The terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet, and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. One by one, each crew member is slain until only Ripley is left, leading to an explosive conclusion that sets the stage for its stunning sequel, "Aliens."
In this action-packed sequel to Alien, Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, the only survivor from mankind's first encounter with the monstrous Alien. Her account of the Alien and the fate of her crew are received with skepticism - until the mysterious disappearance of colonists on LV-426 leads her to join a team of high-tech colonial marines sent in to investigate.
Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the lone survivor when her crippled spaceship crash lands on Fiorina 161, a bleak wasteland inhabited by former inmates of the planet's maximum security prison. Ripley's fears that an Alien was aboard her craft are confirmed when the mutilated bodies of ex-cons begin to mount. Without weapons or modern technology of any kind, Ripley must lead the men into battle against the terrifying creature. And soon she discovers a horrifying fact about her link with the Alien, a realization that may compel Ripley to try destroying not only the horrific creature but herself as well.
A group of scientists has cloned Lt. Ellen Ripley, along with the alien queen inside her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her "creators," as are the aliens they've imprisoned. And soon, a lot more than "all hell" breaks loose. To combat the creatures, Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers, including a mechanic named Call (Ryder), who holds more than a few surprises of her own.
The Alien Quadrilogy is a nine-disc boxed set devoted to the four Alien films. Although previously available on DVD as the Alien Legacy, here they have been repackaged with vastly more extras and with upgraded sound and picture. For anyone who hasn't been in hypersleep for the last 25 years, this series needs no introduction, though for the first time each film now comes in both original and "special edition" form.
Alien (1979) was so perfect it didn't need fixing, and Ridley Scott's 2003 director's cut is fiddling for the sake of fiddling. Watch it once, then return to the majestic, perfectly paced original. Conversely, the special edition of James Cameron's Aliens (1986) is the definitive version, though it's nice to finally have the theatrical cut on DVD for comparison. Most interesting is the alternative Alien 3 (1992). This isn't a "director's cut"--David Fincher refused to have any involvement with this release--but a 1991 work-print that runs 29 minutes longer than the theatrical version, and has now been restored, remastered, and finished off with (unfortunately) cheap new CGI. Still, it's truly fascinating, offering a different insight into a flawed masterpiece. The expanded opening is visually breathtaking, the central firestorm is much longer, and a subplot involving Paul McGann's character adds considerable depth to story. The ending is also subtly but significantly different. Alien: Resurrection (1997) always was a mess with a handful of brilliant scenes, and the special edition just makes it eight minutes longer.
The Alien Quadrilogy offers the first and fourth films with DTS soundtracks, the others having still fine Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. All four films sound fantastic, with much low-level detail revealed for the first time. Each is anamorphically enhanced at the correct original aspect ratio, and the prints and transfers are superlative. Every film offers a commentary track that lends insight into the creative process--though the Scott-only commentary and isolated music score from the first Alien DVD release are missing here.
Each movie is complemented by a separate disc packed with hours of seriously detailed documentaries (all presented in full-screen with clips letterboxed), thousands of photos, production stills, and storyboards, giving a level of inside information for the dedicated buff only surpassed by the Lord of the Rings extended DVD sets. A ninth DVD compiles miscellaneous material, including an hourlong documentary and even all the extras from the old Alien laserdisc. "Exhaustive" hardly beings to describe the Alien Quadrilogy, a set that establishes the new DVD benchmark for retrospective releases and looks unlikely to be surpassed for some time. --Gary S. Dalkin