Customer Reviews: Alien Anthology (Alien / Aliens / Alien 3 / Alien: Resurrection) [Blu-ray]
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on October 21, 2010
My local electronics store already had the Alien Anthology bluray on the shelves this Tuesday (October 19). At first I thought the street date had been changed at the last minute (it wouldn't be the first time). But it appears that all the websites still list the release date for next Tuesday (Oct 26), so I guess my local store must have made a mistake (it wouldn't be the first time for that either).
In either case, I already got my hands on the Alien Anthology set, and I thought that Alien fans who are still trying to decide whether it's worth the upgrade before next week's proper street date might want to know the following:
(Note: This review assumes that most of you have already seen the films, and there may be some very mild spoilers.)
[UPDATE: I've added LOTS more detail about the extras, including the extended Alien 3 doc. Find this under PROS section (3). In PROS section (1) I've also answered some questions from another customer.]
[UPDATE 4: More specifics on why the 3rd and 4th films' picture quality won't wow you as much as the first 2 films'. Under Cons section (1)]
[UPDATE 6: I've found more new extras on disc 6, including new deleted scenes from Aliens. Details in PROS section (3).]

1) All four films look very good on bluray, and much better than the earlier DVDs, with the first two films looking the best. Alien almost looks brand new. Aliens still looks its age (sometimes), but it enjoys the single biggest improvement in picture quality in the jump from DVD to bluray that I have ever seen for a classic film (or pretty much any film for that matter). While there are still plenty of shots that still look soft or a bit grainy by today's standards, the entire film looks sharper than ever and the grain is far less distracting. Some sequences, like the marines' initial investigation of the abandoned colony, almost look like they could have been shot this year. The color quality and detail visible on the panning shot from the planet to Ripley's orbital hospital room at the beginning of the film totally blew my mind. Detail and texture are excellent throughout and I saw no signs that DNR had been overused. After experiencing Aliens on bluray, I wonder how I was ever able to tolerate the picture quality on the DVD.
[UPDATE: The Theatrical and Director's cuts of Alien both look equally great. It's my understanding that Ridley Scott made some minor alterations to things like contrast, etc. in the Director's cut, but I frankly didn't notice any difference between the two. I haven't watched the Theatrical cut of Aliens in years, as I much prefer the Extended version, so I may not remember which all scenes were added for the latter. However, I did not notice any correlation between picture quality and whether a scene was in the Theatrical cut or added in later, so I assume that they all come from the same source and are of more-or-less equal quality. If I have a chance to look at it again soon and do notice any differences, I'll post another update.]
[UPDATE 2: I've watched the first 25 minutes of the Theatrical cut of Aliens and can confirm that the picture quality is identical to the Special Edition. In other words, it will cause longtime Aliens fans' jaws to drop off right before they become temporarily blinded by its awe-inspiring glory. This is truly the greatest film restoration I've ever seen prepared for the transition from DVD to bluray. Because of the film stock used, I didn't think it would ever be possible for the film to look this good.]

2) All four films also sound greatly improved compared to the DVD. This is especially true for Alien 3. Dialogue which was hard to make out on the DVD is now much clearer and easier to understand. I did notice some audio sync issues with some of the third film's dialogue, but I think these are misalignments which were already present on previous DVD releases, and may therefore be inherent to the original film.

3) The new extras are extensive and excellent. Within the first couple minutes of sampling the new enhancement pods on disc 5, I learned a couple of tidbits I had been unaware of before. These are a wonderful extension of the already superb making-of documentaries. The MU-TH-UR interactive mode is easy to use and will probably prove helpful to those who are only interested in seeing certain parts of the behind-the-scenes material, but I haven't used it much. I've only sampled a couple minutes of the trivia track portion of this feature (titled "Datastream"), but so far it appears as though it will mostly be a re-hash of material you can find in disc 5's documentaries. The set also includes ALL of the extras from EVERY previous release of these films, as promised (at least as far as I can tell), in addition to the extended Alien Evolution and Alien 3 documentaries.
[UPDATE: The extended Alien 3 documentary includes significantly more footage of Fincher directing on the set (lenghtier character discussions with the actors, etc.) and more detail on the schism between him and the studio that I don't remember seeing on the Quadrilogy DVD. At one point during filming you see Fincher get on a microphone and say, "I can't believe Fox is the number one studio because they're all such a bunch of morons." Interestingly, while some of the new footage does reflect poorly on the studio, I think it also makes it easier to understand why some people had trouble working with Fincher. I personally find this longer cut much more interesting, but it hardly feels like an entirely new, revelatory version. Still, if you love a good behind-the-scenes documentary, the extended cut of "Wreckage and Rage: The Making of Alien 3" may help justify the upgrade to bluray.
By my estimate, disc 5 contains around 17 hours of documentaries, including an hour to an hour-and-a-half of new enhancement pods for each individual film (these are mostly extended interviews and production footage). I couldn't even tell you how many hours of content are on disc 6. So it's understandable, due to space limitations, that some of this material still appears to be in standard def. Although it's in SD, most of it has been enhanced so your bluray player will upconvert it (sometimes beautifully so) to fill a widescreen TV. I find the text slides on the still galleries of concept art on disc 6 (which ARE in FULL HD) much easier to read now. In disc 5's docs, most film clips, production artwork and photos, and many interviews will now fill the screen, while other interview clips appear pillarboxed with new imagery to the right and left instead of black bars (similar to the "Disneyview" feature on the Snow White and Pinocchio blurays, though mostly much less distracting than those were). It all looks good enough that I don't think many people will be too disappointed that some of these extras are still in SD.
BOTTOM LINE: The extras, both new and old, are a substantial improvement over the Quadrilogy DVD set (at least IMHO, your mileage may vary). I doubt many people will feel shortchanged here.]
[UPDATE 6: I've found more new extras on disc 6. There are some deleted scenes from Aliens, at least one of which - featuring Burke in a cocoon - I don't think I've seen before. The Patch and Logos image gallery will be appreciated by folks who love all the costuming/set dressing details. There's a video reproduction of a ride called "Aliens: Ride At The Speed of Fright" which is notable for two things: it's REALLY cheesy, and it features a very young Jeffrey Combs (I think this part is new - I don't remember seeing it on the DVD). The Parodies section is just some Alien-related clips from Spaceballs and Family Guy. You'll also want to keep an eye out for Easter Eggs on this disc.]

