I have never viewed an Alien movie before. Well, at least up until the release of this massive 9-disc behemoth. I’ve seen clips, heard the praises, been told to watch them but I never did. Nearly 25 years after the initial release of the first film in the series, I’ve finally done it thanks to Fox. This incredible heavy and massive box set is irresitable to any DVD fanatic. The films themselves, well, their irresistable to any sci-fi fan.
First and foremost, I’m not going to go through the features on these discs. There is at minimum 30 hours of bonus stuff included here and that’s not even including the commentary tracks or deleted scenes. It would be a boring read and my hands would cramp trying to get through it all. Needless to say, it’s nuts. There are only 2 documentaries that I know of that have not been included, one from AMC and the “Aien Legacy” which is avialable on a seperate disc, now out of print. It’s hardly a loss since any information included in these features is pretty much completely crammed onto one of the 9 discs and expanded upon. They’ve even went the extra mile and included items from the laserdisc release of the films. It’s and absolute overkill of special features and anyone interested in the process of filmmaking must own this set, period.
Each of the films is offered in 2 vesions. The included 20 page booklet explains which version the director prefers (with the exception of Alien 3 which David Fincher has pretty much disowned) and what differences you’ll see. The new cut of Alien is actually about a minute or so shorter with a few included sequences. The theatrical cut is the better one here. Aliens has been reworked with loads of new sequences, but for an action film, it does get dragged down by some of these. The new cut is a treat for fans of the series however and it’s inclusion gives people all the more reason to check this set out. Alien 3 has really taken a beating over the years from critics, and the new restored version really opens this one up. 20 minutes have been inserted and the edited opening and ending really enhance the film. Note that the audio during most of these scenes was never finished when they were filmed so subtitles will appear so you can follow the dialogue. Alien Ressurection has a cheesy new opening and changed downer ending, but neither really hurt or make the film any better. There’s nothing included that will change your perception of the film either way.
Each film is of course presented in a widescreen print. The most amazing thing about this set is Alien. Not because of the movie, but the print used to present it. Though it’s the oldest film in the set, it looks like it came out last year. The restoration job here is one of the best I’ve ever laid my eyes on. You’ll constantly be reassuring yourself this movie came out in 1979. The sounh has also been reworkd in DTS and standard 5.1. Most of the film is still centered and fornt powered, but some of the steam/electrical effects really add to the claustorphobic feeling the movie is aiming for. Aliens print has taken a beating. James Cameron is supposedly happy with the print, but that’s pretty hard to swallow. Though the colors are strong (as are the black levels), there is a constant flow of grain and dirt creeping it’s way onto the print. There are very few moments of complete clarity and I can’t fathom why more work wasn’t done in this one. Dolby Digital 5.1 is the new mix presented here and really picks things up with the massive array of weaponary. The title creatures approach from every angle and just by listening you know which way their coming from.
Alien 3, with it’s dark corridors and bright orange hues should be a DVD nightmare, but everything holds up more than admirably. The print is so clean, that the already poor CG alien shots look even more painfully obvious. The echo effects are flawless in the 5.1 track thanks to the more advanced sound system used to shoot the movie. Note that as mentioned above, the deleted scenes in the extended version have inaubile dialogue for the most part and you’ll have to deal with the subtitles. Alien Ressuraction is also clean throughout and is only the second film to use a DTS track. The deep bass coupled with the strange European style of photography are perfect for the format, but the film itself is better off forgotten amonst die-hard fans. Also take note that every film features a commentary track, 3 of which include the directors (guess which one doesn’t?).
The packaging for this disc is a standard flipper box. You’ll remove the meat of the box from an outer case and flip open to whichever disc your looking for. When it’s fully outstretched, you’ll be looking at a set that is over 5 feet long. It’s an awe-inspiring site to say the least. There are 4 movie discs, a special features disc for each movie, and a 9th disc that deals only with special features. Each of these films are available seperately in 2-disc form, but the ninth disc is included only with this set. The only problem that does exsist with this set is with the outside paper and secrity sticker. The foil, glossy print on the outside of the box has a piece of paper glued to it. Removing this removes some of the gloss and foil from the case. Since it’s not on their very well to begin with (and it’s only their for advertising purposes), it’s either going to be torn off or simply fall off by itself. Either way, your left with a mark on your case. The security sticker is stuck onto a corner of the box right underneath the paper. Why this piece of plastic has been attached to the outside of the case is bewildering since it detracts from the look of the set and surely anyone who plans on stealing this set won’t have a very difficult time in doing so. Oh, and don’t even think of tearing it off. Think the glue from the paper is bad? You haven’t seen how much damage can be done yet.
Now for a slight change of pace and commentary: What is it with Alien 3 that fans don’t like? I can see the awful use of CGI being a major downer, but the sheer amount of violence, gore, and overall dark feel that mimics the original film is great. Yes, the egg on the ship is a stretch, but if you can believe in an alien boarding a space ship in the first place, then believing it left an egg isn’t that much more to swallow. The new extended cut may turn a few people around, but I think most will already have their minds made up before going into it. The action and inginuity of battling the deadly beast without any major weaponary is far more exciting than James Camerons approach of big guns. It’s a shame that Fincher had so much trouble on this one and practically refuses to really acknowledge it’s existence. Alien Ressurection on the other hand, well, that I can see. It’s a mess. With the exception of Ripley’s “alien child” thing dying (in one of the coolest death scenes ever in a film) and the underwater segment, the movie is filled with corny lines, cheap comedy, and a strange directorial feel that doesn’t mesh at all with the previous 3 movies. Maybe the recently announced Alien vs. Predator film can pick this series back up and truly ressurect it.
This ingenious use of the DVD media is pretty much a no brainer for anyone who enjoys these films. Even if you don’t (or your the other person in the world who’s never seen any of them) it’s still worth the price. Shop around and your bound to find this for sale somewhere in the $70 range. It’s well worth it regardless of the price and the most definitive set ever released. Lord of the Rings? Pff. Your measly 4 discs simply can’t compete.