Alien Anthology Blu-ray Review

by AVForums
Movies & TV Review

42

Alien Anthology Blu-ray Review

Picture


Alien



It is undoubtably the case that the transfer on Aliens has been the most discussed on the interweb, probably due to the fact that it has received the most attention in this set. However, to me possibly the most impressive transfer in the whole set is that which Alien receives. It is, of course, presented in 1080P 2.35:1 which is the OAR.



From the very beginning of the film, the level of detail is absolutely stunning. I mentioned during the film part of my review that the set design is a crucial part of the atmosphere and the detail presented in this new transfer really allows this to shine. As the camera pans and moves around the ship, the corridors and walls really expose the care expended on the design. The ship looks perfect. This level of detail is present all the way through the film in all areas. The facial detail is spot on, with every pore and blemish showing clearly. The uniforms and insignias all look fantastic, and this level of detail really helps sell the surroundings to the viewer. The creature design benefits from this as well. Just look at the scene where the fachugger is being examined. The creature just looks absolutely amazing (and frightening) in this transfer.



I had always remembered Alien as being a rather dour film, with quite a neutral colour scheme. However, it was a pleasure to see the level of colour in this transfer. This is, of course, most obvious in the chestburster scene where the crimson blood shows up superbly but there is much more to the colour in the transfer than this. Blacks are also inky at all times, with the depths of space looking as dark as they could possibly be and facial tones looking completely natural.



The transfer is also pleasingly organic. Although the transfer may have received some sprucing up, this is never at the detriment of the pleasingly natural tone of the image. Thus grain hasn't been removed completely, but just slightly toned down. This means that the transfer just looks satisfyingly filmic (the type of transfer that I really like), and there is no detrimental effects to the restoration work that has been carried out.



Debates have raged over the quality of this transfer since release, but the bottom line is that I was blown away by it. I really can't see any problems with it. Whether you are comparing it with previous releases, or coming to it fresh but looking at it as a seventies movie the result to my eye is the same. I cannot pick out any flaws, so I have to give the transfer a full mark.



10/10





Aliens



The transfer on Aliens is probably the one that attracted the most controversy pre-release, mainly due to the comments of James Cameron earlier in the year when he had talked about the work he had done on the new transfer. Words like de-noising had been used, which led fans to believe that a DNR'd mess was likely to be headed their way. The reality, of course, is that the transfer here keeps up the high standard of the original film and now looks better than it has ever done before. In addition to the process already mentioned, the film has been extensively worked on by Lowry Digital and Cameron himself, with the whole film having been subject to new colour-timing as well as some cleaning up.



The film is presented in 1080p and in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. From the very beginning we can see what this transfer is all about. As the original film opens in the deserted Nostromo, the lights from Muther reflected in a space helmet, so Aliens opens in the deserted escape pod – the lights from a search robot reflecting off smoke and illuminating the scene. This looks absolutely spectacular – the smoke like an organic living being, curling around the scenery and the light strobing off it in the most pleasing and striking way.



From here, things only get better. Thankfully, the film hasn't been completely de-grained which allows the pleasing filmic, organic quality of the first film to shine through in this one too. Grain is always present but never in the quantities needed to spoil the image in any way. Definition is the biggest winner here, with clarity shining out at you from every frame. Writing on the marines helmets, which I had never noticed before, is as clear as day here – and the care that has gone into the design and creation of the weapons and armour shines out like never before.



Aliens at heart is a dark film – but shadow detail here is consistently excellent, meaning you never lose sight of anything however murky the surroundings might be. Black levels are inky and deep, and the contrast is excellent. It is difficult to comment too much on the colour, as anyone who is familiar with the film will know, it is never going to really show off the colour palette – but everything is incredibly accurate.



The film has undergone some de-noising as mentioned by Cameron to such controversy but the pleasing thing is that this is done with care and attention. Faces never show the waxy look that can result from this process, and instead the detail in the faces is perfect. As those in the official AVForums thread can testify, the ramping up of detail means that you notice certain details that have never been seen on film before……



I have previously mentioned colour, and one thing that must be mentioned is that the colour timing of the film has been changed. The film always had quite a deep dark colour scheme with deep blues and dark reds. These have been changed quite significantly (watch your Quadrilogy set if you don't believe me) so the blues have a more green tinge and the reds are more orangy. I have seen complaints about this, but Cameron has stated quite specifically that Aliens now looks exactly how he always meant it to look – and for the first time ever. For me, this is more than good enough, so alongside Alien I also award the transfer on Aliens full marks.



10/10





Alien 3



This is where, sadly, the quality starts to dip slightly. Alien3 still looks better than it has ever looked before in the home, but it never reaches the startling levels of quality that the first two do. Again, we get a 1080p presentation and again it is in the original aspect ratio – this time a 2.35:1 transfer.



The general level of detail within the image here is very impressive. The surroundings of the prison are clearly defined and look much better than they have ever done before. Again, the attention to detail of the set design is finally brought to the fore by the stirling work done on the transfer. Colour is muted again, just as it was in the second movie, but again the colour palette is accurately represented within the image and provides a faithful rendering.



