Aliens: 30th Anniversary – Blu-ray Review

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Aliens celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and is still highly regarded as one of the best sci-fi sequels ever made. While Ridley Scott’s Alien film is more of a horror film, James Cameron’s Aliens is more of an action adventure film. That’s what makes Aliens work on so many levels because Cameron made Aliens completely his own while still maintaining its roots as a direct sequel.

Amid the film’s exciting action, Cameron’s able write his own story and expand upon the lore that started in Alien, including expanding on Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley character. Although she was already a tough cookie in Alien, Ripley has a much more powerful role, this time, around. Here she accepts a maternal role without abandoning the characteristics we’ve come to love from the first film. This new role makes her more of a determined and confident protagonist that surpasses her fellow colonial marines.

Not only that but Cameron’s Aliens is as visually stunning and innovative as its predecessor. Even though battle-hardened space marines are the norm in this day and age, it was a new idea back in 1986. Not to mention Cameron created one of the most memorable villains – the original Queen B – the Xenomorph Queen.

But as much as Aliens is Cameron’s own vision, the cast is what makes the film. Sigourney Weaver is essentially the first real female action hero, and that tough, ass-kicking side of Ripley’s character is definitely played up for the sequel. Along with her tough exterior, Weaver is also able to show a tender side to her character with her relationship with Newt and Hicks. This is why she was able to nab a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role; a rarity for a genre film.

Most of her accompanying space Marines are disposable alien fodder, but there are a few stand-out performances. Among them is Bill Paxton as the amped-up Private Hudson, the film’s sole comic relief, and Lance Henriksen as fan-favorite Bishop, an android officer who has a lot of heart to him.

Much like the other Blu-ray releases, this release includes the 1991 Special Edition cut of the movie. There’s much debate as to whether or not director’s cuts of any film are necessary, but the Aliens director’s cut is one of the few exceptions. The director’s cut is able to add more depth and motivation to Sigourney Weaver’s character. The other scenes are hit or miss, but both the director’s and theatrical cut are equally great films.

Overall, James Cameron’s is able to craft a visually bold, perfectly performed, scary, action-packed sci-fi adventure with minimalistic sets, a B-movie cast, and practical xenomorph suits. Thus, Aliens becomes one of the few sequels out there are surpass or is as good as the original.

Movie Rating: 5/5 atoms
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Video
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Aliens is presented in a 1080P MPEG-4 AVC encoded video with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. James Cameron stirred a bit of controversy with his comments regarding de-noising and de-graining Aliens for 2010’s Alien Anthology Blu-ray release. That edition was released again in 2011, 2014 and again with the 30th-anniversary release. Although Cameron used a poor choice of words to describe the film’s restoration work, there are some instances where some noise reduction has been used. However, the fears and concerns of videophiles can be put to rest because this edition is still stunning and spectacular on Blu-ray.

The contrast crisp and precise and black levels are rich and deep without any crushing to be seen. The details are crisp despite the digital noise reduction. In fact, the DNR is visible during certain scenes but it’s ultimately unobtrusive and not distracting enough to ruin the film. The saturation is strong for the most part but some scenes are a bit soft. It’s no wonder that Fox continually reuses this edition for its Aliens re-releases.

Video Rating: 4.5/5 atoms
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Audio
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Aliens is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround audio track. The center channel gets most of the work with great fidelity and acoustical presence. Even during the film’s loudest moments, the dialogue is still tremendous and precise. The front and rear channels feel spacious which creates an engaging soundstage. In addition, the channel dynamic is extremely clear and keeps things lively. The subwoofer also packs plenty of punch during the more uptempo scenes. It’s James Horner’s score that receives the most love as the film’s score is layered perfectly and evenly amid all the chaos of the soundtrack. Overall, the audio presentation sounds terrific.

Audio Rating: 4.5/5 atoms
NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

Special Features
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Aliens’ 30th anniversary Blu-ray contains the following special features:

  • 1986 Theatrical Version
  • 1991 Special Edition with James Cameron Introduction
  • The Inspiration and Design of Aliens Digital Extra
  • Audio Commentary
    • 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.
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes

Although it’s great to get both theatrical and director’s cut in a single Blu-ray release, this also causes the deleted and extended scenes section to become utterly useless. The deleted and extended scenes are the same seen in the director’s cut. In addition, the brand new extra included in this release can be viewed online instead of on the disc. It’s an interesting featurette but it’s a shame it’s not included on the disc. The audio commentaries are fascinating enough but audio commentaries are still for a very niche group. The isolated scores are great when you need background and visual noise but to sit doesn’t quite work when you try to sit down and watch it.

Special Features Rating: 2/5 atoms
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Packaging and Collectibles
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Unlike the previous Blu-ray releases, this 30th-anniversary edition includes collectible art cards, a book featuring art from the Dark Horse Comics “Aliens” series, and an all-new cover. The cards and art book are wonderfully printed on a nice glossy paper. The print is crisp and the artwork included is amazing. Keep in mind that with the glossy print, fingerprints can be seen if you touch them.

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Packaging and Collectibles Rating: 4/5 atoms
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Overall, the Aliens 30th anniversary Blu-ray re-release is a great one for anyone who’s a fan of the franchise. However, if you have the Anthology, 2011, or 2014 Blu-ray release then you may want to skip this release unless you want the collectibles included in the 30th-anniversary release. If you don’t have any of the prior Blu-ray releases then this is the edition that you’ve been waiting for.

Overall Rating: 4/5 atoms
NR 4 Atoms - B

This Blu-ray was reviewed using a retail/advance copy/unit provided by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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