Alien Resurrection: Special Edition (1997)

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Released 12-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Theatrical Version: Cast And Crew
Introduction-Special Edition: Jean Pierre Junet
Featurette-Making Of-From The Ashes: Reviving The Story
Notes-First Draft Screenplay
Featurette-French Twist, Under The Skin, Test Footage
Gallery-The Marc Caro Portfolio, The Art Of Resurrection
Storyboards-Archives
Multiple Angles-Previsualizations
Featurette-Death From Below, In The Zone, Unnatural Mutation
Gallery-Production Gallery, A.D.I.'s Workshop, Visual Effects
Featurette-Genetic Composition, Virtual Aliens, A Matter Of Scale
Featurette-A Critical Juncture
Gallery-Special Shoot
Easter Egg-Interview with David Prior (2nd Alien)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 104:22
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:03)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Winona Ryder
Dominique Pinon
Ron Perlman
Gary Dourdan
Michael Wincott
Kim Flowers
Dan Hedaya
J.E. Freeman
Brad Dourif
Raymond Cruz
Leland Orser
Carolyn Campbell
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music John Frizzell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

the b**** is back

    That quote was the tagline for Alien³, but it is so much more appropriate for this movie, don't you think? (If you remember who Ripley called a b**** in Aliens...)

    Sigourney Weaver had been adamant that Ripley had to die in the third Alien movie because she didn't want to do another one. Something must have changed her mind. It can't have been a lack of work — she made several movies in the intervening period. Maybe they found her price? I doubt we'll ever know (it is one of the few subjects not covered in the extras).

    Joss Whedon was hired to write the script. In the Candace Havens biography of his life (so far), he describes this as a marvellous opportunity, because he had immense respect for the Alien saga. He was first asked to write a script without Ripley, but when the studio execs started to worry about the audience-pulling power of a film without Ripley, he was then asked to produce a script with her. In typical Joss Whedon style, he made her resurrection (mostly) credible, and made her a tortured soul (not an infrequent feature of a Joss Whedon story...). He also included some of his trademark black humour. The genre this time was going to horror / science fiction / black comedy. Not a bad choice, given that Alien was straight horror / science fiction, Aliens was action / horror / science fiction, and Alien³ was horror / science fiction / unpopular (sorry, couldn't resist that). Unfortunately for Joss, the director's vision must have been quite different from his own, because he was bitterly disappointed in the resulting film. Still, if this was the stimulus that turned him away from the very lucrative career of writing and fixing movie scripts, and resulted in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then we have cause to be immensely grateful.

    The director the studio chose for this movie was an unusual selection. Jean-Pierre Jeunet was already established, not a newcomer with only one film to his name. Moreover, he was a Frenchman who spoke no English (his English skills have increased substantially by now, as you will see and hear in the extras). Still, he had a distinctive style, and had been quite successful with films like The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen, so he got the job. He brought with him a number of crew members from France, including his cinematographer, Darius Khondji, editor Hervι Schnied, and visual effects supervisor Pitof. This was the first Alien film to be shot in the US — the first three were shot in Britain.

    The plot starts something like this: on a medical research ship called the Auriga, parked outside regulated space (which turns out to mean outside the orbit of Pluto), a team of dedicated (but reprehensible) scientists have produced a clone of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), complete with the alien that was inside her (someone is taking liberties with our understanding of cloning...). Indeed, we rapidly discover that their objective is the alien, and not Ripley. But she survives the operation that removes the alien, so in typical reprehensible-scientist fashion (which seems to resemble the behaviour of a small boy with a poisonous spider), they hang onto her, and poke her with a stick to see if she bites. Meanwhile, they need some very special supplies to continue their work with the alien, so they engage the services of a tramp freighter called the Betty, and her crew of misfits, including Johner (Ron Perlman), Call (Winona Ryder), Vriess (Dominique Pinon), and Christie (Gary Dourdon). One of the scientists, Gediman (Brad Dourif), is distracted long enough for an alien escape...

    This film is not popular (and I don't mean just with Joss Whedon). Different people have different reasons for disliking it, I've found. Some dislike Winona Ryder's character; others think she is one of the few good things in the film. I found one person who disliked the black humour (he doesn't like Buffy, either, so obviously we can't take his opinion too seriously). A lot of people like parts of the film. I like the new Ripley. Indeed, I like many of the characters (Dan Hedaya is good); I think for me the flaw in this film is the aliens — they don't seem like enough of a threat, so the film seems tepid, instead of hot.

    Alien Resurrection has been released on DVD before. The previous version was part of the Alien Legacy box set, and only featured the theatrical cut. This disc is part of the Alien Quadrilogy release, and offers both the original theatrical cut and a newly released special edition. This special edition is not a director's cut, as Jean-Pierre Jeunet explains in a brief (32 seconds) introduction — he was quite happy with the theatrical release version. No, this is just a new version that includes some extra footage and some extended scenes, plus a new opening title sequence — adding up to 7 more minutes. This new opening title sequence was storyboarded for inclusion in the film originally, but was cut for budget reasons. Is the new edition better? In my opinion, no — it really adds nothing to the film (although it makes a few scenes a little more coherent), but at least it doesn't detract from it.