Black levels are also deep and dense, and shadow detail is excellent. The reason why I have marked the image down is because there are occasional incidences of softness within the image – this is in the theatrical version. Although this flaw may only be in a few places, it is enough to take down the mark slightly. However, it is true to say that although this may hamper the transfer slightly this is still by far the best that the film has ever looked.



7/10





Alien Resurrection



Unfortunately, Alien Resurrection is not just the black sheep of the family in terms of film quality. Whereas it is an upgrade on the DVD version, it simply has not received the care and attention that the other films in this package have. As always, it goes without saying that the film is presented in the OAR of 2.35:1 and in 1080p.



Whereas there is a ramping up of detail over the DVD version, there is sadly nothing here that takes the breath away and shows you new detail that you had not noticed before. Detail in the scenery is improved, and uniform and clothing (and makeup) do look better than they have before, but the overall effect is rather disappointing.



The film has a much warmer palette than the first three films, and therefore colour is impressive, and rendered well. Contrast is also good, and blacks are pretty deep without ever being quite as inky as those in the earlier movies. Shadow detail though is consistently disappointing, and never as good as it should be.



There are some noticeable DNR effects at some points during the transfer, but generally this does not rear its ugly head too much. Where it does show, it tends to manifest itself as artifical looking sharpening. The transfer is also prone to a few incidents of strange softening, rather like those seen in Alien3. Due to these defects I have to mark the transfer lowest of the lot.



6/10


Alien Anthology

Sound


Alien



The one area that I did not have particularly high hopes for in this set was the sound mix on the original film. Alien was never a film that featured a particularly dynamic sound mix – this was simply the way it was made. At times, the director uses silence to terrify just as much as a sudden, jolting effect – and there are long periods where very little at all is happening sonically



However, the very fact that we are presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio track is very promising so I was prepared to be wowed. Even though this is not going to fill your room with discrete effects from all sides, this is still a very impressive mix indeed that is faithful to the original, and resists the temptation to remix whilst simultaneously sounding as good as it possibly could on modern systems.



As one would expect most of the action is in the fronts – with the separation being surprisingly and pleasingly wide. Vocals are well anchored to the front center and are always clearly audible despite all that is sometimes going on. The prioritisation is good, with the soundtrack coming to the fore exactly when it needs to.



One very slight disappointment here is also probably down to the original mix, and that is the lack of LFE. There is some here, for sure – the low hum of the ship – but at moments when you would really expect some meaty bass there is surprisingly little. Rears are also not that active – but as already mentioned this is rather to be expected. They do very slight service at times with the score but are never filled with much presence.



However, I am still going to rate this highly. Why? Alien is a classic in every way, and that includes the sound design. They could have created a brand new, bass-heavy, active surround mix but that would not have been the film as it should have been heard. This mix does an excellent job of preserving the original vision, whilst still sounding suitably upgraded due to the wide dynamic range and the accurate and wide front placement.



8/10





Aliens



Aliens also arrives with a DTS-HD master audio – and although I was expecting a slightly more extensive experience from this mix I was surprised not to get it. There is more use of the full 6 speakers than there are in the original, it is not just quite as active as I was expecting. The mix is surprisingly front heavy, but the separation is again extremely wide with some nice ambient effect placement correctly occurring from the right and left. Dialogue is fixed firmly to the front speaker but I did find that I had to dial my amp up a couple of db in order to clearly hear all of everything that was being said. This is not something I had to do with the other films in the box.



The surrounds provide some nice ambient effects in the case of rainfall and other natural sounds, really helping immerse the audience – and the LFE is also sparsely, but effectively, used.



Due to the issue where I felt more volume was needed to effectively hear the dialogue, I have had to deduct a mark but this is still an excellent mix that does great service to a classic.



9/10





Alien 3



Alien 3 was perhaps the disc that surprised me most with the sound in this set. Again we are presented with a DTS-HD master audio and the major actors have actually been recalled to re-record some of the dialogue for the "workprint" version – those who had the Quadrilogy will remember all too well the audio problems that plagued this version before.



Again, as with all the other films in this collection the front separation is broad and expansive, accurately placing sounds across the front of the sound stage and having the dialogue accurately placed to the center. The LFE in this mix is incrementally better than those which have gone before – packing some serious punch in places.



The surrounds are also much more active in this version than in the first two films, although these are not used as subtley as they are in Aliens. The surrounds can sound slightly ersatz at times – as if the mix has been artificially tweaked.



A special mention must go to the score here, which really soars – expanding throughout the whole sound field and displaying a great dynamic range.



The sound mix impressed me a great deal here, and the recalling of certain key personnel only serves to underline what effort has been put in.



8/10





Alien Resurrection



The film and picture quality may disappoint, but the sound mix on Alien : Resurrection is a very good one indeed. Again we are presented with a DTS-HD master audio mix, and this provides plenty for audiophiles to admire.



Yet again, as with all the previous films, the front soundstage is wide and engaging, with accurate panning. There are no problems with the dialogue here – which is well pinned to the center and is always clear and precise whatever mayhem is occurring around. The dynamic range is also as impressive as it is on all the other movies.



