"Alien Anthology" Blu-ray Review

November 03, 2010 by Zach Demeter

Click Here!Sometimes, the scariest things come from within. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents one of the most successful and terrifying film franchises of all time when on Blu-ray, everyone will hear you scream. The Alien Anthology debuts on Blu-ray for the first time ever from October 25 internationally and on October 26 in North America. All four Alien films have been reinvigorated for an intense Blu-ray high-definition viewing experience. The release also marks the debut of MU-TH-UR Mode, a fully interactive companion that takes the extensive materials in the Alien Anthology and puts them in the user’s hand – connecting fans to special features on all six discs and instantly providing an index of all available Alien content, including over 60 hours of special features and over 12,000 images. So, just how excellent is this anthology release? Find out after the synopsis…

Synopsis
The Alien Anthology is a truly unique home entertainment experience. For the first time ever, the studio has united the material from every home video release of the Aliemn saga including the 1991/1992 laserdisc releases, the 1999 “Legacy” release and 2003’s groundbreaking Alien Quadrilogy release into one complete Blu-ray collection. The set also includes two versions of each film and over four hours of previously unreleased exclusive material such as original screentests of Sigourney Weaver prior to filming the original Alien, unseen deleted scenes, thousands of still photographs from the Fox archives, the previously unseen original cut of “Wreckage and Rage: The Making of Alien3,” and much, much more.

I love that tagline: “On Blu-ray, everyone will hear you scream.” It’s a cheap play on the tagline for the original film but it really works considering how thorough of a collection this is. And that’s an impressive thing to say considering I thought that the Alien Quadrilogy DVD release was the pinnacle of a film collection at that point. Thankfully if you owned that set then you can safely pony up to this one as it has all of that and more…so, so much more. But I’m getting ahead of myself—first I must discuss the films before we delve into the behemoth that is the Alien Anthology.

Though I consider myself a lover of sci-fi and this a sci-fi classic, I oddly didn’t even lay eyes on the series until a few years back. At one point I went on a massive DVD trading in/buying spree and one of the purchases I made was the Quadrilogy set. I didn’t immediately fall in love with the series; not because of the visuals or special effects, but it just didn’t enthrall me as I thought it would. That isn’t to say I didn’t still enjoy it—the first two films I really, really enjoyed and have since watched multiple times. The whole series has grown on me but like the Predator series, the Alien series always seemed like a better idea than what was ultimately executed. The first entries in each were fantastic, but as they wore on they grew more and more mundane (the Predator series more quickly so, obviously). Still, these were only my second viewings of the third and fourth films, which admittedly held up a tiny bit better this go around.

I think what harmed my enjoyment of the series out of the gate was expectations. This series has been so parodied, mocked, tribute-ized and every other thing that you’re hard pressed not to stumble upon it during the course of viewing forty other films that mimic it in some way. This is fine, of course; if I’d grown up with the series I probably would probably glom onto this box set like black on licorice (which, coincidentally, the aliens remind me of…mmm), but as is I’m just merely a casual fan. I can definitely appreciate what this series has done for the sci-fi genre, but I also have to acknowledge that a ton of other films have come along since then and basically carried its torch and lit several fires of their own.

Still, watching Alien and Aliens definitely makes for exhilarating entertainment. While the first one deals with the isolation and the sole alien on the station, the second one expands it with a whole horde of them—which really just makes the whole experience all that much more terrifying. As freakish as the aliens look, however, they never really scared me—it was all the suspense built up with the dark lighting, creepy space stations and Ripley’s lone-wolf (though that’s not really by choice) nature in going after these monstrous…monsters. The two films that followed were sadly the weakest of the bunch, despite David Fincher directing the third and Joss Whedon writing the fourth, but nonetheless added to the overall mythology and history of the series. Even though they were definitely the low points (AvP series not withstanding, of course) of the series they still had more than a little bit of entertainment in them, which is really all you can ask for most of the time.

I’m not the biggest fan of the series, but it’s not that I truly dislike the films—I just don’t enjoy them as much as I probably should’ve. That’s not something that can be attributed to the films though so much as my overexposure to the sci-fi medium. In the end it’s still a Highly Recommended series as even if you’ve seen a lot of the tricks the anthology shows off from other shows, it’s still worth checking out where a lot of sci-fi and horror films stemmed from.

