626Well, well, well. The boxed set comprised of Alien, Aliens, Alien3 and Alien Resurrection has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while now – apologies to my co-worker from whom I borrowed it. To her likely delight, I have just finnished the set. Naturally, I couldn’t help it but had to write a review for the whole series.
I probably don’t have to tell you much about what the series is about: Everybody has heard of at least the classic first part **Alien** in which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew of a space freighter discover the namesake of the movie on a tiny, crummy planet, killing off everybody one by one in the classic way that befits any creature movie.
In **Aliens**, Ripley and a team of Colonial Marines head back to the same world after contact with a colony there has been lost. **Alien 3** progresses the story by crash-landing the survivors of Aliens on a penal colony, leaving Ripley the sole survivor and having to organize the – rather unwilling – prisoners to defend against the Aliens which mysteriously happened to be on board of the Sulaco, and also in Ripley’s crashed lifepod. Finally, when everybody thought the franchise had been brought to an end with the rather irrevocable solution presented in Alien3, **Alien Resurrection** proved that for the promise of money, any kind of artistic standard could be pushed aside and provided us with with a view of what happens 200 years after Ripley’s death. They even found a way to bring back Sigourney Weaver / Ripley once more, hence the title.
As you may guess, I think they should’ve really stopped producing Alien movies after the second installment, or maybe the third. Or if they really needed to exploit the entire thing some more, they could’ve at least hired a decent writer. Alien is a classic, wonderful suspense/horror movie that will scare the livin’ daylights out of you when you watch it the first time (make yourself the favor and DO NOT watch it on broadcast TV, when it gets interrupted by advertisements). The movie is pure genius, from the script to the design of the Alien, to the props.
Aliens, the sequel, takes an entire different approach. It’s probably best described as a military action/shocker movie: There are some scary parts, but they are not so much defined by what you can’t see, but by what jumps at you out of the darkness. But the key feature is really the marines’ heroic fight against the alien hordes – well filmed, very convincing, and probably one of the defining sci-fi movies of the 20th century. Again a tip on viewing: Get the extended version, which is MUCH, much better than the original theatre version (the DVD has the extended version).
Alien3 is pretty much a return to the idea of the first movie, but where Alien used claustrophobia, ALien3 is using paranoia – the threatening environment combined with Ripleys obsession to find out whether or not there were aliens on board the Sulaco being the center of it. Again the set design is pretty good, but the movie does not really offer anything new, except maybe the end which really should have ended the series. The conspiracy aspect is explored further, the movie is not so bad that it isn’t entertaining, but it did leave me with a “so what” feeling.
Well, and finally, there’s Alien Resurrection. What can I say about this movie. Ah, the good things first: I liked the characters – both on the “good” and the “evil” side. Even the resurrected Ripley is – while totally cliche and badly designed – well played by Sigourney Weaver. The sets again are nice, but that’s really where the good things end. Alien Ressurection’s style is really very different from the first three movies. It’s pretty much a splatter movie – you see plenty of blood, gore and violence. Some nice action sequences – the underwater stuff was neat. But it is just not a worthy Aliens movie. It’s the b-movie of Aliens. it would’ve been an average to bad standalone movie, but as the conclusion to the series, it’s downright poor. It’s just so … meaningless. It should never have been approved by Fox. The basic plot did remind me of the Aliens comics, in which I remember a general trying to train the Aliens as a shock troop of sorts – which of course goes sour and the aliens escape unto the earth. This would probably have been a much nicer plot, and a much nicer ending – dystopian movies are very in, and it would fit all other three movies: No matter what Ripley does, she cannot win But no, they had to do things their way. Alright, I shan’t bash Alien Resurrection anymore, I am sure you got my point.
Now, about the DVDs. The set takes off with a very impressive first DVD – which is actually two discs; on one we have the movie itself and the extras, and on the second DVD is “The Alien legacy”, which is a sort of making-of and retrospective rolled in one, very nicely done. Combined with the audio commentary, it gives fantastic insights into the creation of the classic movie. Deleted scenes are another nice add-on; especially since it includes the famous scene where Ripley discovers that Dallas and the other victims are being turned into alien eggs. Finally, the menues were very nicely done – this does hold true for all four DVDs, though: DVD 1+2 have animated menues based on the movie itself, the menues of DVD 3+4 are more “artsy” but still look incredibly cool.
The picture and sound quality, as far as I can judge with my equipment, are also very nice; never have I seen Aliens in such crystal-clear and sharp detail.
However, my praise of the boxed set has to end here. DVDs 2-4 are, how to put it, very basic. They have the movies with languages, subtitles and all – but that’s mostly it. There is an interview on the Aliens disc, and a making-of featurette on Alien3, but no audiocomentary. I am very disappointed. Finally, for Alien Resurrection, you have the movie itself, a trailer, and a featurette which is basically a longish trailer. Not good. This is a similar problem to what haunted the Back to the Future trilogy DVD set: Why do the producers think that we are only interested in an audio comentary for the first movie in a series? I would really have liked to hear some detailed stories, anecdotes and so on for the later movies – Aliens because I like it so much, and parts 3 and 4 because I do not like them so much: I find that hearing what the people who made the movie have to say often gives a lot of fresh insights, stuff I didn’t notice or realize before, and that let me see the movie in a different light and appreciate it more.
So in conclusion, my opinion of this set is really very mixed. Very good job on the first DVD, no questions. Aliens also is wonderful to watch on DVD. But with the lack of interesting extras on DVDs 3 + 4, I can not praise this boxed set. At least a quick check of amazon shows that the price has been lowered considerably, the Legacy box (with the extra DVD is available for around 70 Euro – I remember a price of around 200 DM (100 Euro).
I guess it boils down to the question of how big a fan of the movies you are. The Alien Legacy bonus DVD is a nice extra and was really interesting – to me – to watch. If you think that Alien3 was alright, then maybe the new, low price is okay for the boxed set, but personally I am still glad I borrowed the box instead of purchasing it myself.
(This review is of the German version of the box, though I doubt there is much difference to the US or other versions, except that you guys probably don’t get the German track.)