4) The set has a couple of impressive surprises that weren't mentioned in any of the studio press releases I've seen. Disc Unbound is an automatic feature: when you eject any disc from this set, the Weyland-Yutani logo will pop up on screen. You can then insert any other disc from the set and you'll go straight to the main menu - it will skip over all the studio logos and FBI Warning screens, making an Alien marathon slightly faster and less annoying.
I was aware that this set would include isolated score tracks for all four films (as well as alternate score tracks for the first two), but was unaware that you can also access each piece of music in any order from an index which includes even more unused music. I'm not certain, but I think I may have even spotted a couple of Bonus alternate tracks for Aliens that weren't even on the Deluxe Edition soundtrack CD.

5) For those who are hard of hearing, all 4 films and even the extras on discs 5 and 6 include subtitles in around 15 languages, including English and Spanish. Even the audio commentaries have subtitles in multiple languages! Each film also has multiple language audio tracks, though it appears that only the English receives a lossless one.

6) The packaging is the most elegantly beautiful I've ever seen for a bluray set. Inside the slipcase is a hardcover book with each disc held securely within its own page. These pages include photos from each film, as well as some basic info like plot synopses and director's credits. There's also a booklet and insert tucked in the back which explain how MU-TH-UR mode and Disc Unbound work, and list the content on each disc. It also has a note from Ridley Scott filled with tantalizing hints about what to expect in his upcoming prequel. Everyone will be happy to know that the package is very compact and will fit perfectly next to your other blurays. It's the same size as the Close Encounters of the Third Kind bluray, except that the spine is a little thicker since it holds more discs.
The menu screens are also beautifully designed. The menu for each film features a Weyland-Yutani computer interface with a continuous stream of 3D diagrams and info on various vehicles, weapons, and creatures from each film. It also shows a spacechart indicating the name and location of the planet where each film takes place. Many fans will want to watch the menus play a few times just to take in all the information and detail. The menus are also quick and easy to navigate, and most video features on discs 5 and 6 include a "Play All" option. On disc 5, for example, you can either play all segments of the documentray for each film separately, or you can simply choose to play all 4 documentaries at once.

As beautiful as the packaging is, it does have a couple of minor problems, which brings me to...

1) The 3rd and 4th films don't look quite as spectacular as the first two. They still look far better than the DVDs, and I think the vast majority of people will be perfectly pleased with them. For example, the underwater sequence in Resurrection looks more beautiful than ever. In the shot where the alien drags the docking pilot back into the flooded kitchen, I could now clearly see a single hair floating across the foreground, a detail I had never noticed before during the dozens of times I had watched this movie on DVD. The text of the electronic Bible from the extended chapel scene is also much easier to read now. Nevertheless, you can tell that slightly less work went into the last two films, and some of the hardcore videophiles may be very slightly disappointed by the results after they see how magnificent the first two films now look.