The surrounds in this mix are very active, underpinning the action on the screen well and providing plenty of ambience. The mix is incredibly lively and there is plenty of movement between all areas of the mix.



The LFE here is also extremely impressive when called into action – going nice and deep and giving the explosive effects much needed empahasis. The music is beautifully integrated – I am not a fan of the score but it is hard to argue against the way it expands to envelope the listener.



It is a shame that the film is such a shambles, because the sound mix is excellent.



8/10


Alien Anthology

Extras


The Anthology sets it's extras out rather differently than the Quadrilogy did. Instead of having an extras disc for each film, discs five and six contain all the extras, divided into Making the Anthology (disc five) and The Anthology Archives. The main movie discs do, of course, contains commentaries and isolated music tracks, as well as the odd deleted scene here and there. As there is just so much stuff here, I have decided to sub-divide this section by film, and then look at each disc is turn. Before I do so, though – I should probably just briefly mention how each disc is organised. Basically, when the menu comes up you are able to choose a section on each of the film, play all featurettes, or access the Mu-th-ur mode. You also have setup options which basically just allows you to choose your subtitle options.



The menus, first of all are beautifully designed. They do take ages to boot up (easily the worst culprits on my Panny) but once they do the menus are clean and precise – offering an interface based on Weyland-Yutani. One nice touch is that if you are watching a disc, you can remove it and the logo will stay on the screen. As long as you put another disc in from the set without turning it off then you can go straight into that disc without going through the startup procedure.



Much heralded on this set is the MU-TH-UR mode – pronounced Mother after the computer in the first film. If you choose to watch the film with this mode activated, then you can watch the film with four options – three down the left and one on the right. These are Auditory, Visual, Datastream, and Data Tags. The Auditory option allows you to switch between commentaries and isolated music scores, whilst it displays real time info about what is occurring on each track. Very cool. Even cooler though is the Visual option. This pops up little comments which you can then select. If you do they then appear in the data tags section on the right. When you then put in the bonus disc you essential get to watch a tailor made documentary just for you. Finally, the Datastream section offers notes on various aspects of the production of the film you are watching.



I will also note here that I am going to look at ALL the extras – even if they were included on the original Quadrilogy DVD set. We are appraising this set from scratch so it is important to consider everything. This may be a long ride.



Alien



Disc One




  • 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



The movie disc for Alien contains a different set of extras depending on which version of the film you initially chose when you booted up the disc. You can switch between the two versions once you're already in the main menu. There is only one extra that you can chose whichever version of the film you watch and that is the 2003 audio commentary by the director, cast and crew. This was originally recorded for the Quadrilogy and features almost the entire cast as well as Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon and others. They are not all together – but rather an amalgamation of several individually recorded tracks. The wide variety of people included means you get a really well rounded overview of the whole production that is consistently entertaining. This is a superb commentary. There is also a Live Extras option which allows you to download or stream an Anthology trailer or a clip from Weaver's screen test. The latter is available elsewhere on the disc.



The Theatrical cut version has a 1999 audio commentary by Ridley Scott. This, to me, is a little disappointing and at times I found it quite a struggle due to the rather dry, technical nature of the track. This is then followed by the final isolated score which is presented in 5.1 and is, as the title says, Jerry Goldsmith's score as it is used in the movie. Interestingly, the viewer can also listen to the Composer's Original Isolated Score which is the score as it was recorded. I have to admit that I am not as much of a soundtrack buff as some as my fellow reviewers – and I am not particularly fond of the Alien score. Those that are, though, are going to delight in the opportunity to compare the two. An interesting extra that is not advertised is a playlist feature. When you chose the score a menu pop-up gives you the on/off option. Ignore this and scroll until you see an option of Complete Music Index then explore and enjoy. The final original cut extra is deleted scenes that allow you to view the scenes that were subsequently reinstated into the film for the 2003 version. These can be watched individually or continuously.



Finally, one extra that is exclusive to the director's cut is the deleted footage marker. With this on, when you are watching the director's cut you get a marker that pops up when one of the scenes that was reinserted is being watched.



Disc Five



On the fifth disc, the first extra we come across is The Beast Within : Making Alien. This can be played as one continuous documentary, or in nine individual sections. The individual sections are :




  • 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



What is noticeable about this documentary is just how detailed it is, without ever being boring or dry. In it's entirety it is three hours long, so the option to watch each section individually is a welcome one. It presents just about everything you could possibly want to know about the film, and then more. The first section Star Beast : Developing the Story covers how the film came out of the Carpenter directed Dark Star and how a meeting about what was eventually destined to become Total Recall led to the making of Alien. The first meeting with Giger (when working on Dune) is recounted, and how that led to him designing the alien character. The main particpants are all likeable and engaging and have a lovely line in self depreciating humour. This section goes into detail on the script in particular and the generation of the ideas that were to inform the final production.



