Alien Quadrilogy
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Alien Quadrilogy

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Reviews of each film will be coming soon

Review of Alien    Review of Aliens

For some time now Science-Fiction has broken away from a self contained genre and is being used more for the setting of other genres. Films like Blade Runner, a Sci-Fi film noir, or Men In Black, an example or a Sci-Fi action-comedy Sci-Fi has come a long way from the space operas of the fifties. The Alien saga is an excellent example of the Sci-Fi horror film. The four films all have the classic components of horror set against a science fiction background. Basic to this genre is the isolation of the main characters. Originally this isolation came in the form of a lonely mansion on a dark and stormy night. With the first film of the series we find a crew of outer space miners in a huge space ship a long way from home. Typically the source of the terror is inhuman, a creature that possesses far more power than its human victims. The isolation theme plays out in all four films. The distant planet, the penal colony or the research ship all serve to ensure the hapless heroes that no form of help will be forthcoming. You then need a resourceful hero, or in this case heroine. Rippley represents the inner strength that reasonable people in unreasonable situations must find. Here, the science fiction setting helps to create circumstances where Rippley must rise to more than self preservation; the fate of humanity is at stake. In 1979 when the first film hit the theaters I took my wife to see it. We sat in shock in the dark theater. This film was ground breaking. The second film also broke the typical curse of the sequel, it met the standards set by the first film and in many ways surpassed them. While many feel that the next two films fall short of this legacy, they do have their moments. With a possible fifth installment on the horizon this is a perfect way for the studio to gauge the interest in this popular franchise. The genres donít clash here they merge for some of the finest movie making around.

There was a box set or these four films released in June of 1999 but it fell short of the demands and expectations of the DVD collector. With the release of the new Alien Quadrilogy Fox has given proper consideration to the box set and due respect to the buyer. For one thing rather than the mixing theatrical and directorís cuts as was done with the first set each film is presented twice, both versions are presented. All extras for each film are given their own disc so the bit rate for the films can be optimized. Both Dolby 5.1 and DTS soundtracks can therefore be provided for the films as well as THX certification. Many people seem to complain when extras are jammed in with the main film, and rightfully so. The format of this box set is a touchstone for how it should be done. Fox is to be commended for realizing they made a mistake in their previous release of these films and responding to the requests of the people that keep them in business.

For each of the film discs the technical specifications are nothing short of spectacular. In each case the anamorphic video is crisp, clean and almost completely free of any artifacts. There was little to no edge distortion and the color palette was remarkable. This was especially difficult consider just how much of each of these films was shot in very dark settings. Even with the new directorís cuts the attention to the details of mastering where a new high water mark which hopefully other studios will follow. The audio is rich and full and brings the original theatrical experience to your home. The Dolby 5.1 variation gives excellent separation and a nice use of the surround speakers. The DTS sound track provides one of the best all encompassing sound stages I have ever heard.

Never has such attention been given to a set of films. While separate extra discs have been around for years Fox outdoes itself here. This box set sports a grand total of five bonus discs. The even numbered discs in the set are all film specific, one set of extras per disc that focus on almost every aspect of the production of that particular film. The ninth disc provides overall extras and even more detail. This is a set that will give you many hours of enjoyment whether you are already a fan of these films or are just getting into them. The extra discs pretty much follow a general format; detail looks at the most groundbreaking scenes, deleted scenes, looks at the fundamental design and music for the films. Considering the amount of material presented here some may feel that it is overkill. The manner in which it is presented keeps things fresh and always interesting.

For those that are really into film, whether you are a student or just an interested hobbyist, this set of films gives a great look at how different, talented directors approach the same general theme. Ridley Scott with Alien gives us a brooding sense of impending doom. He explores how a small group of people bound only by the hope of profit have to work together to fight for their lives. In the sequel James Cameron looks more at the greed of the large corporation. How the military is often the unwilling pawn in the desire to bring home a successful project at any cost. Then David Fincher of Fight Club fame took over the helm. With Alien 3 he concentrates more on an isolated society, in this case a prison planet. He shows the disruption of the menacing is almost less than the presence of a woman in an all male culture. For American audience the director or Alien Resurrection, Jean-Pierre Jeunet is perhaps the least know of the group. Still, he re-visits the theme of success at any cost and shows how some researchers hold life as extremely cheap.

In all this is not only the definitive Alien saga set but it should usher in a new level of how these sets have to be marketed. Between the two cuts of each film, the extras and the superb mastering Fox has a winner here. For once we have a studio that can take the criticism many had of the previous set and set out to give the best value possible.

Posted 12/1/03

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