Alien Nation (1988)

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Released 3-Jun-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Featurette
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-3
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 86:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Graham Baker

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring James Caan
Mandy Patinkin
Terence Stamp
Kevyn Major Holland
Leslie Bevis
Peter Jason
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Curt Sobel

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.1 L-C-R-S-Sub (384Kb/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 Croatian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, infrequent
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Alien Nation is a cop buddy movie. OK, it has science fiction elements, but they're really a way of saying things about racism without offending any particular group - the aliens are a stand-in for any other minority - they could be Hispanic, or black, without changing much. They are called Newcomers, if you are being polite, or Slags, if you are not. They were kept in quarantine for a while, then assimilated into the community - over a quarter of a million new people in Los Angeles (hey, it is a big city!). Unsurprisingly, a ghetto develops, known as Slagtown.

    Matthew Sykes (James Caan) is a classic cop character - even while the opening credits are rolling we learn that he has a failed marriage, is bigoted against Newcomers, and is close friends with his partner. Not long after the credits finish, his partner is dead, killed by a Newcomer. More than a little clichéd, wouldn't you say? For a change, Sykes doesn't have a new partner forced upon him - he volunteers, because he thinks a Newcomer partner could be an asset in finding the Newcomer who killed his partner.

    Sykes' new partner is Sam Francisco (oh, dear!), played by Mandy Patinkin - Sykes decides to call him George because he can't face introducing him as Detective Sam Francisco. George is rather straight, and more than a little disconcerted by his new partner's approach to the job. He's quite an accommodating fellow though, and does his best to fit in.

    The trail gets messy, with several corpses. One looks particular ugly - salt water acts like acid on Newcomers, and this Newcomer got thrown into the ocean. The corpses don't slow our heroes down; in fact, they give them clues as to what is going on. And what is going on is a classic tale of drugs and organised crime - very classic cop buddy movie stuff.

    This is a good movie, with excellent alien makeup (Stan Winston was involved, so that's easy to understand). It makes some obvious moral points, but it isn't offensive about doing so. If you like a good cop buddy movie (like, Lethal Weapon, for example), and science fiction, then I strongly recommend this film.

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Transfer Quality


    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original theatrical aspect ratio, so that's fine.

    The picture is fairly good - sharp and clear, with good shadow detail and no low level detail. The only mild issue is film grain - there's quite a bit of light film grain 

    Colour is excellent in day-time scenes, and more than adequate in night-time scenes. There's no oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are a few tiny film artefacts, but you have to look very hard to find them. There's more than a little aliasing, but it is never troubling. There's only a little bit of MPEG shimmer. Quite clean, if it weren't for the film grain.

    There are thirteen subtitle tracks, including English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched the English subtitles, and they are good - a bit abbreviated, but well-timed, accurate, and easy to read.

    The disc is single sided (with an attractive picture label), and RSDL-formatted. The layer change lies at 49:07, and it is brilliantly concealed in a still shot.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There's a single choice of soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 4.1. That means a single surround channel, fed to both surround speakers. I'm surprised at how effective it is at producing directional sound. Unfortunately, there's some serious hiss at times.

    The dialogue is mostly clear and comprehensible - a couple of lines I could only make out by reference to the subtitles, but they are not critical to the plot. There are no audio sync issues, but there's a blatant bit of ADR where we hear Mandy Patinkin's voice from off-screen, and the ambient sound is completely absent.

    The score is credited to Curt Sobel in the film, but the theatrical trailer credits Jerry Goldsmith - peculiar! No matter, it is a good score, doing an excellent job of supporting the action.

    The surrounds are used well, particularly in several scenes during the big car chase - an impressive effort with a mono surround track. The subwoofer doesn't get much to do, but it does its bit.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static and silent.

Featurette (6:44)

    This is basically a huge spoiler - it spends almost all its time telling you what happens in the movie. Not particularly worthwhile. Don't watch it before watching the film.

Featurette - Behind the Scenes (3:37

    Classic making-of stuff - watching actors and crew at work. Rather short, though.

Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    A typical short trailer, replete with spoilers. Presented with 16x9 enhancement, which is good.

TV Spots

    Three 30 second TV spots advertising the movie:

R4 vs R1

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

    This film was released in Region 1 some time back. The Region 1 disc has a five trailers for other movies, but nothing more about this one. It also has the annoying Fox promotion at the start of the disc, but you can skip it by hitting the Menu key. I judge the video on the R1 to be slightly better, and it offers a Dolby Stereo soundtrack in addition to the 4.1, but the differences are quite slight. You could be happy with either disc.


    Alien Nation is a good cop buddy movie set in a science fiction framework, presented reasonably well on DVD.

    The video quality is fairly good.

    The audio quality is very good..

    The extras are not bad, but fairly slim.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, May 26, 2002
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

Other Reviews
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The DVD Bits - Craig D

Comments (Add)
Ridiculous lack of subtitling - cztery