Directors: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Tom Skerritt, Michael Biehn, Charles S. Dutton, Winona Ryder
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Put quiet simply, this is how all movie collections should be done. This six disc, four film collection is a must have for any movie fan, and by that I do mean anyone that just loves great movies. Well, two great movies, one sort of good and severely underrated movie, and one film best forgotten. However even the thoroughly horrible fourth movie that all but killed the franchise is worth visiting again if for no other reason than to see just how amazing it looks.
Now I know this is a bit strange, starting a review like this when everyone knows you begin a review playing everything close to your chest to keep the reader reading, but this set of Blu-rays is so extensive, with such a mind-blowing amount of extra features that you’re going to need all the time you can spare to get through it. So if you’re a fan of the phallic-headed, acid blooded, face hugging xenomorphs then you can stop reading now. This is the definitive edition of these movies you’ve been waiting for. Nothing else comes close and I can’t imagine anything surpassing it. However, if you want more proof that these discs must be in your home movie library then keep reading, I’ll try my best to convince you.
The first film, Alien, broke more ground than a jackhammer when it hit theaters in 1979. Ostensibly a sci-fi flick, it was every bit as terrifying as any movie sporting the “horror” moniker. Essentially a haunted house movie set in space; it redefined both the sci-fi and horror genres and was imitated, or outright ripped off, by countless films for years to come. It also gave the world one of the most iconic, memorable, and unique movie monsters ever dreamed of. Last but not least it had a leading lady that did more than run away, fall down a lot, and shriek at the big nasty. The acting and direction was all cream of the crop and the look of the film was as original as the titular monster. Gone was the so-clean-as-to-be-sterile look of most space operas and in its place was what can best be described as truckers in space. If you want a unique, innovative, scary as hell movie that you’ll remember for many years to come, then Alien is that flick.
In 1986 something truly amazing happened. James Cameron, before he became the “king of the world,” made a sequel called Aliens that was every bit as good as the original but managed to take the movie in a whole new direction. He ably switched the genre gears from horror to high tone action. Gone were large portions of suspense and dread, but in their place were huge doses big gun action and shocks galore. While the first movie had a single creepy crawly, this one had countless critters running through claustrophobic corridors. Now the two movies could not be more different, despite having the same critters in them and Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as Lt. Ripley, yet both are masterworks of their genres. For these two movies alone, this set is worth picking up.
Then came Alien 3 and sadly the third time was not the charm. Despite returning to original form with just a single alien and an emphasis on creepy dread over run and gun, there was just something missing from the formula that kept this movie from being a classic. Whatever that thing is, it’s hard to put a finger on it. It’s not a lack of talent from the director as David Fincher has proven time and time again that he’s got talent to spare. It’s not the acting as everyone in this show does more than competent work with Weaver playing a tortured, grieving, and oddly bald Ripley to perfection. She has able costars with Lance Henriksen and Charles S. Dutton. Even the story is pretty good with a canine like alien stalking the dirty halls of a rundown prison planet populated by convicts who have seen the light. Yet with all that said there is some X factor that keeps me from really liking this movie. It could be the truly God awful early CGI effects used for a good portion of the alien scenes. I can only assume that doing so was the cheap way to do things but man, does it really show. However, the more times I see this film the more I warm up to it.
The same cannot be said for Alien: Resurrection. I do not like it. Not. One. Little. Bit. Least of all for the return of Lt. Ripley. I thought Alien 3 gave her a good and proper sendoff, but in the eternal quest for a few dollars more the producers pissed all over that and bribed Sigourney Weaver into playing her most famous role one last time. I guess the idea is you just can’t have a movie with aliens in it with out Ripley. Hmm, you know, after watching the two dreadful Alien Vs. Predator films, maybe they were right?
In any event, this movie takes place 200 years after Lt. Ripley made the ultimate sacrifice to end the alien threat once and for all. Well naturally that didn’t happen, so the big bad military took some of her blood and cloned her in an attempt to get the alien queen nesting inside her. Enter a group of grungy mercenaries, which include Michael Wincott, Ron Perlman with a cutie android played by Winona Ryder. Adding to the “it could have been good but wasn’t” pile is the fact that it was written by Joss Whedon of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame, which goes to prove that someone with the goods can still turn out a turd from time to time. This last alien movie is a jumbled mess with characters you don’t care about, a plot that meanders all over to avoid the holes in it, a total been there, done that feel, and worse of all a comic-looking alien/human hybrid with mommy issues. However, to be fair, it does look amazing in high-def.
Ok, recap aside, let’s get to brass tacks. There are two main reasons to get this collection and those are how good it looks and how many extras and special features it has. Well the picture quality is, in a single word: amazing. These movies look great and watching them in HD for the first time, I picked up on a ton of things that I never noticed before. Furthermore, the extra scenes in the various special editions have also been buffed up to a high sheen so that the whole thing meshes perfectly.
As for the extras, man where do I start? Each movie has a full length commentary track and each has two versions for you to watch, the original theatrical release and a director’s, or extended cut. The first, second, and fourth films have intros by the directors, I guess Fincher was either too busy or not happy with his Alien experience. Then each movie has tons, and tons of behind the scenes, featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, trailers, seriously you name it and it can be found here and most of it is new to this collection. There are so many goodies that it takes two extra Blu-rays to hold it all, and Blu-rays hold a hell of a lot. Also, far too many for me to list. There’s over 60 hours of extra content on these discs. Yes, let me repeat that; over 60 hours of extra goodness, but as they say, “That’s not all.” You can watch each movie in a highly interactive and informative Mu-Th-Ur mode that brings up text, audio, and images while you watch. It’s somewhat complicated, but once you get used to it, it can be a lot of fun to play around with.
So this review ends as it began, with me telling you that you need to get this Blu-ray set. Consider it far beyond highly recommended. Consider it a must own.