Aliens appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Always the least attractive of the four Alien flicks, Aliens got a good scrubbing here – maybe a little too good, in fact.
Prior to the release of this Blu-ray, director James Cameron provide comments that made fans worry Aliens had undergone the same sort of extreme digital noise reduction (DNR) that had marred the Blu-ray for Predator. I’m happy to report that Aliens never suffered from the same kind of inappropriately bright ‘n’ shiny visuals we saw during Predator, but I did feel that it sometimes looked spiffier than it should.
After all, Aliens isn’t Avatar. It was meant to look like a gritty war movie, and at times, it still did on Blu-ray. The transfer definitely didn’t erase all signs of grain, as we still got a fair amount of it throughout the film.
But more than a few scenes looked less grainy than expected, and these became a bit of a distraction. For instance, some of the shots during the Marines’ first exploration of LV-426 just appeared a little too clean. When contrasted against the grittier shots, a disconnect occurred, and the various sequences occasionally didn’t feel like they were part of the same design template.
I don’t want to overstate these issues, though, as I thought most of the film still looked fine. Again, this wasn’t a Predator-style debacle. Nonetheless, I’d prefer an Aliens that maintained the consistent sense of murk and menace we’d seen previously; this one looked good, but I would like more of the gritty documentary look it used to boast.
Sharpness largely appeared positive. Some shots came across as slightly soft at times, but those examples occurred infrequently. Most of the movie showed a slight dullness typical of film stocks of the era, but the image remained acceptably distinct and accurate most of the time. Jagged edges and moiré effects provided no concerns, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also failed to appear.
Due to the film stock and the production design, colors seemed pretty bland during Aliens. However, that’s not really a complaint, as I don’t expect vivid hues from this – or any of the series, for that matter. Tones seemed somewhat flat, but they generally came across as reasonably clear and distinct given the nature of the film. Red lighting looked strong, as those elements were clear and not overly runny or heavy.
Black levels could be a little inky, but they usually appeared fairly deep and rich, and shadow seemed appropriately opaque but not excessively thick. I would’ve preferred a grittier look, but I still though this was a pretty good presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Aliens barely showed its age, as it sounded very good for its era. The soundfield maintained a pretty strong forward bias. Within the front, the movie boasted reasonably vivid imagery.
Music showed clear stereo separation and imaging, while effects seemed appropriately placed, and they blended together neatly. The surrounds kicked in with general reinforcement much of the time, but they added good pop to many of the action scenes; they played an acceptably active role in the proceedings.
Audio quality was relatively good. Dialogue varied from natural and distinct to somewhat thick and muddy, but most of the speech seemed positive, and I detected very few problems due to edginess or intelligibility.
Effects also came across as pretty crisp and vivid, and they showed reasonable bass response that was fairly tight and bold. The score came across as clean and vivid for the most part, and those elements also demonstrated nice dynamics. I noticed very little distortion in this firm package. Ultimately, I really liked this mix and thought it held up well over the years.
How did the 2016 “30th Anniversary” Blu-ray compare to the original BD from 2010? Both are identical – literally. The 2016 Blu-ray simply repackages the 2010 disc.
So that means the same extras, though the package offers a few new pieces not based on the disc. Found on the Blu-ray itself, we can watch either the 1986 theatrical version (2:17:14) of Aliens or the 1991 Special Edition Cut (2:34:26).
I already discussed these options in the body of the review, but I figured I should mention it as a supplement too. In a nice touch, if you watch the alternate version, you’ll find a deleted footage marker that notes all the material added to the SE.
If you select the “Special Edition” cut, the movie opens with a James Cameron introduction. In this 34-second message, the director discusses his preference for the longer version and gives us a quick note or two about it. It’s not terribly interesting, but it helps set the stage.
Next we find an audio commentary with director James Cameron, producer Gale Ann Hurd, alien effects creator Stan Winston, visual effects supervisors Robert and Dennis Skotak, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn and Christopher Henn. A complex compilation of sources, only Cameron sits alone for his discussion. Hurd and Winston unite for their chat, while the Henn children are together for their moments. The Skotek brothers join up with McClung, and in a very happy choice, the four remaining actors – Biehn, Paxton, Henriksen, and Goldstein – sit together for their examination of the film.
Although I enjoyed the 2003 commentary on the Alien Blu-ray, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. I’m pleased to report that this Aliens track gave me what I anticipated and more than that. Not surprisingly, Cameron dominates the piece, and he really delivers the goods. The director touches on a variety of fascinating topics.
Cameron gets into how he arrived on the project, the development of the script and allusions to real world events, dealing with a visual universe created by someone else, his choice of aspect ratio, character and situation backstory, choosing how to pare down the film for its original theatrical release, and tons more. Cameron fills his time with consistently interesting notes that give us a very informative experience.
As for the others, they certainly occupy their moments well. It’s probably the most fun to hear the four actors who sit together. They exhibit a nice sense of camaraderie and toss out a lot of entertaining anecdotes. They reflect on their experiences and give us a good sense of working on the film. They even take a few good-natured jabs at their control-freak director in this light and loose chat.
The Henn siblings only pop up occasionally. Christopher offers only about five words, but given the very small nature of his role, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Carrie gives us a few nice remarks such as the movie line her friends quoted for years – much to her annoyance.
While the Skoteks and McClurg mostly focus on effects, they do so in a clear manner and help us get a good feel for the film’s technical elements. Hurd and Winston also pair nicely as they go over a mix of topics. They cover production concerns as well as the expected notes about Winston’s adaptation of HR Giger’s original alien designs.
Of particular interest are Hurd’s notes about all the tensions between her and Cameron and the British crew; apparently the Limeys didn’t give them much respect. In the end, I feel exceedingly pleased with this outstanding commentary, as it fleshes out Aliens in a highly educational and enjoyable manner.
If you select the theatrical edition of Aliens, you’ll get access to deleted scenes. Note that these simply show the alternate sequences from the special edition cut; nothing different than what we find in that version appears in this section.
Also alongside the theatrical version, two Isolated Score options appear. You can examine the “Final Theatrical Isolated Score” or the “Composer’s Original Isolated Score”. Both come with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and are nice options for fans of movie music.
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 or 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 good 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.
The Datastream also goes dead more often than I’d like. We get more than a few extended pauses, and a lot of the time, the same text remains on screen for an extended period. It’s still an interesting extra, but it doesn’t boast great execution.
Exclusive to the 30th Anniversary edition, two extra components appear. 10 Art Cards show sketches created for the film, and a book shows some excerpts from the Dark Horse Aliens comics. Both are almost entirely inconsequential.
Note that the release also includes a download code for a new featurette. I don't count downloadable elements in my discussions - if it's not on the disc, it doesn't exist for me, especially when the download code expires in a few years. Still, it may entice some to get the 30th package, so I wanted to mention it. Ignore this if you read the review after 2019 since the code expires that year.
For some time now, I’ve regarded Aliens as my favorite film. A virtually flawless action flick, it provides a tremendous thrill ride bolstered by unusually strong story telling and acting. The Blu-ray features generally positive picture and sound plus some interesting supplements highlighted by a terrific commentary.
A repackage of the disc from the 2010 Alien Anthology package – which already got a solo release in 2014 – the “30th Anniversary Edition” of Aliens exists as nothing more than a cash grab. If you don’t already have the film on Blu-ray, grab the cheaper 2014 solo disc – or “splurge” for the Anthology, as it includes all four movies as well as a wealth of extras and sells for around $30 these days. It’s still the way to go.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ALIENS