The development of the film is then followed through the next section - The Visualists : Direction and Design



. This looks at how Scott influenced the development of the film, doubling the budget by storyboarding the film from scratch – and also some riveting interviews with Giger covering how he came up with the design of the Alien. The next section Truckers in Space : Casting we look at each actor in turn, learning how they came to be tested for the part, and how they eventually got cast. I always wondered how an actor as stellar as John Hurt got such a small role in the film – it turns out that the original actor intended for the part had to bow out on the first day of filming due to illness. Particularly interesting is the fight against Weaver being cast that the studio put up.



Possibly the most fascinating part of this documentary occurs next : Fear of the Unknown : Shepperton Studios, 1978. This is astonishingly candid about problems that occurred during filming, and also generous in its inclusion of behind the scenes filming. It is wonderful that so much stuff was filmed at the time, and pleasing that it is all included during this segment. There are some fascinating shots of the set being constructed in this documentary but for those who are fascinated by this, then the next section The Darkest Reaches : Nostrom and the Alien Planet is even better. This is specific to the production design and we get to see Giger at work which is riveting stuff. We also get plenty of close-ups of interesting parts of the set and the environment that the production team created.



Disc Six




  • 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


  • 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



Disc Six is divided into Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production and Aftermath



The Pre-Production section kicks off with Dan O'Bannon's screenplay.. This is his first draft, and is proceeded by an essay from the writer, where he can't resist the odd little dig at others who were involved in the project. The screenplay is displayed as screens of text which can be skipped through by using the "skip forward" button on the remote. Oddly, on my player at least, it was impossible to skip back a page should you want to. You would have to be a pretty dedicated fan to read all of this – but it is nice to have it included. I also noticed whilst navigating this that the "pop-up menu" button didn't do anything, facilitating a complete skip back to the main menu. The next section contains various Pre-visualisation pieces. You can watch all of them, or choose each one individually. As the introduction to these make clear "Formally trained at the Royal College of Art, director Ridley Scott drew an impressive series of 2x3 inch thumbnails along with detailed notes presenter here in their entirety. So impressed were 20th Century Fox that the studio doubled Scott's budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million". This section is really fascinating. The drawings are astonishingly detailed and each one is preceeded with some astounding descriptions of exactly how the shot would look down to the tiniest detail. Again these are skipped through using the forward button, but this time you can also skip backwards as well.



We then come to the storyboard archive which again is presented in five different sections or with a "view all" option. Again, you can skip through using the forward and back buttons. A nice touch is that the archive is preceeded with an original compliments slip signed by Ridley Scott. Again, the level of detail included here is astounding and it is fascinating to wade through these with a knowledge of how the film eventually turned out. We then get a conceptual art portfolio that contains the work of Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, HR Giger, and Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Again skippable through using the forward and back button, the artwork is presented with the occasional snippet of text providing illumination on what you are seeing.



Moving on, we can then watch five screen tests that Sigourney Weaver did, trying out for the role of Ripley. In terms of completism (is that even a word?) we can also watch the first three with a commentary from Ridley Scott. I have to say that her smoking technique is a little flaky but it is a rare privilege being allowed this much access to some fascinating material. Finally in this section we can browse some cast portrait galleries – a series of headshots of the main actors, and a series of publicity shots - during which Yaphet Koto sometimes looks like he is auditioning for the A team, and Weaver manages to look extremely seductive in some images.



Anyway, we are done with Pre-Production so now to move on to the Production section. The very first extra we come across here is the chest-burster multi-angle featurette which is one of my favourite extras on the whole set. Centering on the scene that so frightened me all those years ago, you can skip between angles and audio (including a Scott commentary) using your remote. This is absolutely fascinating. You can really see the actors working, some angles focus solely on each individual actor whilst others pan around. It is a fantastic de-construction of a scene and I could watch this over and over again. Some more galleries are then included – a video graphics gallery, production image galleries and some continuity polaroids. Finally in this section we have The sets of Alien. This is a gallery that looks at various set designs in detail, and is interspersed with pieces of text that note interesting things for the viewer to pick out. Finally in this section is H R Giger's Workshop - again, a series of fascinating images interspersed with the occasional screen of text.



Production out of the way, the final word on Alien in this set is in the post-production and aftermath section. Here we can find additional deleted scenes that were not included in the director's cut for various reasons. All have been completely remastered and edited under the director's supervision. There are seven deleted scenes here in all, three of which were under consideration for the directors cut and therefore have 5.1 soundtracks. I am not going to discuss the merits of each scene here in detail – I believe reviews can go too far sometimes, and you should have the pleasure to make up your own mind on each individual merit. But it has to be said that the way these are presented is typical of the care and attention lavished on this set.



Then we have more image galleries focussing on everything from model work to the after party and the premier. Again, you can view all or just explore one of the six sub-sections. Then, Experience In Terror is included – which is pretty poor quality but does have some nostalgia value. Shot in 1979, and presented in 4:3, this seven minute featurette is interesting for the vintage interviews but is barely more than a puff piece in reality. Then the complete Laserdisc Archives are included and you are even given two ways of experiencing them. Either by scanning through them sequentially as you would have down on the original discs, or in a new way by accessing a table of contents. I am sorry but I am not even going to begin to attempt to dissect this section for you. But there are hours worth of material here to keep any ardent fan going for weeks.



