Alien appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. It seemed hard to believe that this film came out more than 30 years ago, for despite a few minor flaws, it looked like it was filmed yesterday.
Sharpness appeared consistently positive. At almost all times, the picture remained crisp and well defined. Despite many very wide shots, I saw only a couple of minor signs of softness or fuzziness; for the most part, the image remained distinct and concise from start to finish. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and I detected no issues related to edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed absent, as the movie stayed remarkably crisp and clean at all times.
Alien offered a suitably restricted palette, and the disc reproduced this well. The colors looked clear and accurate at all times. Very few bright tones appeared; Parker’s bandana was pretty much the only consistent example of anything somewhat bold and vibrant. Nonetheless, the tones seemed clean and distinct at all times, and they lacked any form of bleeding, noise, or distortion. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively dim. This remained a strong image virtually all of the time, so I thought it merited an “A” rating.
Overall, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Alien seemed positive but showed its age at times. The soundfield demonstrated reasonably good breadth. The forward spectrum dominated the presentation. From the front, music showed reasonable stereo imaging, but the effects were the strongest aspect of the project. The front environment showed nice spread and atmosphere, as it created a creepy and eerie environment.
Surround usage seemed more limited. For the most part, the rears offered general reinforcement of music and effects. They became more active during some of the louder scenes. For example, those that involved the landing of the ship showed broad and enveloping audio. Still, the forward domain dominated the package, where it offered reasonably vivid atmospherics.
Audio quality also appeared fairly good for its era. Dialogue varied, especially due to a lot of obvious looping. Much of the speech seemed natural and distinct, but some lines came across as flat and a little muddy, and some edginess occasionally affected those segments. Additional distortion cropped up with a few effects, and those elements often sounded somewhat thin and shrill. Bass response for the effects seemed limited for the most part, but those landing sequences offered some loud use of the low-end; the bass seemed powerful but somewhat boomy. Music also showed somewhat tinny tones, as the score occasionally sounded a little harsh. For the most part, I thought the track worked well given its age, but it did demonstrate a mix of concerns.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD release? Audio seemed pretty similar, as the old disc offered similar sound, but the visuals got a good upgrade. While the 2003 DVD looked very good, the Blu-ray offered greater clarity and definition. It created the best-looking version of the flick to date.
Virtually all of the 2003 package’s extras repeat here – or elsewhere in the 6-disc “Alien Anthology” set, where the last two discs include tons of pieces. Because there are so many components on the fifth and sixth platters, I didn’t think it was fair to assign a “bonus features” grade for this disc on its own; I’ll rate the whole shebang when I get to the final two discs.
First of all, we can watch either the 1979 theatrical version of Alien or the 2003 director’s cut. I already discussed this in the body of the review, but I figured I should mention it as a supplement too. The disc uses seamless branching to cut between them. In a nice touch, if you watch the alternate version, you’ll find a deleted footage marker that notes all the originally excised material.
If you select the “Director’s Cut”, the movie opens with a Ridley Scott introduction. In this 55-second clip, the director gives us quick notes about why he created the new version of the film. It’s inconsequential but it helps set the stage for the flick.
Next we find a 2003 audio commentary with director Ridley Scott, writer Dan O’Bannon, executive producer Ronald Shusett, editor Terry Rawlings, and actors Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright and Harry Dean Stanton. A complex compilation of sources, Hurt, O’Bannon, Shusett and Rawlings all clearly sit alone for their discussions. Weaver chats with Scott, but many of the director’s remarks come from separate solo sessions. Skerritt, Cartwright and Stanton all are together for their remarks.
Unsurprisingly, the ever-chatty Scott dominates the piece, but he doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He goes over a mix of elements connected to story, casting, visuals, music, and quite a lot else. The others play less significant roles, and Weaver comes across as the track’s biggest disappointment; she reveals very little about her work and mostly defers to the director.
O’Bannon and Cartwright prove to be the most engaging of the other speakers. The writer provides some contrasts with his original script, and we get intriguing notes about his disdain for the Ash subplot. Cartwright offers fine comments about her work and gives us a revealing look at the process and her character. Stanton doesn’t tell us much, but he adds a fun sense of comic relief at times, and it’s entertaining to hear him interact with his co-stars after all these years. In the end, the commentary seems generally positive, though not quite the slam-dunk I expected.
Originally from the 1999 DVD, we find another track with director Ridley Scott. He sits alone for this running, screen-specific affair. It's a decent but unexceptional piece.
Scott spends most of his time discussing technical aspects of the production, though he occasionally talks about other issues about the movie. Scott gets into both visual and practical effects and he also relates some of the backstory he created for the characters and circumstances. A bit too much praise appears, and Scott also just narrates the movie somewhat too frequently. Nonetheless, this remains a generally solid and informative effort.
If you select the theatrical edition of Alien, you’ll get access to deleted scenes. Note that these simply show the alternate sequences from the director’s cut; nothing different than what we find in that version appears in this section.
New to the Blu-ray, we find the MU-TH-UR Interactive Mode. This allows you to flip among the disc’s four audio features, save “data points” to reference when you watch Discs Five and Six, and view a trivia track. Called the “Weyland-Yutani Datastream”, this offers info about the flick’s origins, development and creation. We find much of this material elsewhere as well, but the “Datastream” provides a clear, informative overview.
I’m not wild about the format, though. Most “trivia tracks” are pretty unobtrusive, so you can follow them and watch the movie at the same time. This become more awkward here because of the amount of territory “MU-TH-UR” fills. Little branches pop up all over the screen, so we get visual distractions. This means you can’t easily check out the flick and the Datastream at the same time.
Alien is a killer. The movie earned its status as an innovative classic, and despite some slow spots, it holds up well after all these years. The Blu-ray presents excellent picture with dated but generally positive audio and some interesting supplements, though most of those will be reviewed elsewhere/later. In terms of basic movie presentation, Alien has never been better.
Note that as of November 2010, you can only purchase the Blu-ray of Alien as part of “The Alien Anthology”. This includes Alien, its three sequels and two discs of bonus materials. I’m sure the films will be available individually at some point, but that date is currently unknown.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ALIEN