[UPDATE: In my honest opinion, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection only look less impressive in comparison to the first two films. I didn't notice any signs of DNR or any other technical issues at all. It's my understanding that the first, third and fourth films each had new HD remasters done for the 2003 Quadrilogy DVD set. (If I recall correctly, I think that James Cameron chose not to do a new remaster of Aliens at that time because he felt the one they had was already about as good as they could make the movie look with the technology available circa 2003 - this is probably again due to the film stock they shot Aliens on.)
Skip ahead 7 years to today. Now Alien has been given ANOTHER NEW HD remaster using the most up-to-date technology, and it looks outstanding. Not only does it ALMOST look, for the most part, like a film that could have been shot in 2010, I think the picture quality on the bluray is often as sharp or sharper and better-looking than some films that really did come out this year (like Predators). It's also nearly comparable to, at times dare I say maybe even better than the picture quality on Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, in my opinion (at least when you take Alien's age into consideration). Aliens has also received a brand NEW HD remaster - probably its first in over a decade. I was too young to see it in the theater, but I imagine Cameron is probably telling the truth when he claims that it looks better than it originally did in the theater. I didn't believe it could ever look as good as it does on bluray because of how bad it looked on DVD and because of what Cameron and others have said about the weaknesses of the film they shot it on.
Alien 3 and Resurrection, it's my understanding, have NOT received NEW HD remasters circa 2010. So basically, this is the first time that you're seeing the full quality of the HD remasters that were done for the 2003 Quadrilogy set (which obviously could not show them in HD). They still look very good, and much better than the DVD. Sometimes they have better detail and look sharper than Alien and Aliens do, but technologies for film restoration have obviously improved a great deal in 7 years, and for the most part I think that the first two films now look better (i.e. sharper, etc.) than the last two, at least with regard to expectation. Think of it this way: we typically expect newer movies to look better on bluray than older ones do. So when you see how near-perfect (excellent detail, depth, contrast, deep blacks, no distracting grain, etc.) Alien now looks, then see how the picture quality on Aliens (while certainly not "perfect") far exceeds anything you would expect for a film photographed on such problematic material, you then expect the picture quality on the last two films to knock it out of the ballpark and surprise you to an equal or greater degree. Since they don't SURPRISE you (they only look NEARLY Just As GOOD as the first two films - even though their remasters were done 7 years ago, they were still done very well), many people who actually understand a bit about film restoration will clearly see a difference and wish Fox had spent the money to do a more recent 2010 remaster of the last two films as well, so they would look EVERY BIT As Good or better than the first two films, as we would expect them to. Meanwhile, I think that most people in a more general audience will only see a difference in comparison to the first two films, if they see any difference in the picture quality at all. Many (maybe not all) of those people will probably be completely satisfied with the fact that all 4 movies look far, FAR better than they did on DVD.
Of course, it's possible I'm misinformed and that further restoration was done more recently on the last two films, and just wasn't as extensive as that done on the first two. But either way, the end effect is the same. In other words, you'll look at Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection and say, "These look really good, way better than the DVD." You won't have the same reaction to them that you'll probably have to the first two movies, which is, "HOLY C%@P!!!! HOW DID THEY MAKE MOVIES THIS OLD LOOK THIS GOOD!!! AND HOW DID I EVER MANAGE TO WATCH THE SECOND MOVIE ON DVD WHEN IT COULD HAVE LOOKED THIS MUCH BETTER??!!!!!"]

2) The packaging requires you to slide the discs sideways out from their pages. While the discs are held quite securely, I found that they are very easy to pull out after a little practice. As long as you're careful I don't think there's much need to worry about damaging the discs. Another issue is how tightly the book holding the discs fits into the outer slipcover. The best way to get it out is to hold the set on its side and gently shake it a couple of times till you can grab the book's edge and pull it the rest of the way out. Personally, I don't find these issues all that bothersome, but I know some people will probably find it more frustrating. Those who dislike non-standard book-style packaging may want to wait for the individual releases of each film in the hopes that they'll have more standard packaging.
(NOTE: Anyone who wants to bypass the issue of removing the outer slipcase after you open the set for the first time could just set the book containing the discs, minus outer slipcase, on the shelf with their other blurays - the packaging seems pretty sturdy and I think the discs would still be well-protected.)
(NOTE: The Alien Anthology booklet does not replicate all of the text from the booklet included in the Quadrilogy DVD set, so obsessive completists may want to remove the Quadrilogy booklet if you're going to sell or give away your DVDs. Unfortunately, the Quadrilogy booklet is too large to fit inside the bluray package.)

If you don't want all four movies, are allergic to non-standard packaging, or just can't afford the steep price tag, you may want to wait for the inevitable but as-yet-unannounced individual bluray releases. (Just keep in mind that the extras for all four films have been condensed onto 2 bluray discs for this set. At this point in time there's no way to know whether you'll get all of the new extras if you wait for the individual releases.) Otherwise, this set is an absolute must-have. While the last two films don't look quite as good as the first two, they still look pretty great, and this set has exceeded all of my other expectations (which were very high). The picture quality on Aliens especially knocked my socks off. The new extras are substantial, and the quality of the entire presentation sets a new standard for future bluray releases. As a lifelong fan of these films I felt like the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set was a dream-come-true. The Alien Anthology bluray set makes me feel like all my dreams were inadequate.

Just to be clear, I am not associated in any way with any Hollywood studio or any newspaper, magazine or website which reviews films or DVDs/blurays. I've never written a product review before, and am only doing so now because I appear to have gotten this item early. I'm just a lover of movies, blurays, and the Alien franchise who got extremely lucky and got the set a week early thanks to my local retailer.
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on December 8, 2003
This consists of two discs for each film, the original and an alternate version (more on that below) on the first disk, and collections of approximately 2 hours of featurettes and other bonuses on the second disc. The ninth disc is a hodgepodge of trailers and other items from previous DVD and laser disk versions. Although the extras have been released in a variety of forms over several years (the John Hurt documentary 'The Alien Saga', being the latest), THIS is the definitive version.
'Alien' (average user rating: 4.6). If you haven't seen this classic film, then you must be living under a rock. The collection includes the original theatrical version (which I prefer) and the "Director's Cut", notable for its inclusion of the controversial captain-cacooned by alien scene (controversial because from the Alien mythology developed in later films, we know that only the massive queen can lay eggs). I prefer the original (which is actually 1 minute longer), and interestingly enough, it appears that Ridley Scott prefers the original as well. The making of featurettes are extensive and reveal Giger's extensive participation and how what was originally expected to receive a b-moive budget became one of the very few examples where Fox studios followed the vision with a classic.
'Aliens' (average user rating: 4.7). This is the only sequel I know of that is rated higher than the original. This time, the "Special Edition" version (also on the previous 'Alien Legacy' box set) is a superior experience and exactly is how upstart director James Cameron (who had written the script prior to the release of 'The Terminator') wanted to release the film, but was constrained entirely by time limits. The result is additional scenes featuring the colonists and Ripley's family lost to the time she spent in hypersleep. As with the first installment, the featurettes are interesting and thorough, although the Viet Nam War metaphor is not as thoroughly explored with Cameron as has been in other releases.
'Alien 3' (average user rating: 3.2). As a fan of the franchise, this was perhaps the most anticipated part of this new box set. The "working print" of the film (the longest of all the versions here, and complete with subtitles for missed sound editing), adds a depth to the film that was not in the original. That is, the arrival of Ripley and the characters are covered much more thoroughly, the alien creature is begotten by an oxen with a much more original look, there is an additional plot twist arising from the nature of the inhabitants (criminally delusional), and there is no riduculously-timed chest-burster scene at the end. Still, the film is a flawed masterpiece. The film is better appreciated in light of the bad situation first-time director David Fincher had been placed in - not the least of which is an incomplete script during production and a set that had already been constructed for the ill-conceived "wooden planet/monestary" vision of the previously assigned director. In this sense, the three production featurettes come across as almost an apology/tribute to Fincher. (NOTE: Fincher is the only director who is not interviewed on the box set.)
'Alien Resurrection' (average user rating: 3.0). What happens when you put the French director of 'Amelie' (Jean-Pierre Jeaunet) in charge of an alien movie? Well, foreign/art movies were all the craze in the last 1990s, so . . . Fox studios thought, "Why not?" In the end, many fans of the franchise did not appreciate the obviously satirical slant on this final installment. The opening scene and ending scenes (the only additions of substance) on the extended version make the film even more tongue-in-cheek. Despite the French director and crew's obvious regard for the original 'Alien' (as documented in the featurettes), armed with the return of Sigourney Weaver and the addition of superstar Winona Ryder, the director ultimately made a quirky, campy action film. But in the end, it was the last quarter of the script that makes this the weakest of all the installments by far. Postscript to Fox studios: if you had given Fincher this much creative freedom, you would have have a third masterpiece.
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on November 19, 2011
I noticed that there were two different Alien Anthology Blu-ray sets for sale on Amazon. They appeared to be identical, except this set has small markings on the front of the box (both say "18", which is "Fit for viewing by persons aged 18 years or more" according to the back of the box) which apparently is from the Irish Film Classification Office. This set, I believe, is some kind of import. With that being said, I have not had any problems with play back. I can't compare the exact content, as I only own this set. But, this set gives you a TON!!!!! You get all four movies on four discs (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection) and two discs of special features. The cover sticker claimed 60 hours of additional content. Here's some info from the back of the box:

Alien: Original Version (116 minutes)
Alien: Director's Cut (110 minutes)
Letterbox Version 16:9 (Presented in 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)

Aliens: Original Version (131 minutes)
Aliens: Special Edition (148 minutes)
Widescreen Version 16:9 (Presented in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)

Alien3: Original Version (109 minutes)
Alien3: Special Edition (138 minutes)
Widescreen Version 16:9 (Presented in 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)

Alien Resurrection: Original Version (104 minutes)
Alien Resurrection: Special Edition (111 minutes)
Widescreen Version 16:9 (Presented in 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)

The first thing I did was try each disc in my player and every single one of them loaded without a hitch. I'm not sure if I'm able to quote prices in my review, but I will say that this set was over 50% cheaper than the other region 1 U.S. version. If you are having any doubts, read the reviews on this product. I am reviewing ASIN: B003AQBYUG, and not ASIN: B001AQO3QA. I recently purchased my blu-ray player from Amazon, a Panasonic DMP-BDT310. It was manufactured in Sept 2011 so I can confirm that this newer player definitely reads the discs. This set is not specifically for region 1/U.S., but rather all regions. The back of the box says A/B/C. If you use Amazon's help to learn more about regions, you'll see that A, B and C pretty much covers everywhere. If you're looking to add this set to your collection, I highly recommend it. As the title of my review says, it was an absolute steal! Order with confidence and enjoy :)
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2010
The "Alien Anthology" may have taken some time to come to Blu-ray Disc, but it has been worth the wait. We received the set directly from Fox so are able to give readers an early sneak peek. The films themselves are presented in both their theatrical versions and extended "special edition" versions, Even Alien3 comes in a half-hour longer version here, and they've gone to the trouble of re-recording bits of dialog and sound effects to clean up the audio from the restored portion to match the rest of the film. It is nice to have the choice to watch either cut of all four movies, and the SE version of the second film really adds depth to the story and the characters making a great film even better.