The Alien Legacy is a 1999 documentary lasting just over an hour. The reality is there is a lot of stuff here that has already been covered elsewhere on the set but it is still an interesting inclusion. In fact a lot of the stuff here is also used in some of the other documentaries so this is perhaps one of the least essential extras about the original film which has been included. Finally, the Ridley Scott Q&A which was shot (in 4:3) at an American Cinematheque screening in 2001 is included, and a selection of trailers and TV spots.



Well, that is the first film covered. Three more to go.



Aliens



Disc Two




  • 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



The movie disc on Aliens follows exactly the same as that for the first film – so we kick off with the 2003 audio commentary. Again, this is edited together from several separately recorded commentaries, and features Cameron and the legendary Stan Winston as well as certain members of the cast, who are having lots of fun. Again, this is a superb commentary that adds lots of info but is edited so well that it never gets boring, with the cast adding their more humerous recollections at various times. Here, on the theatrical version only, again we have a Final theatrical isolated score and the Composer's original isolated score. As with the original film these are presented in 5.1, and it is again an interesting exercise to compare the two tracks. Again, like on the first disc there is an un-advertised playlist feature.



Also in the same way as the first disc, if you are watching the theatrical version then you can view the deleted scenes that were included in the director's cut whereas if you are watching the latter version then you can view with a deleted scenes marker that pops up whenever one of these scenes is being viewed.



The meat of the extra content can be found on :



Disc Five



Disc Five contains an extended documentary which can be watched as individual parts or in one whole two hour chunk. This time the sections are :




  • Pre-Production – 57 years later : Continuing the story


  • Building Better Worlds : From Concept to Construction


  • Preparing for Battle : Casting and Characterisation


  • Production – 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


  • A Nightmare Fulfilled : Reaction to the film


  • Post-Production – The Final Countdown : Music, editing and Sound


  • The Power of Real Tech : Visual Effects


  • Aliens Unleashed : Reaction to the film


  • A Boy and his Power Loader



The first section 57 Years Later : Continuing the Story deals with the way the sequel gestated over the years. There are some really interesting anecdotes here such as, for example, Cameron having to prove himself with The Terminator before being confirmed with the Alien gig. This section is very candid, and provides some excellent background. The major players are interviewed, and no stone is left unturned. Building Better Worlds : From Concept to Construction features some newer (2003) interviews with the designers, in which they talk about their design of various ships, vehicles and weapons. There were many budgetary constraints in play and it is fascinating hearing how the designers coped with these.



Preparing for Battle : Casting and Characterization is the casting featurette for the film and features interviews with the principle actors. What is interesting is that many talk about what effect making the film had on their subsequent careers. Again, everyone is remarkably candid, as they also are in possibly the most interesting featurette here : This Time it's war : Pinewood studios, 1985. This is my favourite extra for Aliens and is as good as it's counterpart on the original film – in fact it is possibly better. Without going into details, the shoot was a troubled one and Cameron didn't exactly gel with the mainly British crew. The documentary features extensive backstage footage (I'm surprised they were allowed the access) and if you only watch one extra about Aliens, then you should make it this one.



Cameron is someone who is obviously, errr, obsessed with military hardware, and making sure that everything looks right and realistic. One of the key tenets of Aliens is how natural the marines look. The next featurette The Risk Always Lives : Weapons and Action looks at the lengths that were gone too to ensure this was the case. This goes into great detail, covering everything from the design of the weapons through to the training of the actors, and how the battles were staged. This is another highlight of the Aliens extra package – and I thought this section absolutely fascinating, even though I am not a weapons devotee. During the main film review, I mentioned that one of the great things about Aliens was the fact that the aliens remained true to the creature design of the original film, whilst also expanding on the life cycle. The next featurette Bug Hunt : Creature Design and features perhaps my favourite creature designer of all time – Stan Winston, as well as others invovlved. Again, much detail is presented as we don't only just learn about the actual design but also how the creatures were shot.



Perhaps the most iconic creature in the film though is the alien Queen and she is featured in Beauty and the Bitch : Power Loaded vs. Alien Queen. Now I am not too sure about this scene personally – to me it is a slightly weak ending in an other wise brilliant film. However, the part of the scene that I really like (the decimation of Bishop) is also included here and it is interesting to see how that was staged. The final featurette is a lovely way to finish in which we discover that the bond between Two Orphans : Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn looks so good on screen because it was there in real life. I am not going to spoil the circumstances that created this bond – it is all covered in the featurette.



There are enhancement pods included on this disc that flesh out and, well, enhance the main documentary – but I am conscious of boring you too much by going into too much detail. Suffice to say that the whole package included on disc five tells you everything you might want to know about the film. It is a fascinating series of documentaries and probably actually trumps those on the first film. Essential viewing.



