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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Horror > Thriller > Action > Alien Anthology (1979 - 1997/Fox Blu-ray Box Set/Limited Edition EGG Package)

Alien Anthology (1979 – 1997/Fox Blu-ray/Limited Edition EGG Package)

 

Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: A

 

Films:

Alien A

Aliens A-

Alien 3 B+

Alien Resurrection B

 

 

The Alien films are among the greatest science fiction films to ever come out of Hollywood.  With directors like Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and David Fincher in charge there is no wondering why these films were and are so amazing.  From the beginning the Alien franchise embraced a certain darkness that other films had attempted, but never quite gotten right.  Surrounded in the darkness of space with terrors around every corner the audience was made to believe they were experiencing an epic horror film, but in the end were delivered a deep and psychologically taxing science fiction exploration film that would withstand the test of time.

 

As this film collection has been discussed previously on this site, for the purposes of this review I will mainly focus on the first film.  Alien was the film that started it all and without its inventive and captivating premise there would have been no sequels.  Granted, slowly but surely, the Alien sequels dispelled many of the key features that made the first film one of the best of all time, they still had the proper guidance (ala Cameron and Fincher) to produce fantastically dark adventures.

 

To read the in depth and excellent review on all four Alien films, please follow the link below:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10486/Alien+Anthology+%281979+%E2%80

 

 

 

"Star Wars meets Jaws!"

 

What Ridley Scott managed to do for the first 45-50 minutes of Alien was something that not many directors could accomplish with such success (outside of those extremely artsy films that involve flashes of random black and white images of breasts to trash).  What Ridley Scott managed to do was NOTHING.  For the first 45 minutes, nothing happens, and you know what?  No one cares.  What Ridley Scott managed to do with “nothing” was build a new and exciting world; a world upon based on characters and though stereotypical at times worked ever so gracefully.  You have the lively black man and his white friend, the two vixens, the strong captain, the scientist, and the sacrificial figure (somebody has to do it).  Scott doesn’t build a clean cut future; he builds a world that is dirty, gritty, and full of grime; in turn adding a sense of realism among the creatures and space ships.  Scotts’ post modern view is seen throughout Alien as his interpretation of the ships (inside and out) embraces the dilapidated, beaten, and broken.  At no point does Scott accept the notion of a bright, sterilized future and instead asks what if?  With that said, a fact everyone must remember is that this is a 20th Century Fox film; a studio that just a few years earlier had produced the epically successful Star Wars.  Yes, Star Wars Fox’s cash cow, a film that made Fox realize the potential of not only the science fiction genre, but also the potential gains from giving directors creative freedom.  Alien owes a lot to Star Wars, close ups of the ships in Alien may scream Post Modern to many, but upon further inspection they look eerily similar to the ships featured in Star Wars; know why? A lot of the materials and staff from Star Wars were recycled for Alien; Fox basically demanded this, hoping to have a second box office smash coming.  So what Scott managed to do was take the pristine model work of Star Wars and transform it for the purposes of the dark, horror of Alien.

 

Scott used his “stereotypical” character development points (like Lucas did) to create a sense of uncertainty within the film.  The film viewer lingers in limbo for the first 45 minutes asking “what is going on?” not in a confused or bored manner, but with an enormous sense anticipation; we know something is coming but when?  The audience is meant to connect with the ship’s crew on a deeper level, as if they were their by their side.  Something strange is afoot and we will creep through the shadows to get answers.  The film slowly lets loose as the plot goes from lingering anticipation to a face paced fright house in the second half, acting as the films ultimate crescendo.

 

Whereas Star Wars utilized a Wiseman, knights, the unlikely hero, and princess archetypes, Scott retires those ideas to use nothing more than a bunch of rough ragged out truckers; suggesting that perhaps the future isn’t so different from today.  This different approach along with the use of eerie music and tattered technology all contributes to Scott’s stylistic and smooth approach to science fiction.  Whereas Star Wars may have helped Alien get off the ground, Scott in no way used it as his crutch.  Alien stands on its own as an amazing film that proved science fiction is multifaceted and ever evolving.

 

Scott projects forth a sense of what future may hold.  Forget the flying cars; forget the food in pill forms; just as always, man is struggling to get by.  The crew visits an unknown planet with ease; yet keeps that trucker aspect about them demanding more money.  Traveling in space seems to be a bore to these people; much like an old world explorer may have felt.  They sleep most of the way due to the long voyage and they slug around like it is a dorm room.  Scott gives the sense that maybe one day we will travel space like we drive a car; and just as we are amazed by the idea of space travel, the ship’s crew in Alien was completely unprepared for what they brought on board.

