May 13, 2011

Don't feel like shelling out for Fox's posh and pricey box of all things Alien?
Movie(s) Rating: 8/10 BD Rating: 10/10

I’ve encountered many double dips on DVD, but the
Alien franchise takes the cake. There was a trilogy, a legacy and, phew, a quadrilogy. After countless rehashes, it was only logical that the series should get re-issued in high-def. Landing on Blu-ray several years after the format’s inception, last year’s Alien Anthology (Fox) was the ultimate upgrade.

Arguably the most comprehensive, technically advanced BD collection on the market, this doozy arrived as a snazzy six-disc box set containing alternate versions for each title (their theatrical and 2003 cuts) and two bonus discs boasting all of the previous goodies as well as many more. Each film looked great and sounded even better, and the extraordinary extras took about a lifetime to slog through. Problem was, even non-diehards had to plop over $100 for the complete package. Let’s face facts, Alien3 and Alien Resurrection have no business sitting anywhere but on a fanboy's shelf.  

Better late than never, Fox is releasing each film separately, so you can decide what to own. As previously mentioned, the decision is a fairly simple one: legit fans (even those who love-hate the latter sequels) should purchase this set without delay – it’s the only way to experience one of the most sophisticated home video collections of one of cinema’s most hit-and-miss franchises. However, if extras aren’t top priority, pick up the first two and spend the rest on quality titles.

Still on the fence over which ones to buy? Here’s a quick refresher. Ridley Scott’s 1979 franchise-starter remains the gold standard of sci-fi horror. Thirty-two years later, it’s still a slow, tense burn that is by far the scariest of the bunch. Saddled with the task of inventing a movie monster along with an iconic hero to battle it, Alien introduces us to one of cinema’s creepiest creatures and probably the most badass feminist movie icon (Sigourney Weaver as Lieutenant Ripley) of all time.

Seven years later, James Cameron’s sequel is the antithesis of its predecessor, in terms of pacing, subtlety and overall elegance. Despite this, Aliens is a comparatively enthralling thrill ride that remains Cameron’s best bombastic blockbuster to date. It’s a smarter, edgier, in-every-way-better version of Avatar that holds up extremely well for an ’80s action vehicle.

After two admirably diverse epics, the studio opted to hire a young, unidentified talent. Enter music video director David Fincher, who to this day has distanced himself from this sloppy feature debut. 1992’s idiotically titled Alien3 (uh, Alien Cubed?) is not only an insult to those who rooted for the previous entry’s key characters, but also a joyless downer that is neither fun nor scary. Also, that CGI dog-alien blows. (If you want to see a wonderfully candid retelling of the film’s rocky production and how it was eventually taken from Fincher, check out disc five of the anthology.)

Despite Ripley’s (and basically everyone’s) depressing demise in the previous installment, our heroine remerges in clone form for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection. While the sci-fi scenery is by far more amusing than part three’s decidedly un-futuristic prison planet backdrop, it remains a sad clone of the infinitely superior first two films. On the upside, it does provide some very groovy underwater action. Then again, there’s also that crap-tastic space basketball sequence. Here’s hoping Ridley Scott’s upcoming reboot will put this dicey sci-fi saga back on track.