Disc Six



Again, this section is divided into Pre-Production, Production, and Post Production. The complete list of extras is as follows :




  • Original Treatment by James Cameron


  • Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics with Commentary


  • Storyboard Archive


  • The Art of Aliens: Image Galleries


  • Cast Portrait Gallery


  • Production Image Galleries


  • Continuity Polaroids


  • Weapons and Vehicles


  • Stan Winston’s Workshop


  • Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras


  • Video Graphics Gallery


  • Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers


  • 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



We kick off, then, with the Original treatment. This is entitled Alien II and is by David Giler and Walter Hill and James Cameron. As with other similar extras on this set you can skip forward by using the forward button, but on this one you CAN also skip backwards. Then we come to the Pre-Vizualisations which are presented here as multi-angle Videomatics with commentary. The two angles available here are either the videomatic or a comparison with the final shot. You can turn the commentary by the visual effects supervisor on and off, and use your angle button to switch between the two. These may only last 3 mins 13 secs but are truly fascinating. Basically due to the shooting schedule, these were shot at the weekends and were basically video blueprints for the actual shot. The commentary is also very informative – telling you just how piecemeal the model construction was, and this is another excellent extra.



This is followed by some image galleries. The first focuses on the Storyboards, and then a larger gallery The Art of Aliens is divided into subsections looking at Gateway Station and Colony, Vehicles and Weapons, and Aliens. You can view each one separately or there is also a “View All” option. Another image gallery follows, this is a Cast Portrait Gallery and is similar to the extra on the first disc as we get a nice mix of publicity shots. Particularly fascinating are the shots of Gale Ann Hurd and James Cameron showing their lurrrve by linking hands!



The production section contains yet more photo galleries, these ones looking at Continuity Polaroids, weapons and vehicles and my personal favourite – a look at the legend and his workshop : Stan Winston’s Workshop. This is one of my favourite galleries – showing the facehuggers and various different itinerations of Alien being created.



The gallery theme is subsequently left in order to view some video, starting with Helmet Cam Footage. One of the cleverest aspects of the film is the use of helmet cams to take the viewer into the heart of the action and to allow the sense of mayhem to come across on screen. It’s great to see the level of care taken on these, and it is excellent to see them in their entirety. These are quite spooky as well, due to the addition of some musical cues. Then the level of detail in these extras is really brought to life by the inclusion of a video graphics gallery. These are loops of various graphical displays and overlays used during the film. Finally in this section we have Weyland-Yutani Inquest : Nostromo Dossiers. These are the crew dossiers which are played behind Ripley during the inquest scene and are presented in full screen.



Finally for Aliens on Disc Six we have the Post Production Section. This kicks off with the legendary Burke Cocooned scene which has never been seen before. This looks frankly rubbish, and I’m not surprised it was cut. More deleted and extended scenes are also included here, rounding up scenes that were not included in the original or director’s cut versions. These last 4 minutes and 7 secs. More Image Galleries follow and also the Laserdisc archives before more featurettes arrive. There is a Main Title explorations that looks at various original designs for the titles (which is really interesting) and a 1996 documentary Aliens Ride : At the speed of Fright. This was an early simulator ride and started off with a video introduction which is included here. This comes across more Starship Troopers than Aliens but is an interesting slice of 90’s hokum nonetheless. The package is rounded out by Trailers and TV Spots.



Alien 3



Disc Three



The movie disc for Alien 3 features slightly less extras than the first two discs. Here we have the 2003 audio commentary by cast and crew which was cobbled together from several individual chat tracks, with the notable absence of Fincher, for obvious reasons. There are fewer particpants on this track than there were on the first two compilations commentaries so this is far less intense – but it still provides plenty of illumination on the production. There is only one score this time, the Final Theatrical Isolated Score which is featured on the theatrical version only. Again, this provides a poorly advertised track selection that allows you to navigate straight to the part you want to listen to. Finally on this disc we get Deleted Scenes and a deleted scenes marker for the special edition.



Disc Five



    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



Ok, so this is the big one. As good as the original Quadrilogy was, there was always a criticism – and it was a big one. The featurette for the Quadrilogy was originally entitled Wreckage and Rape : The Making of Alien 3, until Fox got their hands on it. They decided that it was too contentious to be released as is, as it was too critical of the studio. They therefore cut a swathe of material from it, and left the fans feeling rather short changed.



Thankfully, the documentary is here in its entirety – now entitled Wreckage and Rage : Making Alien 3. As with all the other documentaries on this disc this can be watched in parts or as one whole. Originally, there was over 30 minutes cut from this documentary and it has now all been reinstated and provides the viewer with pretty much everything they would ever need to know about the production. This documentary is of primary interest because we now know a lot more about what actually occurred during the making of the film, and it isn’t pretty. The whole feeling you get from watching this after seeing the previous version is that you are now getting the honest and true story. The cast, the crew, Fincher, and even Fox staff all go on record to talk about the problems that occurred during production. Now that this documentary is complete, we can finally see what all the fuss is about – and now it is complete it becomes as essential as the first two big documentaries. This is a fascinating look at a trouble production and gives the viewer unparalleled access.



So – let’s dive in and see what we now get. The first part is entitled Development Hell : Concluding the Story. Many people are interviewed here who were involved in the project early on in the development cycle. We learn why certain people left the project, and their reasons for doing so. When things started going wrong, Vincent Ward was hired and his ideas are explored in Tales of the Wooden Planet : Vincent Ward’s Vision. This has long been a source of fascination to fans – I remember first learning about this in detail in an Empire feature. Ward’s idea is pretty far out and unusual, and although it probably wouldn’t have worked it would have been fascinating to see how it might have turned out. Ultimately, however, the idea was ditched, Ward left and we learn what happened next in Stasis Interrupted : David Fincher’s Vision. This is perhaps the most cut documentary on the Quadrilogy and it is fascinating to see it in its full glory here. It is particularly interesting seeing just how advanced production on Ward’s version was, and just how difficult Fincher’s job was. Why he accepted the job in the circumstances is, I can say, a mystery to me.



Then the truly fantastic Giger returns to the screen with boyish enthusiasm in Xeno-Erotic : H R Giger’s Re-Design. In this documentary he discusses the new design for the Aliens, and then things get even more interesting. Next up is The Colour of Blood : Pinewood Studios, 1991 which looks at the filming. There is still no direct input from Fincher here, but we do get a very honest look at exactly what filming was like, including plenty of footage that was cut out of the Quadrilogy version. This is followed by Adaptive Organism : Creature Design which looks at how the Aliens were put on screen. Then more fascinating previously cut material in The Downward Spiral : Creative Differences. This looks in detail at the arguments that occurred between Fincher, his producers, and the suits at the studio. This is astonishingly frank, and no-one comes out of it particularly well. Where the Sun burns Cold : Fox Studios 1992 continues the theme of conflict and has the final word on how the situation panned out.



Optical Fury : Visual Effectslooks more at how the aliens were conceived on screen and goes a long way to explain why they looked so rubbish. Requiem for a Scream : Music, Editing and Sound is a fairly self-explanatory documentary, and Post-Mortem : Reaction to the Film looks at the place the film takes in the franchise, and how audiences took to it (or not, as the case might be).



This documentary is probably the most interesting on the whole set – presented as a whole it is certainly a lengthy and challenging watch, but provides so much material that people had only been able to speculate about before that it is easily worth the effort. Fantastic stuff.



Disc Six



• Storyboard Archive

• The Art of Arceon

• The Art of Fiorina

• Furnace Construction: Time-Lapse Sequence

• EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary

• Production Image Galleries

• A.D.I.’s Workshop

• Visual Effects Gallery

• Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive

• Alien3 Advance Featurette

• The Making of Alien3 Promotional Featurette

• Trailers & TV Spots



Disc Six contains the rest of the extras on the film, and we kick off with a storyboard archive. Skippable using the forward and back buttons on the remote, extensive is certainly the word here, containing hundreds of images covering several key areas of the production. Following this is The Art of Arceon and The Art of Fiorina, both listed as concept art. These two extras are grouped under concept art and features artwork from ILM’s ultimately futile bid for work on the project, as well as concept art for the original idea, which had a wooden planet with monks believing they were on a medieval planet.



The production section starts with Furnace Construction : Time-Lapse Sequence. This lasts 4 minutes 35 seconds and is pretty self-explanatory. It is fascinating to see such a complex set taking shape – it’s not something you usually get to see, so this is interesting. This is accompanied by EEV Bioscan : Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary. This is a look at, unsurprisingly, the EEV Bioscan – the scan that first reveals the chestburster inside Ripley’s body. You can view each layer that they filmed individually, or view the finished shot. You can skip from each layer in turn using the angle button on the remote.



The section is rounded out with a selection of photographs covering the production and the A.D.I’s Workshop. A.D.I stands for Amalgamated Dynamics Incorporated, and they did the on-set creature effects for the film. Particularly notable and distressing here is the work done on the Newt model for the crash sequence at the beginning. We also get to see the original plan for the corpse of Hicks before Michael Biehn apparently intervened and refused to allow his likeness to be shown on screen.



Finally, we have the post-production and aftermath section, which kicks off with more photographs. These consist of a Visual Effects Gallery and Special Shoot : Promotional Photo Archive. The latter, as it is not particularly self explanatory is just a fancy way of saying it is a gallery of promotional photos, exactly as seen on the previous two films.



The section is completed with some video. These are Trailers and TV Spots, Alien 3 : Advance Featurette (a very brief 3 minute puff piece), and the slightly longer (23 minutes) but still rather superficial The Making of Alien 3. This is entitled as a promotional featurette and they certainly got that right.



Alien Resurrection



Disc Four



As with Alien 3, the options on the movie disc are slightly more restricted than the first two films. We kick off with the final multi-participant commentary which is lifted from the Quadrilogy set. This one is mainly set around the director, who recorded a main commentary on his own. Then other members of the cast and crew are edited in when required. This is another excellent commentary that provides much information whilst never being as dry as I was expecting it to be.



We then have another isolated score, this one is of the final theatrical version and is again available in 5.1. This also features the track selection option as found on the other scores in the set. Finally, you can view the deleted scenes if viewing the theatrical version, or the deleted scene markers if viewing the director’s cut.