 

The “hidden” meanings or symbolism found in this film can be interpreted in many ways.  People have suggested that Alien symbolizes the castration of the male/chauvinist mentality and embraces woman empowerment and the idea of a “woman’s right to choose.”  And whereas I find these ideas a bit extreme, a conglomeration of deeper meanings then “this a cool horror flick” seems rational to me.  The first scene of the film we see our characters as they one by one take their time in arising from their hibernation chambers.  This scene oddly resembled chicks or a similar animal hatching from their eggs.  As we find out shortly after the crew is surrounded by a huge computer oddly enough named “Mother,” so you open with “chicks” hatching from their eggs with mother near by.  I don’t often compare the Freudian approach to the writings of film, but Scott’s “Alien” is hard to escape the references.  As one life form arises within one ship (the Nostromo crew) they go in search of another.  As they arrive on the unknown planet they observe a ship resembling oddly enough a pair of spread legs; seriously take a look.  Next they attempt to enter the ship, the only way in being a “vaginal shaped” hole in the ships direct center.  After entering the crew observes a dead being; this organism being much larger than a normal human and had been destroyed by the apparent hole in its chest.  This was Scott’s way of foreshadowing that larger and stronger beings have come before them and failed; what is to make them think they can succeed?  This can be observed later as a female empowering message; as Ripley is the only survivor where men had failed. 

 

Shortly after this they send the sacrificial male figure down into the deep (womb) of the ship, where he clearly states, as opposed to space, this area was very warm and moist.  This sacrificial male acted as a symbolic sperm saying that the “mist reacts when broken,” like a sperm penetrating an egg.  I view an opposing action happening at this time contrary to normal anatomy, where the egg “face hugger” lunges forward latching onto the male (sperm) figure and does not let go for a good portion of the film; this once again showing women taking charge.  After the face hugger lets go later the closer observation strangely enough reveals that the underside which inserted the egg looks like the female anatomy.  When the alien finally emerges from the male host it is a bloody, painful scene killing the male upon “birth;” highlighting the pain a woman must endure in child birth and males will now endure the same pain.  The Alien develops inside the crew’s ship just as a fetus would.  As previously stated this all may be a stretch, but with so much evidence there it hard to at least somewhat take note.  In terms of the suggested abortion issues, because Ripley never wanted to let the alien (fetus) inside anyway, her goal was to destroy it; perhaps alluding to the woman’s right to choose, even up until the final scene where she harpoons (abortion symbolism) the alien and releases it out.  In the final scenes the alien won’t let go, some speculating this as the idea that abortion lingers upon the doers mind.  Who is to say any of this is even remotely true, but it is interesting to analyze nevertheless; proving that Alien goes well beyond an ordinary science fiction, horror or even adventure film.

 

In the end, Alien is one of my personal favorites and one of the best science fiction films of all time.  The films that follow are epic in their own right, but for the most part only build on everything that was already established.

 

It would be easy to say the films are a downward spiral from one film to the next, but that is not true.  Yes, each director embraced their own style, deviating from Scott’s vision, but those stylistic choices were not bad (for the most part) merely different.  Aliens: Cameron turned into an adventure film and dropped a bit of the suspense of the original, but managed to make it a well rounded film in the end.  Alien 3: Fincher attempted to make an epic and artistic film, but the studio chopped it down to unrecognizable and Alien Resurrection has Jeunet making a valiant after to breathe new life in a dying franchise (and already deceased Ripley).

 

The Blu-ray release is excellent and offers all the bells and whistles of the previous releases with all new picture and sound.

 

The other review of the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set on this site does an extraordinary job of detailing the picture, sound and extras of the set and should be referenced.  It is hard to lump the picture and sound into once rating on this set, but collectively they average out to about the same “B+” quality.  Whereas not perfect the picture is nice on all four films, having varying degrees of demo material.  Alien (for the two versions on this set) has 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 25 MBPS digital high definition transfers that are better than the rest, which can be attributed to the high amount of attention that was spent when restoring the film for the previous Quadrilogy release.  The colors are excellent as are the deep, inky black, but there are varying degrees of grit and grime here and there as well as the occasional light/dark issue.  Motion blur is also visible at times, but nothing too distracting.  Aliens is the most odd film in the set (picture wise) as apparently Cameron went back, frame by frame, and “restored” the film to get rid of the previously instilled grain to get a clean, clear picture. In the end, I think Avatar warped Cameron’s aging mind; to the point where all he cares about is a crisp image.  Yes the image in clean, crisp, and clear but what he did was destroy the life and depth the film originally contained.  I would gladly trade the booming blue and pristine flesh tones, for some of that original grain.  Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection are about the same in terms of picture in their 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC encoded transfers that are a bump up from the DVD releases, embracing a clearer image and better light/dark balance that takes us out of the shadows.

 

The sound on these films all offer DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Lossless Mix that is much better than the DVD releases as it completely surrounds the viewer, enveloping them in sound.  For these Blu-ray releases we finally get the atmosphere the Alien Franchise deserves as the soundscape has brilliant ambient noise, solid panning effects, and crisp dialogue.

 

To review the ton of extras available on this new Blu-ray set please refer to the list on the other review.  The extras are INSANE as they do not include every extra from previous DVD and Laser Disc released, but also add on many more features to enjoy.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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