    If you have the Alien Legacy version of this film, do you need this new one? I'd say no, not for the film alone. The extras make a big difference, though — I won't be disappointed that the Quadrilogy set I will be buying includes this version.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in the original and intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The movie is alone on this disc, except for the commentary. That means that they don't have to compress the movie as much. This movie has been shot in an unusual and distinctive way (a trademark of Darius Khondji), and has every opportunity to show its strengths on this DVD.

    The picture has been shot with rather limited depth of field, mainly because the director and cinematographer used a lot of short lenses. Focus is not always perfect, so the image is sometimes a little soft, with the backgrounds being quite markedly softer. Shadow detail is generally quite good, but there is still quite a lot of black. Film grain is difficult to judge, but does not seem to be a problem. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour has been deliberately manipulated by the cinematographer. He lights and shoots his film in a particular way, then has the film processed specially. The result is that blacks are enhanced, and contrast slightly altered, while colour is noticeably desaturated. This treatment is very effective in producing a mood, but it means that you must look elsewhere if you want to see deeply saturated colour. The colour on the DVD accurately reproduces what the filmmakers intended. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no visible film artefacts. There is some minor aliasing, but it's untroubling, even in the early scene where we are looking up at General Perez, who is standing in front of a light fixture. There is no significant moirι, and no shimmer. There are no MPEG artefacts — giving the movie an entire disc to itself is probably part of the reason for that.

    There are subtitles in six languages (Dutch is back again), plus English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched the English. They are mostly quite accurate, with some minor abbreviation and the loss of one or two lines. They are well-timed, and easy to read. There is one notable error, though, at around 15:28 in the special edition: Elgyn calls the cargo bay on the intercom, and says a slightly muffled line that I heard as "About done? We're gonna dock", which makes perfect sense in context; the subtitle, however, reads "Goddamn, we're gonna die" which, while prophetic, is completely inappropriate at that point. (This line doesn't appear in the theatrical cut.)

    The movie disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 51:22 in the special edition (which runs 111:22), or 47:03 in the theatrical cut (runs 104:22). It is located at a change of scene, and I found it rather less noticeable in the theatrical cut than in the special edition (the pause was shorter). The extras disc is also dual layered, but appears not to be RSDL-formatted (the inner rim labels for both layers read the same way) — that's no problem, though, because they appear to have arranged the extras so that none of them span the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks, all in English, on the movie disc. The first two are the soundtrack, provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps and in dts at 768kbps. The third is the audio commentary, provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) at 96kbps. I listened to all three tracks. There's very little difference between the two versions of the soundtrack; both are quite good.

    The dialogue is mostly clear and comprehensible, but a few lines are a bit muffled. There are no noticeable issues in audio sync (save for one line in the queen's chamber). Even the lines that were restored in the special edition are release quality.

    The score by John Frizzell is very good. He mentions in the extras that he had seven months to compose it (so much more than Mr Horner), and it shows: the music fits well with the movie.

    The surrounds are frequently used for ambience and score, and sometimes very effectively for directional sound cues. The subwoofer is given plenty to keep it amused.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are plenty of extras on these two discs, although not as many as on the previous three movies. Once again, the commentary is the only extra on the movie disc, with all the others on the second disc. I like that arrangement.

Menu

    The menu has good transitions, but it's not animated. There's music behind it. It follows the same theme as the other three movies..

Commentary — Cast and Crew

    This commentary features plenty of the people who worked on this film. Unfortunately Sigourney Weaver does not appear.

    This is a good commentary, with lots of information about how the film was made, and some of the things that came up. They find plenty to talk about, so there are few gaps in the commentary.

    The commentary is subtitled in English (and Dutch), which is a good thing, and something I'd like to see on more movies.

Disc 2

    This disc is titled One Step Beyond: the making of Alien Resurrection.

    You can select all the extras individually, from three menus labelled Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production, or you can choose Navigation Options, and play all the featurettes together (the total runs 174:24), or look at all the photos, or all the artwork. These are interesting and useful alternatives.

    Note that none of the extras on this disc are 16x9 enhanced. They are all presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Featurette: From the Ashes — Reviving the Story (10:07)

    Joss Whedon explaining the treatment he wrote, and how he got the job of writing the script (he doesn't say what he thought of the movie...). There's also, interestingly, an admission from the people at Brandywine that they opposed the making of a fourth Alien movie.

