Plot: What’s it about?
After responding to a distress call in deep space, the crew of the Nostromo, a space cruising vessel, is going to learn to mind their business, if they can survive that is. The signal came from a ship docked on a remote planet, which appears to be void of human or any other type of life. The crew lands on the planet, and takes to foot patrol to investigate the seemingly abandon ship. Just as things begin to take a turn for the worse, the Nostromo’s computer translates the distress call, which is more of a warning that call for help. But that information is learned too late, as the crew has stumbled upon a nest, which houses some strange, and as they will soon find out, deadly creatures. One of the crew members is attacking by a small creature which clings to the face, and the others take the crew member back to their ship to try to remove the creature. This is a notion the crew will regret, as the creature begins a total attack on the crew, leaving a wake of death and destruction behind. No efforts seem to work against it, so how will the crew escape the lethal animal before it’s too late?
While the term classic is tossed around quite a lot, I think this movie is deserving of the title, when applied within the science fiction genre. Over the past twenty years, Alien has proved it’s impact and influence, and is just as good now as ever. This movie thrives on suspense, using all the typical devices in inventive and effective ways. While the action picks up slowly, the tension builds from the start, leading to a climactic finale that will have your heart pounding and beads of sweat forming on your brow. This is how survival horror should be, confined areas, impending doom, and realistic characters. These characters are not the typical band of super heroes, these are normal folks in a situation they cannot comprehend or control, which is what makes the movie work on many levels. The characters panic, argue, and are just as scared as you are, with the camera work and production design forcing you right into their world. This has everything a horror/science fiction lover could want, even the creature effects are excellent. If you have not seen this movie, or just haven’t seen it for a while, pick up this disc, it is a must have.
One of my favorite directors, Ridley Scott directed this movie, and his work here is some of his best. While he doesn’t have a lengthy resume, I find something to like in all his movies, especially his action or science fiction titles. Other Ridley Scott films include G.I. Jane, Legend, Blade Runner, and White Squall, as well as Gladiator. This is widely held as the movie that made Sigourney Weaver, and I doubt she would argue, having returned for all the sequels. Weaver (Gorillas In The Mist, Ghostbusters), like most of the cast here, really seems to be in total shock and overcome with fear through most of the film. This not only gives her character realism, but also adds intangible tension to the film, which is essential. The rest of the cast manages to bring that same realistic edge, which makes it seem like they really are just some guys and gals who want to go home. The cast also includes Harry Dean Stanton (The Green Mile, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), John Hurt (Love and Death on Long Island, Contact), Veronica Cartwright (The Right Stuff, The Birds), Yaphet Kotto (Blue Collar), Tom Skerritt (Poison Ivy, Smoke Signals), and Ian Holm (Brazil, The Sweet Hereafter).
Video: How does it look?
Alien is shown here in an anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is framed at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Filled with dark imagery, this movie could have looked very poor unless the care and time were taken to do it right. Thanks to Fox, time and care were taken, and we have an incredible transfer to enjoy. Even in the darkest of scenes, the image is sharp and well defined, no murky shadows here to muck up the works. The visuals are dark, but colors emerge, and the transfer handles them well, with brightness and no problems at all. The disc does not suffer from compression errors either, and stands as one of the finest looking efforts on the format.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a powerful track, but since it is a remaster, the surround use seems flat at times. But the movie doesn’t use as in your face audio as some science fiction, so most of the time, the audio experience is high grade. The speakers kick in when they should, and let the fronts do their job when needed as well. As such, no volume issues arise, with dialogue, score, and background effects all in harmony.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I want to start this section by saying that the main supplement for this movie, an hour long documentary, is not present here. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to latch onto a copy at all, since only those who purchased the Alien Legacy set could get the coupon to redeem for the fifth disc, the documentary. Sadly, the disc is quite rare, and fetches quite a bit on the secondary market. Now, let’s discuss what is present on this disc, which is a lot. First up is a running commentary with director Ridley Scott, which of course I am still drooling over. Scott’s commentary is wonderful, filled with behind the scenes information, while free from large silent periods. Ten deleted scenes are included, which flesh out some characters, but the pace would have suffered with them included in the film. Two alternate musical tracks are offered, one the original Jerry Goldsmith isolated score, the other the theatrical score, with production audio. The production audio means you hear the sounds from the actual shoot, which is quite cool. The disc also houses over five hundred still photos, trailers and television spots, and some outtakes. The insert booklet inside the case has some talent files and production notes as well.