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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 12th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 1986

Aliens: Ultimate Collector's Edition - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4K UHD Review By: M. Enois Duarte

A couple years shy of its 40th anniversary, James Cameron's Aliens still holds up after four decades, delivering a suspenseful thrill-ride of action, adventure and horror with brains. The sci-fi actioner is that rare sequel that is just as good, memorable and thrilling as its predecessor, which can be enjoyed as a sequel or as a standalone film. Courtesy of 20th Century Studios, the sci-fi action classic assaults the inhospitable planet of Ultra HD equipped with a stunningly impressive 4K HDR presentation, a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos track and a treasure trove of bonus features. Overall, the three-disc UHD package is a Highly Recommended addition to the 4K library.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Three-Disc UHD Combo Pack
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC - Dolby Vision HDR/HDR10
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
March 12th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Hot off the success of The Terminator, James Cameron directed a follow-up to Ridley Scott's film and took the storyline in a slightly different direction. Making it completely his own, while still maintaining its roots as a direct sequel, Cameron injected a heavy dose of action and adventure. In fact, Aliens pretty much raised the bar in that area, which is a striking contrast to the intense horror elements of the original. The movie is also vastly unique and distinct from the Star Trek and Star Wars movies many were cheering for at the time. Much like its predecessor seven years earlier, this sci-fi feature surprised audiences everywhere, using standard genre tropes and then defying them. Living up to its tagline, "This Time It's War," Aliens is a brash, bare-knuckle display of frenetic action and grandiose violence that, surprisingly, is just as good as Scott's film. 

If the first movie can be described as "Jaws in space," as O'Bannon once put it, then Cameron's sequel is essentially "Rambo in space." Instead of a commercial freighter crew battling one vicious monster, a gung-ho, trigger-happy Marine Corps will face off against an entire horde. Part of the excitement comes from watching the soldiers interact aboard the warship Sulaco, their aggressive and combative attitudes being a big focus of the first half. Led by the inexperienced Lt. Gorman (William Hope), the colonial marines refuse to show any fear or apprehension before landing on LV-426. They display a disregard for Ripley's caution and a lack of respect for the danger they're about to encounter. But both Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the audience understand the seriousness, which creates tension and concern. Once they meet their enemy and most of the team is killed in a matter of minutes, the mission of those reminaing is suddenly one of survival, rather than the seek-and-destroy attitude seen earlier.

What ultimately works best — that is, other than the exciting action — is Cameron carrying over and expanding on many of the same themes explored in Scott's amazing work of horror. In Aliens, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is given personhood through talking head Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a guy who immediately rubs us the wrong way. Whereas the first film only mentions human life as expendable and preserving an alien specimen as a priority, this follow-up now turns it into a focal point of soulless corporate greed. Amid all the death and chaos, the company seeks to protect its investment and sees potential profit in the biological weapons area. In this gloomy and miserable future, even the military has been privatized for further commercial opportunities. Ripley is once again forced to battle two types of monsters and helped by Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Vasquez (Janette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton).

By placing our tough heroine in the middle of this harsh reality, Cameron is also able to expand on Ripley's character as a strong female voice. Just as in the previous film, she is compelled to prove herself as a woman within a masculine society, which is in sharp contrast to Vasquez's just-one-of-the-boys appearance and posture. In introducing little Newt (Carrie Henn) to the storyline, Ripley takes on a larger, more powerful role, readily accepting a maternal place without leaving behind those characteristics we've already come to admire in her. Indeed, this new attribute of protecting the child — who later eventually calls her "mommy" — from the other violent, monstrous mother, makes her more of a determined and confident hero than the soldiers. Ripley's relationship with Hicks and Bishop (Lance Henriksen) shows a masculine presence that can live peacefully alongside her, listen to her, and work as equals.

And just as in Scott's horror masterpiece, Cameron's Aliens can be enjoyed for the intense action and suspense alone. But for others, these aspects and qualities of the film make it a well-crafted classic of science fiction. The 1991 Special Edition cut of the movie retains this same feel, if not actually make it more apparent to viewers. Most of the extra seventeen minutes in fact seem to add depth and motivation to the Ripley character, such as an early scene with Burke where the two talk about her daughter. It is later mentioned during an intimate moment with Newt, and the idea provides weight to their emotional hug at the end. Other scenes are neither here nor there, information that fans can do without, like Newt's family discovering the alien spacecraft and Hudson's "state-of-the-art" speech. Either way, both cuts are equally enjoyable in my book, and the theatrical version is a classic sci-fi actioner with brains.

Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
20th Century Studios brings James Cameron's Aliens to 4K Ultra HD as a three-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, unlocking the 4K version of the theatrical cut in Dolby Vision HDR with Dolby Atmos audio. The Region Free, triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a BD50 copy of the movie and a third BD50 disc containing all the supplemental material. All three are housed in a black, eco-elite case with a glossy cardboard slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken to a static screen with the usual options and music playing in the background. In order to access the Special Edition, you must navigate to the Setup submenu.

NOTE: as of press time we haven't been able to pull 4K disc-sourced images. Hopefully soon we can come back and either add new images and/or video sample.

Video Review

Ranking:

The classic sci-fi actioner lands on the inhospitable planet of Ultra HD equipped with a stunningly impressive HEVC H.265 encode, which was reportedly struck from a fresh restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, which was itself supervised and approved by James Cameron. 

First and foremost, this native 4K transfer arrives with a better, more pleasing color timing that feels more accurate, reverting from the orange-teal look of the previous Blu-ray releases to this warmer reddish aesthetic with a strong blue push. This makes for more natural, accurate skin tones in the cast, giving everyone a peachy-rose look that's more appealing. Added to that, the Dolby Vision HDR presentation also flaunts a brighter, more vibrant palette, parading deep, animated reds and energetic electrifying blues. In a few scenes, these same colors bleed together into a smooth gradient of purples and violets, such as in the firefight in Chapter 24 (Chapter 35 of the Special Edition). The improved contrast and brightness balance furnishes the action with crisp, radiant whites, such as the sick bay at the beginning, and specular highlights have a tight, resplendent glow in the hottest spots without washing away the finer aspects. Meanwhile, black levels are inky-rich and pitch-dark with outstanding gradational differences in the various shades and excellent shadow delineation, providing the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a beautiful cinematic quality. 

Moreover, the 4K video also boasts razor-sharp details for a significant portion of the runtime with a few poorly-resolved moments that are both to be expected and thankfully, don't depreciate the overall quality of the presentation. The stitching and fabric in the uniforms are discretely visible, especially some of the wear and tear of the gear, and the more intricate features of the weapons are more plain to see. Likewise, the architectural facets and grimy deficiencies of the Hadley's Hope colony are clear-cut and more evident to make out. From start to finish, facial complexions are continuously striking with superb lifelike definition and texture in the entire cast, exposing every pore, minuscule wrinkle and negligible blemish while the individual hairs are amazingly distinct and definite. However, there are several instances of minor aliasing and moiré fringes along the sharpest lines, most notably the air grille covers, that can occasionally distract. More importantly, and arguably more egregious, is the near absence of film grain, which is the result of the Park Road deep learning algorithms. Surprisingly, it's not obtrusive enough to ruin the movie, but it can be quite noticeable in a couple of scenes, making a few faces look a bit waxy. 

In the end, the positives of this 4K HDR presentation outweigh the very few drawbacks, and this is by far the very best the film has ever looked on home video. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 90/100)

Audio Review

Ranking:

Cameron's follow-up to Scott's horror landmark assaults home theaters with a fantastic and highly engaging Dolby Atmos soundtrack that trounces the previous DTS-HD MA version, making this the preferred way to enjoy the sci-fi actioner. "Game over, man! Game over!"

