on DVD. Because these films have been released, and re-released, and then released again, this review will be less about the movies, and more about the Blu-ray and whether or not it is worth the upgrade.


In the first film, we see the crew of the Nostromo, a commercial mining spaceship in deep space, awake from cryogenic sleep by what could be a distress beacon. The crew is not even sure its an actual signal or just a natural phenomenon. It's company policy to check out all possible contact with intelligent life, so off they go. It turns out it was from an alien species, but first contact doesn't go as well as one would hope, and one face-hugger later, all hell breaks loose.

That's really all the plot details I'm going to give for two reason. Firstly, Alien is an incredibly famous movie and if you don't know the general plot, you likely don't care. Secondly, it's better going in with as little information as possible.

Admittedly, it has been a while since I've seen the movie, but it is just as effective as it was the last time I saw it. It's a near perfect mix of sci-fi and horror, while the design of the aliens is an instant classic.


The survivors of the first film (which consist of Ripley and ... the cat ... technically that's two survivors) make it back to Earth, but the events of the first film are dismissed, since all the evidence was destroyed with the ship. Ripley is blamed for the events and loses her flight status as a result. She then learns the planet where the original signal came from has been turned into a human colony, but that contact with said colony has been lost. The company Ripley works for is planning on sending the Marines in to check it out. She's given the opportunity to earn back her flight status if she goes along and offers her expertise on the aliens.

However, the Marines dismiss her warnings, as she's just a civilian and not tough like them. It will be the last mistake a lot of them make.

One of the few sequels that earned better reviews that its predecessor did. I'm not sure I would say it is better than the original, but the story is different enough that it stands on its own. Alien is much more claustrophobic, much more suspenseful, and much more of a true horror film. Aliens has a lot more action, it has a bigger cast, moves at a faster pace, etc. In the original, it is the sense of anticipation that generates the fear. Here you are almost never given a chance to catch your breath.

Two incredibly different movies, but both are equally successful.


While the survivors of the previous film are on their way back to Earth, we see that the cryo-chamber has a visitor, which attaches itself to one of the survivors. In doing so, it causes the fire detectors to go off, which releases the escape pod, which then crashes onto planet Fiorina 161, killing all on board except Ripley. The planet, known as Fury 161, is a penal / work colony for Weyland-Yutani, and the only inhabitants are the prisoners and a handful of staff. Since Ripley is the only woman on the penal colony, she becomes a disruptive element, to say the least. Meanwhile, after seeing evidence of an alien in the escape pod, she tries to warn the prison staff of the dangers without being too specific, but they don't believe her, till it is too late.

Well... The Law of Diminishing Returns hits the franchise. Apparently there were some 30 drafts of the script written for this film over the years, and you can tell, as the end result is a bit of a mess. I think the main flaw in the film is the setting. Having the film set on a prison colony means there are very few characters we can cheer for. It doesn't help that the studio stepped in and cut 30 minutes of the movie to try and make it more like Aliens. The special edition restores many of these scenes and it is the better version, but it is still a big let down from the previous two films.

Alien: Resurrection

Set 200 years after the events of the third film, Weyland-Yutani has gone under, but there's a new company looking to breed and tame aliens for weapons. With that end in mind, they have setup a research facility on a spaceship on the outskirts of known space and cloned Ripley from the blood sample found on Fiorina 161. Because Ripley was infected in that movie, her blood contains the DNA of the aliens, so when she was cloned, she's still infected. If that explanation doesn't make sense, that's because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the movie. It does seem to have worked, on the other hand, and not only have they extracted a queen, but they've managed to keep Ripley alive. She again warns them about how dangerous the aliens are and how they are uncontrollable, and again she is ignored.

However, the scientists need hosts to breed more aliens, and they get them from the crew of The Betty, pirate ship (for lack of a better term) run by mercenaries. While they are aboard the space station, the aliens break out and prove Ripley's warnings were correct.

This film had the weakest box office numbers out of the four Alien films, at least domestically, but I think that has to do with how badly butchered Alien³ was. People seeing the theatrical version of that movie would have given up on the franchise. Alien: Resurrection is better than the theatrical cut of the predecessor, but not as good as the director's cut. Sigourney Weaver is excellent in this movie, but she's the only part that really shines. The rest feel like half-baked ideas or bits and pieces borrowed from the earlier movies.

Call it an okay way to spend an evening, but don't watch all four movies quick in succession, or its weaknesses will be emphasized when compared to the strength of the first two.

The Blu-ray

Each of the films come with plenty of extras including the MU-TH-UR Mode, which is a sort of interactive way of watching the movie. You can pick the audio track you want, read a trivia track, look at images, etc. Each movie also has two versions, the theatrical version and the director's cut / special edition.

Disc five is the making of disc with massive amounts of making of featurettes for all of the films. We are talking hours and hours of featurettes. There's even a MU-TH-UR Mode and an index if you want to jump around. Disc six has what is called the "Archives", which includes stuff like scripts, storyboards, pre-visualizations, audition tapes, galleries, stills, etc., etc., etc. Again, there's hours of material here.

Finally, we get to the technical presentation. First the bad news, Alien³ and Alien: Resurrection were given a high definition revamp, which was expected. The image is a little softer that one would expect from a first-run Blu-ray release, but then again, this isn't a first-run Blu-ray release, but a catalog title. On the other hand, Alien and Aliens were given full restorations and look as good, if not better, than they likely looked on opening night. The audio is immersive throughout with good use of the surround sound speakers, directional effects, and a bass that really rumbles.

The six-disc set does cost $90, which is a bit much, but even if you are only interested in the first and second movie, it is still worth it for the incredible improvement on the video and audio, as well as the wealth of extras.

The Verdict

Alien started with one of the best movies of all time. The second film had a very different tone, but it was just as good. The third film was significantly weaker, even the director's cut, in part due to a script that went through too many hands and was just too bleak. While the final film is entertaining on its own, just a long way down from where the franchise started. As for the Blu-ray Box Set, it might cost a lot, but you get what you pay for. Easily worth picking up for fans of the franchise, even if you only like the first two movies.

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Filed under: Video Review, Aliens, Alien, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection