Alien Anthology, 6-disc set, all Blu-ray (1979-1997/2010)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver and lots of others
1 – Alien, dir. by Ridley Scott; 1979 theatrical & 2003 Director’s Cut; 116’
2 – Aliens, dir. by James Cameron; 1986 theatrical & 1991 Special Edition; 137’
3 – Alien 3, dir. by David Fincher; 1992 theatrical & 2003 Special Edition; 115’
4 – Alien Resurrection, dir. by Jean-Pierre Jeunet; 1997 theatrical & Special Edition; 109’
5 – Making the Anthology documentary
6 – The Anthology Archives (more extras)
Studio: 20th Century Fox [10/25/10]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 1080p HD (except Aliens is 1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: [see below] over 60 hours!
Length: [see above]
Rating: ***** (except for possible navigation problems)
I’m told that some Alien Series followers are such fans that they have bought the original VHS tapes, the laserdiscs, the Legacy DVDs and the 4-disc Quadrilogy DVD set, and now are buying this expensive set. This one may set a record for the length of the bonus features (who has the time for that?) but since we have the space, see the end of this review for a full listing of them.
The first and best Alien began as a horror B-movie script, but transmogrified into not only a fantastic sci-fi/horror/thriller feature but later to a fine series of four features. They all feature one of the most terrifying movie monsters in history and find continually clever ways to work the plot lines around the basic idea of one or more of the aliens being loose in a spaceship or building and slowly killing off nearly everybody present. Except for Ripley, of course, although (spoiler) she dies in the third one but then is resurrected in the fourth.
The original feature is so familiar to most that I don’t think a plot summary is needed. Although the oldest, and with the smallest cast of characters, it still stands up as the best of the bunch. The creepy organic creations of Swiss designer H.R. Geiger come thru with more unsettling detail than ever before. Also, the Blu-ray transfer seems to be more successful with this one than the other three. In fact, the latter two films seem of lesser image quality, even though Alien Resurrection was mastered at the highest digital video rate of the four: 30 mbps. Still, they’re all some improvement over the DVDs. In every case I watched the Special Edition versions, which usually had a few more minutes of added footage to the theatrical version on the same disc, but I didn’t notice any major material I hadn’t seen before.
Aliens – the second feature – seems entirely appropriate for James Cameron to direct since he excels in stuff with crowds of warrior-types. For this one the ante is upped from just Ripley and her crew fighting the alien to a whole Marine division fighting a passle ‘o aliens. The third one may be a downer if you can’t stand prison movies, because it all takes place in a semi-abandoned high security prison on a remote little planetoid. Among many unpleasant details of the environment is that when the sun goes away outdoors the temperature drops to something around that of liquid nitrogen, and lice are such a problem that everyone – including Ripley – has shaved heads. Of course the alien is on the loose again and the prisoners only have fire and molten lead to fight it with – and the latter doesn’t work either.
I may be weird, but I actually liked Alien Resurrection better than the other two sequels – perhaps due to the involvement of one of my favorite directors and some of his stalwart actors – Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It has a quite different tone from the other three, and I felt more of an empathy with some of the characters than those in the other films. It’s great to see Dominic Pinion and Ron Perlman together again in it; don’t know how I missed this one in the theaters originally. The plot cleverly solves the script problem of Ripley having killed herself in Aliens3 by having military scientists 200 years later clone a new Ripley from her DNA. Their reason is to remove the alien queen that was inside her (and why she killed herself) to breed the ultimate unstoppable weapon. The crew of a ragtag little opportunistic ship – similar to the one in Serenity and Hans Solo’s – figure in the story, as does a robot (also in most of the other films).
I haven’t time for the extras right now, but may watch the Making the Anthology someday. I don’t know its length, but I’m wondering if many purchasers wouldn’t rather have it spread over the first four Blu-rays instead of as a separate disc in a six-disc set. The book-like box design of the set is very nice, with good illustrations and an interesting way of fitting the discs into the thick pages of the book. (Certainly better than the unbelievable struggle with Back to the Future!) The discs all load in a reasonable time and they have the convenient Resume Playback feature – which I hadn’t realized was a function of the Blu-ray disc and not the player.
There are a couple technical problems with the set, however. The computer on the original Nostradamo was named MUTH-UR, so the clowns who handled the navigation for this anthology created a MUTH-UR Mode feature which runs thru all four films and which you turn on or off in the main menu screen. It supposedly allows access to all sorts of data, visuals, audio and other materials stored not only on the particular disc you are watching but also on the other three discs you are not watching. (Never mind how that works.) The MUTH-UR mode is displayed as a bunch of annoying designs on both the left and right side of the screen – obscuring whatever is going on onscreen. The feature is very annoying and next to useless; I couldn’t make it work properly in several attempts. I even went back to my original Oppo remote in case it was a problem with my universal remote. You cannot just bring MUTH-UR up when you want it – you must turn it on and off in the main menu. It’s only for computer nerds.
At least that can be turned off permanently, but the other problem may be more pervasive. There are a number of complaints online about faults and navigation problems with this anthology. There is definitely something wrong technically with the navigation in this set. Some have complained of freezing frames and skipping, but my problem was different, and on both Aliens and Alien Resurrection: After leaving the usual warnings and announcements at the start, the Fox searchlight clip (and the feature itself) showed up onscreen with a zoomed-in image of about the top left quarter of the screen, with a big black border above it. I had to return to the main menu three times on both Blu-rays and finally the third time I hit Play the normal aspect ratio appeared.
The Amazon page carries a warning that customers with older Blu-ray players should update their firmware to ensure successful playback of this product. So the navigation on it includes some recent “breakthrus” which older hardware can’t handle properly. Would have been nice if Fox had enclosed that warning with these sets. My Oppo player has the very latest firmware installed, and I still had problems. One online comment states that the UK Alien set doesn’t have this problem and is also cheaper. But then you must have a multi-region player or you cannot play it at all.
— John Sunier
Disc 1: 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 2: 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 3: ALIEN 3 **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 4: 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 5: Making the Anthology 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 6: 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 ALIEN 3 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 **Alien 3 Advance Featurette **The Making of Alien 3 Promotional 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 **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