For the most part, the track remains a relatively front-heavy presentation with excellent dialogue reproduction, delivering terrific intelligibility and is very well-prioritized amid the loudest, tumultuous moments. Imagining continuously feels broad and spacious with outstanding channel separation as background activity convincingly moves across the screen and to the top heights, generating a sweeping, half-dome soundscape. An extensive and dynamic mid-range exhibits room-penetrating clarity, maintaining sharp details in every explosion, every shot from the pulse rifles and every creak from the APC vehicle. A robust low-end delivers a couch-shaking oomph and punch to the thrilling action, resonating throughout the room on a few occasions. From the ceaseless storm of LV-426 blowing all around to xenomorphs crawling on walls and bullets flying in every direction, atmospherics effortlessly travel from the sides to the rears and across the overheads, enveloping the listener in a satisfying hemispheric soundfield. James Horner's score also evenly spreads across the fronts and top heights, adding to the visuals and pulling viewers into the action persuasively. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 92/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

For this UHD edition, the movie arrives with many of the same bonuses as previous releases while also leaving out many more. Nevertheless, the majority of the supplements are housed on the third Blu-ray disc, which also offers one new feature exclusive to this release. 

UHD Disc

  • Audio Commentaries with director James Cameron and various members of the cast and crew for both versions of the film
  • Introduction (SD, 1 min) by the director for the 1990 Special Edition
  • Isolated Scores of James Horner's musical composition for both versions of the movie.
  • Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes from Special Edition 

Blu-ray Disc 1

  • Audio Commentaries 
  • Introduction (SD, 1 min)
  • Isolated Scores 
  • Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes from Special Edition 

Blu-ray Disc 2

  • NEW The Inspiration and Design of Aliens (HD, 31 min) features the director reminiscing on the origins and inspirations behind the movie, particularly on the design and aesthetics of the production while touching on various challenges his team faced at the time.
  • Superior Firepower: Making Aliens (SD, 186 min)
    • 57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
    • Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
    • Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
    • This Time It's War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
    • The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
    • Bug Hunt: Creature Design
    • Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
    • Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
    • The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
    • The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
    • Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film 
  • Superior Firepower: Making Aliens Enhancement Pods (SD, 59 min)
    • Without Sigourney Weaver
    • Origins of Acheron
    • Building Hadley's Hope 
    • Cameron's Design Philosophy
    • Finding and Unused Power Plant 
    • Cameron's Military Interests
    • Working with Sigourney Weaver
    • The Importance of Being Bishop
    • Paul Reiser on Carter Burke
    • The Paxton/Cameron Connection
    • Becoming Vasquez 
    • On Set: Infiltrating the Colony 
    • Props: Personal Light Unit 
    • Simon Atherton Talks Weapons 
    • Praising Stan Winston 
    • Test Footage: Chestburster 
    • Fighting the Facehugger 
    • Test Footage: Facehugger 
    • Stan Winston's Challenge 
    • Test Footage: Queen Alien 
    • Stan Winston's Legacy 
    • Cameron's Cutting Edge 
    • Sigourney Weaver's Triumph 
    • Re-Enlisting with Cameron 
    • From Producer to Stunt Double 
  • Pre-Production (SD, HD)
    • Original Treatment by James Cameron 
    • Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics (6 min) 
    • Storyboard Archive 
    • The Art of Aliens 
    • Cast Portrait Gallery  
  • Production (SD, HD)
    • Production Image Galleries 
    • Continuity Polaroids 
    • Weapons and Vehicles 
    • Stan Winston’s Workshop 
  • Footage (SD, 13 min)
    • Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras 
    • Video Graphics Gallery 
    • Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers 
  • Post-Production and Aftermath (SD)
    • Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned (2 min)
    • Deleted Scene Montage (4 min)
    • Image Galleries 
    • Laserdisc Archives 
    • Main Title Exploration (3 min) 
    • Theatrical Trailers (6 min)

Final Thoughts

James Cameron's Aliens is that rare sequel that is just as good, memorable and thrilling as its predecessor, one of the best and most impressive follow-ups to an already classic film. A couple years shy of its 40th anniversary, the sci-fi actioner still holds up after four decades, delivering a suspenseful thrill-ride of action, adventure and horror with brains, a rare treat that can be enjoyed as a sequel or as a standalone film. Courtesy of 20th Century Studios, the sci-fi action classic assaults the inhospitable planet of 4K Ultra HD equipped with a stunningly impressive Dolby Vision HDR presentation and a highly engaging, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, easily trouncing the previous Blu-ray releases. With a treasure trove of bonus features, the three-disc UHD package is an Highly Recommended addition to the 4K library. Overall - 4.5/5

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