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Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Aliens30_BD_Slipcase_rgbThis year marks the 30th anniversary of James Cameron’s Aliens, the action-heavy sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi/horror feature Alien. Moving in its own direction, Aliens brought a new feel to the world, while still retaining a certain aesthetic that made this series unique. Once again featuring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, this heavily acclaimed sequel (7 Oscar noms, including Best Actress) left a stamp on many action/sci-fi movies to come and is now back with a new Blu-ray. However, how much here really is new? Find out all that and more.

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Film:

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Set 57 years after Alien, Ellen Ripley (Weaver) is found drifting through space and must explain her story to her employers. Despite being met with disbelief, Ripley is soon sent back out to LV-426 to help a group of Colonial Marines find out what happened to a terraforming colony that has suddenly gone silent. Once there, the team soon discovers how deadly a threat Ripley had to deal with; only this time – there are more, a lot more, of the vicious Xenomorphs with acid for blood and double sets of mouths.

Coming off of The Terminator, Cameron was certainly looking to prove himself in Hollywood and while Aliens was a somewhat troubled production (Cameron runs a tight ship), he managed to deliver a film that was hugely successful for all involved. Aliens has become engrained in pop culture for a variety of reasons. The one-liners (Game over man!) to the production design all sell the world these characters exist in and they are easily matched by the lively performances from all involved.

With an Oscar nomination under her belt for this film, much credit certainly goes to Ripley, who plays her character as one who suffers PTSD to one who takes the wheel and commands herself with all kinds of kick-ass authority. Through it all, she even manages to find maternal humanity by forming an immediate attachment to Newt (Carrie Henn), a young girl and the only survivor found on LV-426.

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Additionally, the film features Cameron favorite Michael Biehn as the stoic Corporal Hicks; Paul Reiser as the weaselly company man Carter Burke; Bill Paxton as the wild Private Hudson; and Lance Henriksen as Bishop, the android with a heart of gold. Other fun actors fill out the cast as well and anyone who loves this film (and many do) certainly love it for all the interactions this cast has with each other, among the other elements present.

And what about everything else going on? Well, Aliens somewhat plays down the horror elements in favor of a higher octane level of intensity. Cameron wrote the screenplay keeping both Starship Troopers and the Vietnam War in mind, which certainly makes plenty of sense when you watch how this thing comes together. There is plenty of control over laying out the scenario and introducing us to the human element, but when the going gets tough…well there’s plenty of alien-blasting fun to be had.

Working with Stan Winston this time around, the aliens had a different sort of look that played off of what H.R. Giger’s original designs seemed to be going for. Instead of a more translucent look, the Xenomorphs have hard shells and more rabidly attack. This says nothing of the all-new design for the time that was the Alien Queen. It all makes for an action-finale that is one for the books.

There is plenty more that can be said about this film (and has been said thanks to a commentary track myself and others, including Why So Blu’s Brandon Peters, were a part of), but Aliens is a modern classic. It would be splitting hairs for me to still say I prefer Alien, but it matters little. This film is part of the one-two-punch that is a great double set of feature films utilizing a great horror monster that is matched with a solid cast and impressive direction. That allows plenty of reason for anyone to check out this movie.

 

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: This will be re-stated when it comes to the extras, but be aware that despite this being a 30th Anniversary Edition, this is the exact same disc for Aliens that is already available. As such, there is no new transfer to be found here. As it stands though, originally restored for the Alien Anthology Blu-ray release in 2010, Cameron did go in and clean up a lot of the film. As a result, while it has been scrubbed up, a lot of grain is still present to mostly preserve the original look of the film, while still making for one of the best viewing experiences of Aliens you could ask for.

Depth: While Cameron regrets going 1.85:1 framing instead of 2.35:1 (due to visual effects), this film still gets plenty of credit for delivering a world you can easily explore thanks to the amount of depth present.

Black Levels: Black levels present some issues, but still plenty sufficient.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite strong throughout, even if the film has a somewhat muted look, with many blue hues entering to match the red alert-type lighting seen mostly in the finale.

Flesh Tones: Character’s facial features look impressive throughout. You get plenty of detail here.

Noise/Artifacts: Aside from the grain that should be expected, nothing of note.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround 4.1, Eglish Dolby Surround, French DTS 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and more.

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, and more.

Dynamics: Same deal as the video, no new audio tracks have been created for this disc. Still, the lossless DTS-HD track for Aliens is appropriate loud and really makes the action and the James Horner score sing.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel frequently puts out plenty of bass to really get the room rumbling if you have the film playing loud enough.

Surround Sound Presentation: When gunfire happens, prepare for rear speaker overload. That’s what they are there for and this surround presentation continues to deliver.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone sounds loud and clear.

 

Extras:

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Remember how this disc is the same as previous Aliens Blu-ray releases? That means there is nothing new added to the disc itself. That said, there is an all new special feature available only via streaming, in addition to a new fancy box with new artwork. Inside the box, in addition to the disc, you get a handful of art cards and a new illustrated comic reprint. It’s fancy enough and if you’re a completest, that will make this edition worth it. To find out what you’re missing with the Alien Anthology box set, look here.

Features Include:

  • The Inspiration of Aliens with Director James Cameron (HD, 30:55) – Available only via streaming, James Cameron sits down to talk about his ideas for the designs in his film.
  • 1991 Special Edition with James Cameron Introduction (HD)
  • Audio Commentary with Director James Cameron, Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Alien Effects Creator Stan Winston, Visual Effects Supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung, Actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn. – A great track for anyone that wants to learn plenty about the making of this film and the attitudes from many involved.
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 19:57)
  • MU-TH-UR Mode – This was included, though it works much better by having the Anthology so a viewer can actually see behind the scenes of the film.
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

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Given how this release is all about what comes in the box, rather than what’s on the disc, it is hard to say Aliens got a great new release. Still, if you don’t already have the film (and for some reason would not want to spend a little more money on the entire series), there is a great film here with some solid commentary tracks and a great presentation when it comes to the audio and video. The film is a classic and if that’s all you’re looking for, so be it as well. For the diehard fans, this may be one to get. Others may want to look at the larger set.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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