Each film gets the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 treatment (the first two films' theatrical cuts are also available in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 4.1 channel mixes). Sound is excellent overall, though perhaps not quite as bombastic as one might expect from such action-heavy titles. It seems like more should be coming from behind us at times, and the low bass rumble of the weapon fire and explosions is lacking ever so slightly in deep extended bass. But these are fairly minor criticisms as the sound is clean, imaging is precise, and dialog is clear and articulate throughout. The video transfers are clearly superior to the DVDs that came before them with rich detail, nicely saturated colors and deep blacks. H.R. Geiger's creepy organic art on the derelict alien ship in the first film has never looked so detailed and powerful and you can practically count the pores on young Sigourney Weaver's face. There are still minor instances of murky blacks, some ringing and softness here and there due to mild use of noise reduction, but overall, the transfers are pristine, considering the age of the films. The first two films, though the earliest, look the most improved here - no surprise considering they have been painstakingly remastered at 4K resolution for this release. Only "Aliens" is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 - nearly filling a standard 16:9 screen with thin black lines at the top and bottom. The rest of the films are presented in a CinemaScope 2.35:1 aspect.

The extras are extensive, to say the least (be prepared to spend some time here), with special features available on each disc, plus two entire Blu-ray Discs packed full of additional extras: one with "Making Of" documentaries, interview segments and behind-the-scenes footage, and one disc featuring the "Archives," chock full of seemingly every last piece of material -- text, still photos and video -- supporting the films and their back story. A helpful "MU-TH-UR" mode (with its own tutorial) is included to help you navigate through the massive amount of supplements - even allowing us to go directly to specific chapters on other discs: just eject one and insert the other, and it will take you directly to the requested material. Pop the original disc back in and the player will remember where you left off, asking if you'd like to resume. A nice feature made possible via BD-Java.

At least one commentary track is available for each film ("Alien" has two), with every director but David Fincher (Alien3) participating in the commentary fun. All four films also have isolated score tracks (in Dolby Digital 5.1), so you can appreciate the nuances of the film's scores without any distracting dialog or sound effects. Although much of the supplementary materials used here are re-purposed from earlier home video releases (DVD and laserdisc), we found many new and extended interview segments and snippets we'd never seen before. I'm sure die-hard fans will find hours of enjoyment in the set, and the audio and video quality alone is worth the upgrade. I know I can never go back to the DVDs. Highly recommended!

UPDATE (10/24): Some early purchasers and reviewers have noted some compatibility issues with the set and certain hardware. We've tested the disc with twelve players so far (OPPO, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Philips, Toshiba and Sony), with mostly minor compatibility issues noted. On the OPPO BDP-83, the "Director's Cut" of "Alien" begins playing zoomed in with only the top left corner of the image visible. Hitting "Menu" then "Play" restores the image to its proper size. Also a Samsung BC-C6900 plays Ridley Scott's intro video to the Director's Cut of "Alien" squished to 4:3 (should be 16:9). Similarly a Philips BD-P7200 played the Ridley intro in a tiny window at the top of the screen, but the film itself played fine in both versions. But otherwise every player we've tested seems to play the set without issues. Some players are extremely slow to load the disc (particularly older players), but this is to be expected from such a BD-Java-heavy title. BD-Java can use quite a bit of on-board memory and processing power once you get fancy (and boy are these discs fancy!). We've tested the set on the following players: Panasonic DMP-BDT350, DMP-BD85, DMP-BD60, DMP-BD70V and DMP-BD35, Samsung BD-C6900, LG BD390, OPPO BDP-83, Sony PS3, Sony BDP-S350, Philips BD-P7200 and Toshiba BDX3000.

Please note: a more extensive review is available on our web site at BigPictureBigSound dot com, and a discussion of the compatibility issues is available on our forum.
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on May 6, 2006
The Alien series never broke out the way that Star Trek and Star Wars did--you don't see the presence of an Alien-worshipping subculture, the way you do with Roddenberry's and Lucas's franchises. However, the series has been far more inventive and varied than those two franchises. Explore the Alien movies (minus the abomination known as Alien vs. Predator) on this 9-disc set. Even though they are very different films which have little commonality, aside from the presence of those vicious monsters and the lovely Sigourney Weaver, they complement each other well, and collectors would be wise to pick up this boxed set instead of buying the movies piecemeal. Far from being simple horror films, the Alien movies are attempts to put into film the anxieties of the modern age, from the biological to the corporate, and the series is at its best when it exploits these anxieties.

