The crew of the deep-space freighter Nostromo are awoken
early from hypersleep by automatic systems to investigate
a mysterious transmission. On a desolate planetoid, they discover
the sinister, pulsating eggs of a deadly unknown life form.
For crewmember Ellen Ripley, this is just the first of several
terrifying encounters with the bloodthirsty alien species...
This box set contains all four Alien films. "So what?"
you may ask, "So did the Alien Legacy box set." Well,
this one contains two versions of each film, including Ridley
Scott's 2003 director's cut of the first movie.
differences between the two editions of Alien are minimal.
There's a significant extra scene (which pre-empts one of
the ideas in the sequel Aliens) but, because Scott
has tightened up other scenes, the film actually ends up running
50 seconds shorter overall. It should come as no surprise
that Scott, the director who took more out of his special
edition of Blade Runner than he put back in, doesn't
go in for pointless tinkering. As we get to see from the deleted
scenes among the special features, there was plenty of other
footage that he decided not to incorporate.
truth is that there isn't much room for improvement in the
original version of Alien. Admittedly it has, to an
extent, lost its key weapon: surprise. You'd have to have
been living on a desolate planetoid yourself not to know that
alien eggs contain gruesome facehuggers, which impregnate
their victims with a baby alien that, in due course, bursts
out of the victim's chest. But somehow that doesn't make it
any less scary to watch as John Hurt's character, Kane, leans
over one of the eggs. Not for the first time, I found myself
thinking: "Don't stick your face over there, John!"
And fortunately, like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition,
the film has several other key weapons at its disposal. One
of the most crucial is the design. The use of two different
artists, production designer Ron Cobb and Swiss surrealist
H.R. Giger, makes for a dramatic contrast between the human
and alien environments. The grotty interior of the Nostromo
is the antithesis of slick spaceships such as Star Trek's
Enterprise. Cobb created a look that would influence
fictional futures for years to come, including the rest of
the Alien saga. Meanwhile, Giger provides not only
the famous creature design but also one of the most unsettling
alien ship interiors ever seen. Scott makes the most of these
sets, hinting at hidden horrors in every corner. The pipes
and buttresses of the Nostromo, together with the biomechanical
look of the alien itself, fiendishly deceive the eye into
thinking that the creature might spring from a darkened recess
at any moment.
Natural and strong performances from the entire cast, an eclectic
combination of American and British actors, and an unnerving
score by Jerry Goldsmith, also help to maintain the tangible
he came to direct Aliens, James Cameron knew that he
couldn't top the shock tactics of Alien, so instead
he upped the ante with shiploads of action and adventure.
He once likened the difference between the two films to that
between a ghost train and a roller-coaster ride. In the former
you don't know what's coming. In the latter you know exactly
what's coming - but there's nothing you can do to stop it!
the case of this movie, the special edition is generally considered
to be the definitive one, by audiences and the director alike.
This extended version has already been widely seen on video,
DVD and television, so much so that the theatrical edition
is the rarity on this occasion. Both versions are classics,
though the 148-minute special edition provides valuable back-story
for Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt (Carrie Henn) and the
other colonists of LV-426, which heightens the drama rather
than dilute it. Cameron is a master at balancing jaw-dropping
visuals with emotional intensity, as Terminator 2 and
Titanic have also proved, never letting the action
get in the way of telling a great story.
with Alien, the director is aided by strong performances
from his cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver, the young Carrie
Henn, and Lance Henriksen as Bishop. Here Weaver paves the
way for Linda Hamilton's kick-ass Sarah Connor in Terminator
James Horner (who, coincidentally, similarly took over from
Jerry Goldsmith in the Star Trek movie franchise) also
does excellent work, though I do wish that he hadn't recycled
some of his Trek themes!
Ridley Scott already had The Duellists under his belt
when he was hired to helm Alien and audiences were
already familiar with The Terminator when James Cameron
unleashed his Aliens, Alien 3 marked the first
time that David (Se7en) Fincher had ever directed a
movie. His work is a fascinating effort and a good debut movie,
but the franchise and the audience demanded more of a known
was also hindered by studio interference, which ultimately
watered down several decent script ideas (as the documentaries
among the special features reveal). The all-male prison colony's
treatment of the female Ripley as "the root of all evil" is
interesting, but would have made more sense in the intended
context of a colony of monks, rather than the muddled notion
of a group of hardened convicts who have found God.
The use of a mainly British cast was possibly a response to
the all-American flavour of Aliens, but it seems conspicuously
unlikely to have a space prison entirely populated by Brits.
Brian Glover's performance as the warden Andrews isn't terribly
The special edition in this instance is not a director's cut
(indeed, Fincher refused to be involved with the project)
but an earlier 1991 edit, featuring an extra half-hour of
footage. I prefer the theatrical version, because the extended
edition is just too long and too loosely paced. However, there
are some startling variations here, including a different
landing site for Ripley, a very different birth for the alien,
and an extra subplot for Golic (Paul McGann). Some new CGI
looks a bit cheap, though, and, worst of all, variations in
sound quality and balance between the old and the restored
footage are irritatingly noticeable.
Resurrection makes a bigger impression in terms of action
than Alien 3, though I remain unconvinced about its
overall tone. Moments of character-based humour have their
place in this saga, as exemplified by many of the exchanges
that take place between the marines in Aliens, but
I think writer Joss (Buffy) Whedon and director Jean-Pierre
(Delicatessen) Jeunet go too far with their bizarre
death scenes and (in the special edition) a live-action title
sequence more suited to the offbeat TV series Lexx.
The main thing that this film has in its favour is the role
played by Ripley. Resurrected, along with the alien queen
she was carrying inside her, from a blood sample 200 years
after her death, the new Ripley has acquired some of the alien's
characteristics, including increased strength and acidic blood.
Weaver takes the opportunity to inject unearthly qualities
into her performance as a creature whose loyalties are divided
between the humans and the aliens.
Alien Resurrection revives several ideas originally
considered during the making of previous instalments. The
research vessel setting is notably similar to the research
station setting toyed with during the turbulent pre-production
of Alien 3, when the notion of posing a direct threat
to the planet Earth was also mooted. The airlock scene at
the end of the film was originally planned during the making
of Alien, but was ruled out as too expensive to achieve
at the time.
with Alien 3, the theatrical edition is its director's
preferred version. The "special edition" merely restores the
original idea for the title sequence and an extra seven minutes
of footage, including a slightly different ending.
movie is presented with DTS sound, apart from Alien 3,
which makes do with Dolby Digital 5.1. With the exception
of the Alien 3 special edition, the films sound excellent.
The prints and transfers are mostly flawless, though some
parts of Aliens remain a little grainy. One version
of each movie is accompanied by an audio commentary - in the
case of Aliens this is on the special edition, while
on the others it accompanies the theatrical version.
film is complemented by a companion disc, each containing
several hours of no-holds-barred documentaries, plus hundreds
of stills, storyboards and conceptual artworks, original drafts
of screenplays and loads of other stuff.
ninth disc comprises "miscellaneous" material, including the
acclaimed 65-minute Channel 4 documentary, Alien Evolution,
teasers and trailers, and even the extras from the laserdisc
releases of Alien and Aliens. Truth be told,
the only truly miscellaneous feature is a gallery of covers
from Dark Horse comics. The contents of this disc could easily
have been divided among the other four bonus discs, with the
Dark Horse stuff being added to disc 2 of Alien Resurrection.
this is a truly awesome package, a beast of a box set that
should keep you occupied for days, if not weeks.
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