The Blu-ray
Click Here!And now the real reason you’re here—this brand new box set. While my initial thought was they had just re-boxed the Quadrilogy set I was quickly proven wrong. Before delving into that, however, I have to make a remark on this packaging because it is really quite impressive. Sure, it’s just a box with some discs in it but the ultra-thick outer sleeve that holds the six discs is really impressive with not only the box art but the way it’s printed as well. Inside we have what amounts to a “book” that you flip through to get to each of the discs. It’s a very well done and handsome packaging style—not quite as dominating as the big $150 version with an alien wrapped around a glowing egg/pod, but if you weren’t able to get in on that (or didn’t have a place to display it) then this box set will still look quite handsome on your shelf. As handsome as a box set with an ugly ass alien on the cover can at least.

Video for all four films is an AVC encoded affair and thankfully we not only get remastered editions of all, but they all look fantastic. There was some worry once Cameron said that they’d gotten rid of all of the grain on Aliens, but it does retain some of it. None of the films are overly DNR’d, so no worries about that. Aliens does have a few moments where it’s obvious some work was done, but there really isn’t much that stands out. Honestly the true winner of the set is oddly the first in the bunch. I may just be biased since it’s clearly the best film in the bunch, but everything looked just as it should have. Everything from environmental to clothing to close-ups were explicitly detailed. On top of that the blacks were almost incredulously dark for such an old film while at the same time retaining the proper amount of lighting. Though the sometimes purposely brightened/bleak visuals should be off-putting, they really just look ridiculously clean and clear from start to finish with this transfer. Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection both look great as well, though about on par with Aliens. It is strange that the oldest film in the bunch is the best looking, but really overall the whole set looks fantastic.

Audio is similarly amazing with DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks gracing each one of the films. They all share the same equal field separation and subwoofer output and unlike the video the audio does get better as the set progresses. That’s not to say Alien doesn’t sound amazing, but some of the sound effects do still come across as dated, so the newer they get the more full of thud and boom they are. It should be noted that there are quite a few more environmental sound effects in the first film, likely due to the (eventually) isolated nature, which leaves Ripley reacting to all the little ticks and creaks of the space craft. Once again, like the video, all four films are amazing in their technical presentation. Even if you don’t want to watch all of the hours upon hours of extras at least trade up to this Blu-ray set for the A/V presentation—it truly is worth the price of admission alone.

But in case that’s not enough for you, lets take you through the sweeping list of extras that find themselves on each and every disc on this set. Courtesy of the original press release for this anthology:

DISC ONE: ALIEN
• 1979 Theatrical Version
• 2003 Director’s Cut with Ridley Scott Introduction
• Audio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott, Writer Dan O’Bannon, Executive Producer Ronald Shusett, Editor Terry Rawlings, Actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt
• Audio Commentary (for Theatrical Cut only) by Ridley Scott
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
• Composer’s Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

DISC TWO: ALIENS
• 1986 Theatrical Version
• 1991 Special Edition with James Cameron Introduction
• Audio Commentary by 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, Actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn and Christopher Henn
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score by James Horner
• Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

DISC THREE: ALIEN3
• 1992 Theatrical Version
• 2003 Special Edition (Restored Workprint Version)
• Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, B.S.C., Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, A.S.C., Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

DISC FOUR: ALIEN RESURRECTION
• 1997 Theatrical Version
• 2003 Special Edition with Jean-Pierre Jeunet Introduction
• Audio Commentary by Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Hervé Schneid, A.C.E., Alien Effects Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof, Conceptual Artist Sylvain Despretz, Actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score by John Frizzell
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

DISC FIVE: MAKING THE ANTHOLOGY
Click Here!In addition to over 12 hours of candid, in-depth documentaries, you now have the ability to go even deeper into Alien Anthology history with nearly five hours of additional video Enhancement Pods created exclusively for this collection, presenting behind-the-scenes footage, raw dailies and interview outtakes from all four films. At topical points in the documentaries, you may access these pods to enhance your experience, or watch them on their own from the separate Enhancement Pod index.

The Beast Within: Making ALIEN
• Star Beast: Developing the Story
• The Visualists: Direction and Design
• Truckers in Space: Casting
• Fear of the Unknown: Shepperton Studios, 1978
• The Darkest Reaches: Nostromo and Alien Planet
• The Eighth Passenger: Creature Design
• Future Tense: Editing and Music
• Outward Bound: Visual Effects
• A Nightmare Fulfilled: Reaction to the Film
• Enhancement Pods

Superior Firepower: Making ALIENS
• 57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
• Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
• Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
• This Time It’s War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
• The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
• Bug Hunt: Creature Design
• Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
• Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
• The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
• The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
• Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film
• Enhancement Pods