Script: First-Draft Screenplay — Joss Whedon

    This is the entire screenplay Joss Whedon handed over on 14 September 1995 — it is presented on 403 pages. It is presented in a very legible font. There seems to be an error on page 53-28 (the 148th page), as though a couple of lines are missing.

Featurette: French Twist — Direction and Design (26:11)

    Mostly concerning the selection of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and some of the design decisions that followed from that.

Featurette: Under the Skin — Casting and Characterisations (12:48)

    Apart from Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder, who were already attached to the project, the director was given a fairly free hand in casting — some of his choices, such as Ron Perlman and Dominique Pinon, were actors he had worked with before. One amusing item in this featurette is Winona Ryder's admission that she swiped a couple of items from the set as souvenirs...

Test Footage — Creatures and Costumes

    Two collections of footage showing tests of:

Gallery: The Marc Caro Portfolio — Character Designs

    A total of 22 pages of drawings by Marc Caro (who works closely with Jean-Pierre Jeunet on other projects).

Gallery: The Art of Resurrection — Conceptual Art Gallery

Storyboards — Archives

Previsualisations — Multi-angle rehearsals

    This is a short piece, only 2:52 long, showing the original storyboard, a rehearsal using stand-ins, and the finished film. The first two are shown separately, while the third angle shows the finished film in a composite view with the storyboard and rehearsal. There are two audio tracks, one playing the rehearsal audio, and one the finished film's audio. This piece shows fragments from several parts of the film.

PRODUCTION

Featurette: Death from Below — Fox Studios LA 1996 (31:39)

    This concentrates on the underwater filming — they did this first, and it was quite an ordeal, taking weeks of training and three weeks of shooting. There were other complications, too, like Sigourney Weaver's claustrophobia, and Winona Ryder's fear of the water (from a near-drowning experience years before).

Featurette: In the Zone — The Basketball Scene (6:45)

    That unbelievable shot was real — most of this piece involves everyone telling us that, and how Ron Perlman almost spoiled it.

Gallery: Production Gallery — Photo Archive

Featurette: Unnatural Mutation — Creature Design (26:25)

    The creature creators talking about enhancing some familiar creatures, including the eggs, and building some new ones.

Gallery: ADI's Workshop — Photo Archive

    Amalgamated Dynamics Inc return for their second film. This is 195 photos of their work.

POST-PRODUCTION

Featurette: Genetic Composition — Music (13:12)

    John Frizzell, the composer, talks about the music he wrote for the film, and shows us a couple of unusual sound creations.

Featurette: Virtual Aliens — Computer Generated Imagery (9:55)

    A rather brief look at the CGI work that went into this film.

Featurette: A Matter of Scale — Miniature Photography (22:52)

    All the spacecraft were shot as miniatures — they felt that CGI wasn't up to the levels of detail they wanted on the spacecraft.

Gallery: Visual Effects Gallery — Photo Archive

    170 photos of visual effects elements.

Featurette: A Critical Juncture — Reaction to the Film (14:30)

    The director was not able to read the criticism in English of the picture, but he had his translator pile it up in a good pile and a bad pile — they were about the same size, so he was happy...

    Much of this piece is actually spots of various members of the cast and crew speculating on what a new Alien movie (Alien 5), might be about.

Gallery: Special Shoot — Promotional Photo Archive

    39 photos shot to promote the movie.

Easter Egg (6:50)

    This is moderately interesting. It's an interview with David Prior, who played the second alien in shots where there were two aliens. Apparently he always wanted this part, having constructed alien costumes as a youth. He got his wish, and discovered how uncomfortable it could be, but still loved doing it. You find it by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) going to the second page of the POST-PRODUCTION menu, highlighting the first item, pressing Left, which highlights an icon at the top of the page, and pressing Enter.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of the Alien Quadrilogy has just taken place (December 2003); ours is reportedly out, too, although our official release date for the box set is 10th December. You will be able to buy this 2-disc edition separately (from January 2004), or as part of the Alien Quadrilogy, and you'll get the same thing — the only difference is that the Quadrilogy includes an exclusive ninth disc.

    The Region 1 version has a couple of additional features on the movie disc (the extras disc is the same). Unfortunately, the additional features are rather nice to have:

    Comparing the 2 disc Alien Quadrilogy version with the older 1-disc Alien Legacy version of this film is a bit cruel; this is an extremely one-sided comparison:

    The 2-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    The 1-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    Total knockout on the extras front to the newcomer. The transfer on the new disc is slightly better than the old one, even with the seamless branching for the two versions. All up, I have to report this as a rout: the two disc version is comprehensively better than the one disc.

Summary

    Another Alien film that not everyone likes, but one that has been presented very well on DVD this time.

    The video quality is very good, although a little soft due to the film making style.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are exhaustive (and exhausting for a reviewer!).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
not afraid to admit i like this - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
Joss Whedon on 'Resurrection' -
I WOULD PREFER ALIEN TRILOGY -