Disc Five



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



Again, as on the previous discs in the set, you can view this as one whole documentary or each section individually. We start with From the Ashes : Reviving the Story. There are some fascinating excerpts here including David Giler (producer) admitting that when he say the script he knew it would kill the franchise! This is a pretty shocking revelation! The next documentary is also very surprising, as it reveals much about what went wrong with the film. Entitled French Twist : Direction and Design, Jeunet recalls how reluctant he was to actually direct the film. One has to say, if a Director is that unsure then surely he is not the right man for the job. We also learn that Danny Boyle was once in the frame – perhaps that might have been a better choice, although with the provided script one suspects that even Hitchcock couldn’t have done a decent job. Under the Skin : Casting and Characterizations. Is a collection of varied interviews with the cast and director, and completes the pre-production section.



The next section kicks off withDeath From Below : Fox Studios, Los Angeles, 1996 which is the standard in depth behind the scenes piece as seen on the last three films. The obvious scene to focus on (and it gets a lot of attention) is the one decent scene in the film, the underwater scene. It is fascinating to see this scene deconstructed, and the genuine fear in some actor’s eyes when filming it. This is followed by In The Zone : The Basketball Scene which deconstructs the basketball scene, and shows Sigourney Weaver’s dedication to getting her moves right. Unreal Mutation : Creature Design has a pretty self-explanatory title but does give some interesting background as to why the creatures were designed the way they were in this film.



The post-production section starts with Genetic Composition : Music which looks at the composing and performing of the musical score, and then follows on with Virtual Aliens : Computer Generated Imagery which looks at the CGI creations for the film. Thankfully not all the effects were CGI, and the next featurette A Matter of Scale : Minature Photography looks at the model work, a dying art these days. This is fascinating to see a sadly old-fashioned technique being used. Finally Critical Juncture : Reaction to the film rather surprisingly features Jeunet saying how proud he was of it. Others seems equally pleased with the outcome, which is rather bizarre.



Disc Six



Disc six kicks off, in common to the sections on the other films with Joss Whedon’s first draft screenplay. I am afraid that I cannot say that I read the entire screenplay, although I read a sizeable chunk of it. I must say I was surprised at his spelling mistakes! This is navigable using the forward and back buttons. Some different sections of footage are then grouped together that cover Test Footage A.D.I. Creature Ship, Test Footage : Costumes, Hair, and Make-Up, and Pre-Visualisations : Multi-Angle Rehearsals. These have a “Play All” section or can be viewed individually. Although the first two are pretty self-explanatory, the third could probably do with some clarification. Basically we see the original storyboards, and Rehearsal footage (each scene was rehearsed before production started in order to finalise shots). You can switch between the two, or view them in composite with the final scene in the film. You can also switch between rehearsal audio and production audio. Trouble is, I have no angle button on my remote so switching between the video streams was a pain, but if you do have such a button this is a fantastic extra.



We are then presented with a massive storyboard archive where again you can view all, or view 8 separate sections (including the underwater chase), and finally in this section some concept art which again can be viewed as one, or in this case as two separate sections character designs and The Art of Resurrection.



Onto the production section now, which is briefer. Only two photographic archives appear here. One features the production whilst others feature ADI’s Workshop.



Therefore, we shall move on to the post-production section. This starts with another photography section, featuring a promotional photo archive which is similar to those seen on the other films and a visual effects gallery. Then we get two promotional puff pieces. The first is the 25 minute HBO First Look : Alien Resurrection. We have all seen far too many of these first looks before – but this is perhaps one of the better ones I have watched – mainly down to the presenter Ron Perlman. This is accompanied with Alien Resurrection Promotional Featurette which lasts an amazing 3 mins 56 secs! Finally we have some trailers and TV spots.



Anthology



As we have reached the end of the feature films, you may think that is it in terms of extras, but amazingly it isn’t! There is a whole bunch of more extras on disc six, grouped under the heading Anthology. This starts with not one, but two versions of Alien Evolution. The first is the original 48 minute UK TV version hosted by Mark Kermode, and the second is an expanded 63 minute version. The first version focuses on all four films and was shown on TV, whereas the longer version focuses on the first film only, and was originally included on the Quadrilogy. Another documentary follows – a meaty near two hour documentary presented by the excellent John Hurt. The reality is, of course, that there is very little here that you won’t already know but it’s great to have it included.



We then have a section on the Alien 3D Attraction. You can view all, view the script, or view the concept art. The ride was created by the people behind T2 : 3D – Battle Across Time and was to be used at a theme park in Korea. It was never finished but this gives you a good idea of what it was to be like.



Aliens in the Basement : The Bob Burns Collection follows on from this. A charming documentary lasting 16 minutes that looks at Bob Burns collection of Alien memorabilia and props. He has some amazing stuff, and this is absolutely fascinating. Then come a selection of parodies which include a clip from Family Guy, and also

Scores

Movie

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8

Picture Quality

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8

Sound Quality

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9

Extras

10

Overall

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9

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