This is what the first entry in the series, Alien, does best. Directed by Ridley Scott, whose other work includes Blade Runner and Gladiator, this 1979 film pits a group of commercial astronauts against a foe which cannot be killed and will not be placated. With a cast that includes Weaver, Tom Skeritt, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm, this is probably the most impressively-acted of the bunch, and Scott has style to spare. Unlike most terror films, this movie derives its thrills not from continual pop-ups at the screen, but from building a sustained mood of dread--the alien could pop up at any moment. When it does come, it doesn't stay around for long. Perhaps the movie's greatest attribute is its allegorical simplicity--one is bound to reflect on what the alien represents? Perhaps it's a Rorshach Ink Blot to some extent, however, this movie is the perfect counterpoint to such movies as Independence Day--instead of taking off and kicking ass, in Alien, nothing we can do can protect us from the Alien. In our post-Iraq, post-9/11 nation, perhaps this film will have gained some resonance in its treatment of the subject matter.

Aliens might be decried by some as a pure action film, but it is a bit more than that. James Cameron logically extends the concepts in the first film, and while it lacks the atmosphere and creepy suspense of the first movie, it is an extremely exciting and emotionally satisfying film. In this film, Ellen Ripley returns to the beast's planet with a squad of marines, which includes such personalities as the humane Cpl. Hicks (Michael Biehn), the freaked-out Pvt. Hudson (Bill Paxton) and the macho Pvt. Vasquez (Janette Goldstein). Also in the mix are Paul Reiser as the personification of corporate malfeasance, and Lance Henriksen as a sinister-seeming android. Trivia note: Henriksen would be the only actor (aside from Weaver) to appear in more than one Alien film. Ultimately, this is a movie where the thrills come from stuff popping out at you, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief a little and come along for the ride, it is actually quite good for a genre picture, and became the benchmark against which the later pictures were compared.

Alien3 is a film which never got a fair chance. Consider: a script which underwent more than a few major revisions, several changes in directors which actually produced the perfect man for the job (future Fight Club auteur David Fincher), a meddling studio and fan expectations which could not possibly have been sated. It was, in retrospect, a recipe for disaster, so one should not complain about how flawed it is, but rather realize just how good it is. Fincher manages to create a wholly convincing atmosphere of dread in a prison planet populated by monk-like inmates. It takes up the allegorical mantle again, but rather than the open-ended allegory of the first, this installment has overt religious parallels that anyone even remotely familiar with Western Civilization should be able to pick up on (even though some of the imagery is subtle). This set notably includes the Assembly Cut, billed euphamistically here as a "Special Edition", which is far closer to the movie Fincher intended to make. While there are any number of legitimate complaints against the film--the most sympathetic character dies halfway through, many of the inmates never really stick out, the final action sequence is too disorienting, high on gore but low on scares, etc.--it is actually a rather compelling film in its unedited form. Not perfect, but in terms of the plotting, main characters, and its insight into the mindset of the religious isolationist mindset, it is more than adequate. In terms of visuals and mood, no installment of the Alien series has been better. In my book, it's a good film with flaws rather than a flawed film with some good parts. The beginning and ending are contentious--watch the film and you will see why--but both serve the story, and the ending in Fincher's version is a surprisingly powerful one, as opposed to the theatrical version, which might have some Biblical undertones (the story of Jacob, specifically) but it feels more hollow. Overall, with this restored version, hopefully the movie will see an end to the backlash that has been pervasive since its release in 1992.

Alien Resurrection is the final film in this group, and while it is less polarizing than Alien3 among fans, it is also less memorable. If the original film was about a post-Vietnam set of anxieties, then this film is about a post-Berlin Wall set of ironies, and it cannot be displaced from the culture from whence it came--a culture which prided itself on being so "over" everything. Yet another director, this time Jean-Pierre Jeaunet of Amelie, brings a different twist to the franchise. Armed with a screenplay by TV wunderkind Joss Whedon, and game performances from Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, et al. The fundamental problem is that the viewer never really connects with the characters, and thus isn't invested in their fates. This being the case, the movie then becomes a series of action setpieces which don't quite add up to anything. The visual style is surprisingly lacking here as well: I once heard Amelie described as a David Fincher take on a Meg Ryan film, so I expected memorable visuals. I instead discovered that Roger Ebert was right when he said there was not a single shot to inspire the imagination. While the production values are high, the grotesque violence, fast-paced editing, camerawork and lighting all come together to make one feel as though in a video game, and while that might work for fourteen year-old boys, it's a far cry from the film's heritage. On the other hand, the satirical aspects of the film are enjoyable, and it somehow was much more beloved in Europe--maybe I'm missing something. Ultimately, the film is either a standard-issue thriller or a savvy satirical deconstruction of a standard-issue thriller--I'm not entirely certain.

The bonus features are interesting--commentaries on all the four films, featuring directors, cast members, and production staff. I guess that, given the amount of commentary tracks punctuated by uncomfortable silences, the folks over at Fox decided to cut to different conversations at different points during the films. There is a constant stream of information, some interesting and enlightening, other parts are funny (Bill Paxton's contributions especially), but the only one that is tough to sit through is Alien3's, which is unbalanced in favor of the technical side of the production and only has about 15 minutes of Henriksen and another actor. The documentaries go into great detail about all the films, essentially from the germination of the story all the way through to critical reception. Overall, it's a good collection of special features.

