[box cover]

The Alien Quadrilogy

Yes, the technical specs are daunting, but one can only hear "Nine Discs with Nearly Fifty Hours of Supplements" so many times before it is robbed of its ability to intimidate. It isn't until the set arrives, gets removed from its protective covering, and is unfolded to its 5'5" length that the enormity of the undertaking that is The Alien Quadrilogy really hits home. It was only a year before this December 2003 release that DVD aficionados were wowing over the four-disc platter for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition; however, taken on size and packaging alone, this appears to be a new benchmark. As for "Why choose the Alien franchise," consider it a matter of influence, rather than box-office success, since the series has never produced a single $100-million-grossing entry (combined domestic take is $267 million) and was last seen in theaters pissing off fans left and right with the ineffective Alien Resurrection. It really is a strange run of films for the way the installments have segued from straight-up horror to militaristic action to somber allegory to unaware self-parody. The only unifying elements of these pictures are the titular creatures and their human nemesis, Ellen Ripley, the role that transformed Sigourney Weaver from respected stage actress to geek sex-symbol. But even these constants are forever in flux, due to the producers' preference for unique creative vision over audience-friendly familiarity; an understandable approach given that the enduring appeal of the original film is derived from the groundbreaking stylishness of Ridley Scott. In fact, this story — the creative evolution of the Alien franchise — winds up being more fascinating than the saga itself; thus, giving the Quadrilogy its own throughline of sorts that unfolds with a measure of gossipy suspense unusual for such a massive, studio-approved box-set (especially considering that most of the major players are still alive). Participants freely express dissatisfaction with the finished films, and, on several occasions, trash the work of others. In other words, this is the contentious process that is filmmaking laid bare, and, as such, much of it should be considered required viewing for anyone with an eye toward venturing into the on-set trenches. Not content to give the viewer an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look into the perils of franchise building, the Quadrilogy is after something even grander: the repairing of the last two films' reputations through brand new "Special Edition" cuts. Most extraordinarily, Alien3 has been significantly lengthened by a half-hour to an expansive 144 minutes intended to provide insight into David Fincher's sadly unrealized intentions for what was supposed to be the final chapter of the then-"trilogy." All four films have alternate cuts (Scott's new version of Alien is the only one labeled as a "Director's Cut"), but those who prefer the theatrical releases shouldn't despair; they're included on here, as well. It's all terribly extravagant and perfectly overwhelming, but does it hold together as a cohesive, emotionally satisfying journey? Until it reaches the utterly blah and unnecessary fourth installment, the answer is, for the most part, yes. It's a collector's dream so long as the movies are thematically interesting. Fox presents The Alien Quadrilogy in excellent anamorphic (2.35:1 for all save for Aliens, which is 1.85:1) transfers with superb Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on this nine-disc set include four feature-length audio commentaries, four feature-length documentaries, three first-draft screenplays, deleted and extended scenes, numerous featurettes, script-to-screen comparisons, a Dark Horse cover gallery, still photo galleries, theatrical trailers, and television spots. Folding digipak in paperboard slip-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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