Aliens: Special Edition (1 disc) (1986)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer
Featurette-James Cameron Interview (12:05)
Featurette-Aliens: Behind The Scenes (7:59 in total)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 148:07
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By James Cameron
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, sound effects at the end of credits

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

Plot Synopsis

    Aliens is a rare kind of sequel, in that it does not regurgitate the original film verbatim with little or no distinguishing marks. Instead, the film takes the vibes of the original and pulls them on a whole new twist, creating a second chapter that is almost always equal to, or even sometimes better than, the first. It is also regarded by many to be the last good piece of work by James Cameron, while others bestow that rather dubious honour upon Terminator 2.

    As it stands, the story picks up with the Nostromo's life-boat floating at an unspecified point in space, whereupon it is happened upon by a salvage team, who are disappointed to find that its sole occupant is alive and well. As Weyland-Yutani representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) explains to her, the Nostromo's sole survivor, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has spent over half a century in hypersleep. In one of the scenes restored for this Special Edition, Ripley is shown a picture of the daughter she was hoping to return to on her ill-fated voyage in Alien, who has died of old age during the extended hypersleep. A curious piece of trivia about the film that is available on the Alien FAQ is that the woman who appears in the photo shown to Ripley by Burke is actually Sigourney's mother, Elizabeth Inglis.

    Anyway, after being relieved of her flight status, Ripley is eventually talked into returning to the planet where the Alien was first discovered by Burke and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marine Corps. Ostensibly, their mission is to destroy the Alien species for good, and I won't spoil that impression if you're one of the few movie buffs who haven't seen this film before.

    As the Sulaco hurtles off towards the planet, which has been colonized by the company in something of an expansionary effort, we are introduced to the new characters who will be accompanying Ripley on her newest adventure. Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) aids Ripley in gaining surrogate leadership of the strike team after their first attack on the Alien nest goes horribly wrong. Bishop (Lance Henriksen) serves as a synthetic humanoid aboard the Sulaco, mostly for Ripley to take out her aggressions upon. Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) is now etched into many a mind as the comic relief of the film, and Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) keeps me happy by working Spanish insults into every second sentence. A curious bit of trivia is that the joke about Vasquez's mistaking the "alien" part of the job description for "illegal alien" actually refers to Jenette Goldstein's mistaking of the casting call for being one for a film about illegal immigrants and turning up in a costume to suit.

    Aside from humorous pieces of trivia such as this, one small flub mars the script of this film: during the first sequence in which the Marines wander into the Alien nest, Gorman states that the pulse rifles fire "ten-millimetre explosive-tip caseless". In the scene where the Marines are retreating towards the second drop-ship's landing area, shell casings can clearly be seen coming out of the prop rifles. Anyway, these minor problems aside, the question here, is not whether Ripley can survive a second encounter with the Alien species, but how she manages to do it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I've seen this film on VHS, I've seen it on Laserdisc, I've even seen it at the theatres, but I have never seen it look quite this good, even if it isn't quite without its own problems.

    The transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    The sharpness of this transfer is excellent, overall. Even the closed-circuit camera shots have a surprising level of sharpness in them that belies the age of the film. The shadow detail is simply excellent, and improves even more in the latter half of the film. There were things that James Cameron wanted you to see in the darkness, and this DVD transfer will make you see them whether you like it or not. There was some low-level noise deliberately inserted into the closed-circuit camera shots, but this was about the limit of the appearance of this artefact within this transfer.

    The colours are rather dramatically saturated in accordance with the mood of the corresponding scenes, with the sequences inside the Alien nest being the most noticeable example, with quite a heavy blue tinge overshadowing everything. Within such places as the armoured car or the compound, a prominent red tinge took over, which lent quite a dramatic look to the action sequences. There was a hint of oversaturation in such sequences as the conversations between Ripley and Newt, but this is no different to how these parts of the film looked on any other medium.