Overall, as far as franchises go, the Alien films are one of the better bets out there. As a receptacle for millenial anxieties, a proving ground for new and talented directors, and just plain scares, this is a series which should appeal to most and I highly recommend this set.
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on December 10, 2003
There's a LOT of stuff in this box set. Almost too much, really. You could spend a couple of weeks watching and reading all the extras, commentaries, script drafts, etc. But by then you would have deconstructed the films so much that you have robbed them of whatever "innocent viewing pleasure" you enjoyed before you delved into the minutiae of the extra features.
So it is a double-edged sword: Learn more than you ever thought you would about the 4 "Alien" films, but suffer having to watch them from then on and forever more through the filter of "knowing too much behind-the-scenes info" & "curtain-pulled-back-on-the-Wizard" insider perspective.

That said, it is a real treat to have this collection, even though the fourth film was abominably disappointing. The packaging, which opens to a nearly five foot long foldout, is kind of neat but soon grows cumbersome and irritating. When you unfold it the first time, it is like "Hey, look what THIS thing does!". But after a while, when you just want to retrieve a single disc for some occasion, it has evolved to "Okay, okay, I get it - it's long. Just gimme the stupid disc already!"
For "Alien" fanatics, this is a must-have. I don't own the "Alien Legacy" set, so I can't compare them.
I especially like the DTS sound on two of the films. DTS always brings a new dimension to the listening experience that the still-great Dolby 5.1 doesn't.
Don't complain about the price, either. You get your money's worth in spades, and you save on tax and get free shipping if you order it online (from the right vendor). Besides, even if the price is a bit too steep for you, that amount of your money would have been lost to the sands of time soon enough anyway. Might as well spend the money and have something cool to show for it.
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on July 12, 2011
...shipped the US for $32.50 (thirty-two fifty, in case amazon censors prices) total. sure it will take a few weeks but who cares, that deal is amazing. yes the cover has that little "18 plus" insignia but whatever. the actual disc content is identical to the US version and will play on US Blu-Ray players (it is region free).
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on January 20, 2004
Did anyone notice that there is essential dubbing missing or have Fox become politically correct? In Alien there are two scenes where the characters of Dallas and Ripley speak but nothing comes out. Dubbing is missing - can you believe it and at these prices? Then there is a scene where Parker says 'spit on it for Christ sakes' well, you see his mouth motion 'Christ' but only 'sakes' comes out.
Then in Aliens the sound actually sits on top of the film. Is the track off? It certainly looks that way because every breath that Ripley takes is larger than life but unfortunately is a beat ahead or behind the action.
Come on guys, don't you know that we movie fans own the VHS tapes before we upgrade to DVD and may even know some of the dialog by heart (yup that means the missing dialog that you didn't include on this disc). I am wholly disappointed that these discs are NOT the same as the VHS. Its not just the money - we want ALL of the original movies, dubbing, scenes and extras. Shame on you Fox! Buyers beware.
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on February 25, 2012
Seriously, all 4 Alien movies for 33 bucks? What is there to think about? Nothing at all.
So, the only difference between the American set and the British import is literally the packaging. In the American version I believe you get a book type thing that is encased in cardboard sleeve. In the British version you get the same amount of discs, but in a plastic box that is encased in a cardboard sleeve. The quality is amazing. A reviewer previously stated that he was very unhappy with the remastering of these films, but I have to disagree. All 4 movies look spectacular. Alien has NEVER looked this good. All 4 films come with both the theatrical and alternate version. Also included are two discs that are full of extra features. For those of you who are worried about regional blocking, don't worry. I've seen all 4 films already and there hasn't been any problems whatsoever.
Buy with confidence.
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on October 28, 2010
Others have said it and I will reiterate it here. The discs are packed VERY securely in book form in this set. They require more than a little effort to extract them from their nesting places. I for one would not have considered the use of a more traditional disc storage system to be in any way a lesser value in either aesthetics or quality. Truth be told, I am strongly considering buying one of those multi-disc or 6-disc cases available from online sellers and keeping my anthology Blu-ray discs in those simply for ease of repeat access.

Once you get them out, however, hold on to something because you are in for a long and exhaustive ride through the "Alien" universe. There is so much content that one could feasibly collapse from exhaustion if one tried to take it all in as rapidly as possible. And how enjoyable would that really be, eh?

Picture and sound quality for all the movies exceeds any and all previous release versions and formats, in some cases by a country mile. And if the only way you ever saw these movies was on VHS or TV, you really haven't seen them yet. Chances are that most people who bought the DVD set "Alien Quadrilogy" (the entire contents of which are reproduced here and often improved upon) back when it was released in 2003 did NOT have a high-definition TV at the time. Those TV's were still fairly new and VERY expensive back then. Nowadays, a great many of us own the hi-def TVs that are today an essential part of the new Blu-ray "Alien Anthology" viewing experience. You can now watch the same content as before except in substantially better video/audio presentation and on a TV screen that embraces and serves the newer, higher technology.

In the first film, "Alien", I did notice that while the visual detail inside the ship is much greater, certain scenes seem a bit darker and the detail is more difficult to see than in other DVD versions. In particular, Kane's descent into the cave, exterior shots of the Nostromo, and the attack on Brett are all a bit darker. I can not tell you if it matches with the original release (and later DVD versions had the brightness tweaked a bit) or if something else is to blame.