Wreckage and Rage: Making ALIEN3
• Development Hell: Concluding the Story
• Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Ward’s Vision
• Stasis Interrupted: David Fincher’s Vision
• Xeno-Erotic: H.R. Giger’s Redesign
• The Color of Blood: Pinewood Studios, 1991
• Adaptive Organism: Creature Design
• The Downward Spiral: Creative Differences
• Where the Sun Burns Cold: Fox Studios, L.A. 1992
• Optical Fury: Visual Effects
• Requiem for a Scream: Music, Editing and Sound
• Post-Mortem: Reaction to the Film
• Enhancement Pods

One Step Beyond: Making ALIEN RESURRECTION
• From the Ashes: Reviving the Story
• French Twist: Direction and Design
• Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization
• Death from Below: Fox Studios, Los Angeles, 1996
• In the Zone: The Basketball Scene
• Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design
• Genetic Composition: Music
• Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery
• A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography
• Critical Juncture: Reaction to the Film
• Enhancement Pods
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience to Access and Control Enhancement Pods

DISC SIX: THE ANTHOLOGY ARCHIVES

ALIEN
• Pre-Production
• First Draft Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
• Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails and Notes
• Storyboard Archive
• The Art of Alien: Conceptual Art Portfolio
• Sigourney Weaver Screen Tests with Select Director Commentary
• Cast Portrait Gallery
• Production
• The Chestbuster: Multi-Angle Sequence with Commentary
• Video Graphics Gallery
• Production Image Galleries
• Continuity Polaroids
• The Sets of Alien
• H.R. Giger’s Workshop Gallery
• Post-Production and Aftermath
• Additional Deleted Scenes
• Image & Poster Galleries
• Experience in Terror
• Special Collector’s Edition LaserDisc Archive
• The Alien Legacy
• American Cinematheque: Ridley Scott Q&A
• Trailers & TV Spots

ALIENS
• Pre-Production
• Original Treatment by James Cameron
• Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics with Commentary
• Storyboard Archive
• The Art of Aliens: Image Galleries
• Cast Portrait Gallery
• Production
• Production Image Galleries
• Continuity Polaroids
• Weapons and Vehicles
• Stan Winston’s Workshop
• Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras
• Video Graphics Gallery
• Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers
• Post-Production and Aftermath
• Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned
• Deleted Scene Montage
• Image Galleries
• Special Collector’s Edition LaserDisc Archive
• Main Title Exploration
• Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright
• Trailers & TV Spots

ALIEN3
• Pre-Production
• Storyboard Archive
• The Art of Arceon
• The Art of Fiorina
• Production
• Furnace Construction: Time-Lapse Sequence
• EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary
• Production Image Galleries
• A.D.I.’s Workshop
• Post-Production and Aftermath
• Visual Effects Gallery
• Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
• Alien3Advance Featurette
• The Making of Alien3Promotional Featurette
• Trailers & TV Spots

ALIEN RESURRECTION
• Pre-Production
• First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon
• Test Footage: A.D.I. Creature Shop with Commentary
• Test Footage: Costumes, Hair and Makeup
• Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals
• Storyboard Archive
• The Marc Caro Portfolio: Character Designs
• The Art of Resurrection: Image Galleries
• Production
• Production Image Galleries
• A.D.I.’s Workshop
• Post-Production and Aftermath
• Visual Effects Gallery
• Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
• HBO First Look: The Making of Alien Resurrection
• Alien Resurrection Promotional Featurette
• Trailers & TV Spots

ANTHOLOGY
Click Here!• Two Versions of Alien Evolution
• The Alien Saga
• Patches and Logos Gallery
• Aliens3D Attraction Scripts and Gallery
• Aliens in the Basement: The Bob Burns Collection
• Parodies
• Dark Horse Cover Gallery
• Patches and Logos Gallery
• MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience

I could’ve condensed that list, but that would be doing a disservice to this set—it’s unrepentantly in-depth about each and every film. Whether it’s a borrowed documentary from another set or something newly minted for this one, there really is no stone left unturned for any of the installments on the set. Combine the stand-alone goodies with the “MU-TH-UR Mode” mode on each of the films (which basically acts as an easy directory of extras to watch associated with that movie) and you end up with a great collection of extras that is as thorough as it is unrelenting.

Overall this Alien Anthology is a Must Own for fans of the series. Even casual fans who only watch the films once every couple years will find it worth checking out. The fact that there’s actually over sixty hours of extras to watch is just…mind boggling. And a bit numbing if you are able to sit through them all…but hey. You’ll know more about this series than you ever probably wanted to, but at least you can’t say you didn’t get your monies worth from this set.

Alien Anthology is now available on Blu-ray.

 

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