    MPEG artefacts were completely absent from the transfer. Aliasing was found on the edges of hard objects such as the sentry guns and the Sulaco, but this artefact was otherwise absent from the presentation. The most pleasant surprise is that film artefacts are more or less completely absent from the main feature, resulting in a very clean-looking presentation of the film. I've said it before and I will say it again: I have not seen this film look even half as good as this in just over a decade, making this disc a must-have for demonstrations.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change coming in at the end of Bishop's microscope analysis of a Face-Hugger, at 61:34. The layer change took some time on the Toshiba SD-2109, making it noticeable in spite of its impeccable placement.

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

Audio

In spite of what the packaging tells you, this is very much a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, with the subwoofer adding all sorts of thuds and thumps to the proceedings at every chance.

    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD, this being the original English dialogue remixed from the original Dolby Stereo recording into a 5.1 mix. While it would have been nice to hear a representation of the original format for comparison, less fussy viewers will be extremely pleased with this mix.

    The dialogue was perfectly clear and easy to understand at all times, although some dialogue tended to be a little distorted due to the limitations of the fourteen year old recording techniques, but this was far less of a problem in this film than it was in Alien. There were no problems with audio sync at any time, even during the closed-circuit camera views of the early raid on the Alien nest.

    The music in this film was composed and conducted by James Horner, and it is quite a breath of fresh air compared with other works of his, such as Titanic. It is a score full of excitement, power, energy, and above all, a strong connection to the events taking place on screen. As a result, the mood of every sequence the score appears in is suitably amplified by it, even if the score isn't quite as original or distinctive as others I have heard. The music is heavily reliant on bass-heavy and percussive sounds during the action sequences, while being in sharp contrast by switching to moody, icy strings and synthesizers in the warm-up to the previously mentioned action sequences. It is a crying shame that an Isolated Music Score track was not provided with this DVD, as this soundtrack would be getting quite a lot of use from me.

    The surround channels were used somewhat variably, but this is better than we have any right to expect with a soundtrack that was recorded in the days when the idea of digital audio being in every home was still over the horizon. The action sequences are extremely aggressive, with the sounds of pulse rifle shots and aliens pounding on doors being spread throughout the sound field. The Alien attack sequence in the last third of the film is particularly satisfying in this regard, with gunshots and music giving the surrounds a massive workout. Sadly, there were some times when the surround field collapsed into mono, but these were excusable in context with the rest of the film.

    The subwoofer placed quite a powerful bottom end on much of the film, with all sorts of bass-heavy sounds causing the floor to vibrate, and not just from the action sequences.

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

Extras

    No isolated music score, none of the extra scenes that weren't included in the Special Edition, not even a commentary track from someone who worked on the film. This is not good, Fox.

Menu

    The menus are themed around the film, with some animation and audio giving them just the right mood. They are all 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    This looks more like a TV trailer, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. It does a fine job of advertising the film without giving it all away, however.

THX Trailer

    Since THX certification does not require 16x9 enhancement, I think Fox would be better off leaving this out. The soundtrack is seemingly designed to rattle one's teeth, as was cleverly shown during an episode of The Simpsons.

Photo Gallery

    Many, many photos are included in this selection, with some annotation at times to make the thing mildly interesting. Cast and Crew Biographies are included amongst this collection, rather than as an extra of their own, which is somewhat annoying.

Featurette - James Cameron Interview

    A brief interview about the making of the film that is a poor substitute for an audio commentary.

Featurette - Aliens: Behind The Scenes

   This is a selection of small videos depicting various preliminary special effects shots, all of them involving models of various scales. The only one of real value is the testing of the Queen Alien, an intricate piece of work to say the least.

R4 vs R1

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

    Region 1 and Region 4 are identically featured, so go for the PAL transfer.

Summary

    Aliens takes the science-fiction based horror of the original and moulds some action elements in. The result is a worthy successor to a great original.

    The video quality is excellent: this film has never, ever looked better.

    The audio transfer is very aggressive, and it will keep most listeners very happy.

    The extras are satisfactory, but disappointing considering how much material there must be in the archives (not to mention the stellar collection that was assembled for the previous episode).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, May 26, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsong CS-823AMF (80cm)/Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

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Dark Horizons - Garth F
DVD Net - Robert M

Comments (Add)
how come Aliens is not available any more? - satz
big 2003 - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)