Aliens (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

Decades after surviving the Nostromo incident, Ellen Ripley is sent out to re-establish contact with a terraforming colony but finds herself battling the Alien Queen and her offspring.

March 14, 2024 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has survived the recent ordeal, and has been picked up by a probe ship. When questioned about the events that led to her hypersleep, Ripley tells the tale of the alien and the destruction it brought with it. Of course, no one believes her, and in fact a mining colony is now located on the same planet as the alien attack. But all is not well in the mining colony, as contact has been lost, and a search and rescue mission is called for. Despite the danger involved, Ripley opts to join the mission, along with a shock troopers, who will lay waste to anything standing in the way of this project. As we know, there are more than miners on the planet, and things don’t look good for the crew as they hone in on their destination. No matter how cocky they are and no matter powerful their weaponry is, the odds rest comfortably against them on this effort. Ripley was able to escape with her life the first time she encountered the alien, but with more than one looming around, can she survive again?

Whenever a movie has some success, discussions turn toward a possible sequel, and that was the case after Alien enjoyed a healthy box office take. Now, few sequels can manage to equal their predicators, with most falling somewhere toward a bottomless pit of obscurity. Following a movie like Alien is no easy task, but Aliens is more than up to snuff as far as keeping the series entertaining. What makes this success even more impressive is the direction of this movie. While Alien functioned as a suspense driven horror movie, Aliens is a flat out action flick, although some feel the popcorn factor is a little too high. I do think this movie compromises the darkness of the original, but it does have a very high level of energy, which makes up for it. With James Cameron behind the camera, you know the action is going to be constant and intense, and here is no exception. The last half of the film just grabs you and shakes the hell out of you, never letting go. While I do not agree with those who tout this as the best of the series, I do think it stands as a fantastic movie, and it serves the series well.

This movie was directed by a man whose name you all will recognize, James Cameron. Cameron is best known the masses for directing Titanic, but before he picked up the Kleenex, he was always holding a gun. Cameron is the directing force behind some of the all time action classics, such as The Terminator, T2: Judgment DayTrue Lies, and the underwater epic, The Abyss. While his filmography isn’t extensive, almost every film Cameron touches turns to gold. I hope that his success with Titanic doesn’t pull him away from the genre that made him famous, action. We all know Sigourney Weaver is excellent in all the Alien movies, so I will move onto the supporting cast of this movie, which is one mixed bag of talent. Two Cameron regulars, Michael Beihn and Bill Paxton appear in this movie, with Paxton serving as an annoying, yet unforgettable character. His wails toward the climax are hilarious and are the catch phrases from the series. The rest of the cast is good also, but none give noteworthy performances. The others include Al Matthews (The Fifth Element, Superman III), Jenette Goldstein (Terminator 2, Lethal Weapon 2), Paul Reiser (Diner, Bye Bye Love), and the ever adorable Carrie Henn as Newt.

Video: How’s it look?

As any movie-lover knows, James Cameron loves to tinker with his films. He’s done so on just about every one and odds are that the version we’re seeing here is vastly different, visually, than the one in theaters in 1986. That said, a fairly substantial restoration was done for the 2010 Alien Anthology release. Cameron has employed the same technology used for True Lies and The Abyss. Some might like it – others…not so much. The image appears very sharp and crisp. The film also has a more “film like” feel to it than I’d noticed before. Then again the last time I saw this was on the DVD release and that’s been years ago.  So while the movie probably could have looked better, this is by no means a bad-looking picture. It depends on where you stand on what Cameron did with his films.

Audio: How’s it sound?

We do get an upgraded sound mix with a new Dolby Atmos mix. Vocals are strong and consistently clear throughout, surround sounds are ambient and dynamic and the LFE really get a workout as well. Probably the best example of the sound is in the ending act when Ripley’s machine gun is firing on all cylinders. The sound seems to resonate though every channel and really provides a great viewing experience. It’s a nice mix that has improved on previous versions.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • 1990 Special Edition –  A trio of supplements from the 1990 version of the film (running 2 hours, 35 minutes) can be found.
    • James Cameron Introduction – Pretty much that. This 34 second clip gives us Cameron, in full 1980’s outfit, as he explains this cut of the film.
    • 1990 Special Edition – The film in its entirety.
    • Audio Commentary – From the 2003 version of the film we’re treated to a commentary with Cameron as well as various members of the cast and crew.
  • The Inspiration and Design of Aliens – A 30 minute feature that tells us just that – some of the visual elements that gave this film its particular look and feel.
  • Audio Commentary – If the above track didn’t do it for you, this one focuses on the theatrical cut of the film, running about 20 minutes less, it’s not quite as much as an investment.
  • Isolated Score – Scores for both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film are available.
  • Superior Firepower: The Making of Aliens – A barrage of shorter featurettes that comprise a documentary that runs just over three hours.
  • Superior Firepower: Making Aliens Enhancement Pods – Similar to the above segment, this one isn’t quite as robust, running an hour, but is nevertheless nearly as fulfilling.
  • Pre-Production – A three minute “videomatics” scene that serves as a basis for a key part of the film.
  • Production Footage – Another slew of shorter vignettes that compose this 12 minute feature. If you’re into the weeds about things like this, this is for you.
  • New Scenes from the Special Edition – Twenty minutes of never-before-seen footage can be accessed here.
  • Deleted Scene – “Burke Cocooned” runs at just a minute and is, you guessed it, pretty self-explanatory.
  • Deleted Scenes Montage – Running four minutes this delivers as we’re treated to just over four minutes’ worth of deleted scenes.
  • Main Title Exploration – Running three minutes, this essentially gives us an alternate look at some of the different fonts and styles that were considered for the film.
  • Trailer Gallery – A bevy of theatrical and teaser trailers can be found.

The Bottom Line

Aliens is one of those movies, like Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that many consider the sequel to be superior to the original. I agree with the latter title, but I’ll always prefer Ridley Scott’s original Alien. That’s just me, though. The wait is over, but there’s some controversy surrounding this release. Then again it’s James Cameron – controversy is his middle name.

Disc Scores

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