But moving on: In case you missed the memo, there is a truckload of new stuff in this anthology that was NOT included (or even yet produced) in the Quadrilogy. Even more content, better technological presentation, and (for many of us) finally on the hi-def screen we wish we had seven years earlier. You are a winner on every front.

My only other complaint is about the size of the text in some of the special features menus. It is very, very tiny. I have a 32-inch screen and the text appears so tiny on it I have to literally put my face up to the screen to read it. But that is not unique to this Blu-ray set. I've seen it on other Blu-rays too, such as "District 9". I have no idea how this micro-text trend started or why.

And not to sound petty, but in some portions of the bonus content there are pages with text describing the pictures or slideshows you can watch, and they include some minor punctuation errors and syntax issues. Not everyone will notice or care, but I did and do. It just looks a little unprofessional, IMHO. If "unprofessional" is too harsh a description, I'll offer "less than perfect" instead. Again, these are minor points and are probably of little or no consequence to most viewers. But now that I've spotted the errors, I will think of them every time I think of the product.

And in the bonus content for "Aliens" you can learn the first and middle names of the Nostromo crew in the bios generated for that movie's boardroom scene (as seen on a screen behind Ripley). Lots of detail is thrown in, including the individual crew members' birthdate, education, training, and service records. The writing style in the bios makes me cringe just a bit, but I'm a little oversensitive about that kind of thing. And the photos of the crew members look like movie studio publicity shots instead of worker I.D. photos (guess why?), but maybe I'm being too picky. You decide.

[End of nitpicky rant about an otherwise stellar product.]

Thinking about giving this as a gift this holiday season? Give it to a young person because one will need quite a bit of time to watch, read, and experience every last bit of this "working vacation in a box". The task of watching the whole thing seems so massive it makes my head hurt a little to think about it. Ridley Scott's promised prequel will probably be in the theaters before I can finish this "Alien" marathon.

Is it a good value for your money? In terms of volume of content, absolutely. I can't think of a movie or movie series that has been as extensively chronicled and augmented for home video format as this one. If the high price unnerves you a bit, consider it a very small price to pay considering how much legwork and how many man hours went into producing the set, and that you didn't have to lift a finger to help. Hee hee!

Will the price eventually drop a bit? Maybe, but probably not any time soon. You will probably be able to get a discounted used copy soon enough but it would devalue the project and product as a whole if the new copies were marked down by the studio any time in the foreseeable future. Hope for it, but don't count on it.

Wish you could just buy one or two of the movies in Blu-ray format and not have to pay for the ones that aren't your favorites? There is every reason to believe that the individual films (or more likely just the first two) will SOMEDAY be released for separate purchase. But given the way the bonus content is tied into the set as a whole I suspect you would not get this proportion of it in an individual release, though that may or may not be important to you down the road. For the set to REALLY stand up over time, the bonus content has to be enjoyable enough to merit repeat viewings, and much of it is. I suspect that the first wave of eventual single-film Blu-ray releases will have only a tiny fraction of the film-specific content available here.

For the more casual fans of the "Alien" series, you may be inclined to wait for the single-film releases anyway. There certainly would be a demand for those and no doubt the suits at Fox have anticipated it. But they also want to get the appropriate amount of shelf life and reputation out of this new multi-disc set. So once again for you patient hold-outs out there, hope for it but don't hold your breath.

One only hopes that the massive amount of content here doesn't amount to "Alien" overload and make us too weary of the saga and its elements to get excited for Ridley Scott's planned prequel (which as of this writing looks like it is tentatively moving forward but not without some stumbling blocks).

Finally, a little history and perspective on the price --- Back in the early and mid 90's, long before Special Edition DVDs were ubiquitous, a small but devoted and merry band of us videophiles owned laserdisc players and cheered about the advantages of the laserdisc's presentation quality advantage over VHS. Twentieth Century Fox released Special Edition laserdisc collector's sets of both "Alien" and "Aliens", and we collectors had to shell out about a hundred bucks per movie for those. They were chock full of bonus content and had vastly superior picture and sound for the day, but we sure paid through the nose to find out.

Just a few years later we could get on a single DVD and for about twenty bucks what we paid five times that for earlier, and that was to get 3 or 4 large discs that still couldn't offer us uninterrupted playback of the movies. This new "Alien Anthology" Blu-ray set is selling for less than we paid for the laserdisc collector's sets 15-17 years ago, offers about ten times the bonus content, looks and sounds infinitely better, and does not for ONE MINUTE make us regret the double-dip purchase (or by now, the quadruple- or quintuple-dip, considering the numerous release formats). If anyone has the right to grumble about the price, it is us. But we won't. We're definitely trading up.

The "Alien Anthology" is the new standard for content volume, value, and for the time, love, and care that went into its production. Putting this set together took years and a heck of a lot of work. It is award-worthy.

And as in life, timing is everything. I pre-ordered this set and it arrived at my house on the release date. Within a day, Amazon offered it in a combo deal with Michael Mann's "Last of the Mohicans" Blu-ray for the exact price I paid for the pre-order. Darn the luck!
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