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Alien

review by Ren C.

 

Rated R

Studio: Fox

Starring Sigourney Weaver

Story by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett

Directed by Ridley Scott

 

Retail Price: $29.98 (also available as part of the Alien Legacy box set)

Features: Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott, Deleted Scenes, Artwork and Photo Galleries, Original Storyboards, Isolated Original Score, Alternate Music Track, Theatrical Trailers, Interactive Menus, Scene Selection, DVD-ROM Features

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), Languages: English 5.1 Surround, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, Subtitles: English, Spanish

Alien is generally regarded as one of the sci-fi/ horror genre classics. Sadly, upon watching the movie for the first time, I think that my expectations may have been set too high. The movie opens onboard the Nostromo, a deep-space vessel with a crew of seven. The crew is awakened suddenly from an almost cryogenic sleep for reasons unknown to them. They soon realize that they are receiving a distress call from a far-off planet. They set out to investigate, and make a most interesting discovery.

There is an alien life form on the planet, and it is unlike anything that they had ever seen. There is much controversy amongst the crew regarding what to do about the life form, but soon enough, the alien takes things into its own hands. From here, it is a battle between the crew, and the rapidly spreading alien population.

It is also this opportunity that allows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the crew's second officer to emerge into her own, as the leader and the driving force behind the crew. However, within this lies one of my biggest problems with the movie, the lack of character development. I felt that I learned virtually nothing about the main characters, including Ripley and Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt). It seemed like these were characters that were used mainly to advance the plot rather than to become characters in their own right. As I mentioned earlier, my expectations were set high when watching the movie, as I expected it to be more like the horror movies that I am generally accustomed to i.e. "Scream". However, I would classify it less as a horror movie, or even a sci-fi movie then a suspense movie. The plot definitely takes some time to get going, which can be a very big change from the movies of today. Upon repeat viewings, it becomes less distracting but upon repeat viewings, the viewer can take more time to appreciate all the buildup that is used.

For a movie from 1979, this movie looks incredible. Having the THX logo, I would expect nothing less, but it is still amazing as to how good the video actually looks. The movie shows very little of its age, and easily looks as though it could be released in theaters today without a beat. This is a very dark movie, and it shows very well. The colors are very deep, and very rich.

Again, with the THX logo, I tend to expect greatness, and I am not disappointed here either. From the very tinny sounds within the ship, to the rich, affecting score, all the sounds come through with clarity, and make it sound as if you are aboard the Nostromo with the crew. Especially compelling are the "breathing" sound effects throughout the movie, which can literally send chills up your spine.

This is one of those purchases that was largely made for the features, and in that respect, I certainly wasn't disappointed.

First up is the feature-length commentary with director Ridley Scott. This is a very informative commentary, with Scott speaking at length about the making of the movie, the construction of scenes, and any number of other things. Also different from most commentaries is the fact that this one has its own chapter index, for the viewer that wishes to jump to one of Scott's specific anecdotes. Definitely a commentary that enhances the movie, and made me appreciate the movie that much more.

Next is the series of deleted scenes that are included. There are ten scenes in all, each with a description of what the scene is about, where it would have been in the movie, and why it was dropped. Many of these scenes are character development, which would have been very interesting had they been left in the movie. The most notable of the deleted scenes is the "cocoon" scene, which gave a more in-depth look at the alien life cycle. This scene includes commentary from Scott.

Also included is a very extensive series of artwork and photo galleries. Included in this very extensive section are subsections of conceptual art, storyboards, production photos, and promotional art and photos. I especially enjoy when photos of promotional art is included, as it gives me a deeper sense of how the movie's marketing plan developed and eventually came to fruition.

Next are two separate isolated audio tracks that are really quite different in nature. The first is the isolated audio of the original film score by Jerry Goldsmith, and the score is very appropriate for a movie of this type, almost haunting at times. The other is very unique, a track of alternate music, and production sound directly from the film set. It is nothing short of amazing that this has survived for this long, and it is definitely an interesting listen.

There are two outtakes included, which differ from the deleted scenes because they are much more raw in nature, and would arguably have added much less to the film than the deleted scenes. In the case of one of the outtakes, it also would have violated a previously established plot point.

Wrapping up the special features are two trailers and a pair of TV spots, all of which are great for their sheer nostalgia value. These ads all seemingly differ from those of today in that they reveal almost nothing of the movie, while still building the hype for the movie.

There are also a couple of interesting Easter eggs hidden within the special features, but I'll let you all discover those for yourselves.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great booklet included with the movie. I love special features on the disc itself, but I also think very highly of the studios that take the time to develop a booklet with more information. The booklet includes cast bios and a message from Ridley Scott, and is a considerable step up from the one-sheet insert with chapter stops that most movies contain.

I wasn't overly thrilled with this movie the first time I saw it, but after a repeat viewing and a commentary, it definitely grew on me. If you're expecting a horror/ sci-fi movie along today's lines, you'll be disappointed, but if you're looking for a suspense movie, this one definitely fits the bill. If you're a supplements buff, this one also holds up there. If you like the movie and don't own it on DVD, definitely buy it. You won't be disappointed. Otherwise, a rental is in order, and the features may push it over the edge for you. Mild recommendation.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4/5)

(4/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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