‘Alien’ 45th Anniversary: Reviewing The Sci-Fi Horror Classic New 4K Release (2024)

In what is widely expected to be a down year for theatrical business, including a smaller release slate absent multiple top-tier franchise summer releases, studios and cineplexes are filling gaps with proven hits that have something new to offer, including the 45th anniversary re-release of the sci-fi horror classic Alien. Here is a look back at filmmaker Ridley Scott’s terrifying, brilliantly realized masterpiece.

Comebacks Make A Comeback

Despite the best efforts of a handful of big performers including Dune: Part Two, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, and Kung Fu Panda 4, 2024 is still in for a rough time. The only top tier “sure things” for the rest of the year are Despicable Me 4, Deadpool & Wolverine, Joker: Folie à Deux, Moana 2, and Mufasa: The Lion King.

There are plenty of mid-tier and mid-higher tier releases on the schedule, but most will be $300-500 million territory. For every breakout there’s a probable disappointment, and breakouts likely won’t score more than around $100 million ahead of expectations, so still short of Marvel-level billion dollar brands of the past.

Which is why we’re seeing an increasing number of re-releases this year, including a big summer re-release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The main costs besides the remastering (which is really for the home release payoff anyway) are marketing and distribution, and with re-releases during anniversary years there is plenty of free media (including reviews of the upcoming 4K home releases) and social marketing enhanced by eager fanbases helping spread the word and hyping friends.

It’s an easy go-to, and the right picks at the right time can also serve to boost home entertainment sales and upcoming sequels or spinoffs. That’s the case here with Alien on its 45th anniversary in 4K UHD, ahead of the arrival of legacy sequel Alien: Romulus this August.

Forbes1979 Blockbuster 'Alien' Hits Box Office Top 10 In 2024 Re-ReleaseBy Mark Hughes


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Remembering ‘Alien’

I fell in love with Alien in 1979, as a young child who loved the movie’s trailer and became obsessed with the picture-book released to promote the film. This book had stills from the film and the dialogue for each scene beneath the images, multiple photos per page laid out like a comic book (my main frame of reference for entertainment reading at the timee). My enthusiastic book report at school that week became the stuff of legends among teachers at my elementary school.

I was hooked, and I would remain a fan for life. I’ve seen it many time during theatrical re-releases and own it in multiple home versions released over the years (I prefer the theatrical version to the Director’s Cut).

ForbesDirector Reveals The Deleted Scene From James Cameron's 'Aliens' That Inspired 'Alien Romulus'By Tim Lammers

When James Cameron’s Aliens finally arrived in 1986, I didn’t think a sequel could possibly live up to the original, and while fans will forever debate which is superior and which is their favorite, nobody can seriously doubt that Aliens was a more than worthy sequel and found an original approach to tell a new story without feeling redundant or like a retread of the first film.

The rest of the sequels and prequels have failed to reach the rarified heights of those first two films, even though the best among them — Alien 3: Collector’s Edition and Prometheus — still have plenty to recommend, and I’m a fan of the entire series except for Alien: Resurrection.

Home Theater Viewing

First, some background about how I experienced Alien for this retrospective.

My wife and I have a private movie theater in the basem*nt of our home, with a 10 foot diagonal movie screen and a 4K UHD projector, as well as surround sound. I’ll eventually add a Dolby Atmos soundbar to complete the theater effect, but for now the complete darkness afforded this setup and the brightness of the image (I painted the wall behind the screen white, so that some of the light reflects back and makes the images and colors crisper) makes for a wonderful at-home setting that replicates my love of theatrical immersion.

This is how I did my rewatch this weekend for the Alien 45th anniversary. I actually rewatched both Alien and its sequel Aliens to celebrate, and plan to rewatch Alien 3: Collector’s Edition (aka the Assembly Cut) this week.

We also have a 75 inch TCL television in our living room, which we also love and use frequently. But for certain occasions, you want to capture that movie theater experience, and for me the anniversary celebratory viewing of a classic like Alien deserves the big-screen treatment, even in my own house.

Of course, being a huge fan of the film, I rewatched Alien on both my 4K TV and via my 4K projector (but with Blu-ray rather than the 4K, which I couldn’t play yet when I watched in the home movie theater), to make sure I got both the theatrical experience again and the new 4K UHD experience.

Watching Alien at home on a movie screen in a basem*nt makes the film larger than life and reminds me of that fuller sense of immersion in the theatrical experience, of being dwarfed by the story and overwhelmed by the expansive imagery, of being scared half to death by the deadly monsters towering over me in the darkness. Yet it also includes the added element of being alone, in a basem*nt, and in my own home where typically a viewer will feel safer and more secure, but the mixture of giant screen theater-like setting and home viewing creates a feeling of added dread and claustrophobia. Which is to say, it provided a unique heightened Alien experience.

The 4K Review

Remarkably, Alien was only Ridley Scott's second feature film, after The Duellists. It’s also Scott’s film immediately preceding Blade Runner, for an incredible three-film run from a first-time filmmaker.

The beauty, the scale, and the artistic vision Scott brings to Alien go beyond filmmaking and into the ambitious realm of myth-making that burned a permanent, glorious scar on the memory and psyche of the world.

How many films have you seen that look like this? That are shot like this? The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Ran, these are Alien’s peers in photography, in use of color and light and shadow. Derek Vanlint only photographed three feature films in his career — Alien, Dragonslayer, and The Spreading Ground — and Alien is his masterwork.

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Watching Alien in 4K, it’s a whole new experience making it even more apparent how ahead of the curve the film and its team were. Color and light pop off the screen, from the clinical lighting of the mess hall and cryogenic chamber, to the busyness blockiness of the control center crammed with blinking screens and workstations, and into the inky-blackness encroaching from hallways, corners, and silent rooms.

The Nostromo feels like a real place in a real time. It’s crew feel like real people who are used to working and living together in tight quarters, working class miners and industrial machinery operators and shipmates. The personalities are rich and detailed, easygoing in a way both believable and familiar.

The ensemble cast are award winners and popular character actors and a newcomer with immediate star quality. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley becomes a hero and instant icon of both horror and action genres, the infinitely capable and smartest person in the room in a crisis. But we don’t know this yet, nor perhaps does she, and it’s a slow burn of personalities and conflicts that build toward an “all in this together” mentality that can quickly go sideways due to aliens or androids.

The art design and production design by Roger Christian, Michael Seymour, Ian Whittaker, and Leslie Dilley are among the greatest in film history. They achieved an industrial, bulky technological aesthetic that has been oft-mimicked but rarely if ever matched.

Artist H.R. Giger’s bizarre and nightmarish aliens monsters are lightning-in-a-bottle creations. His art inspired the look and feel of Alien, even before he joined the production, and it’s impossible to overstate how important Giger’s involvement was to the ultimate success of the film. The creatures and alien ship had to not only live up to the promise of the rest of the film’s setup and delivery, but actually surpass it — everything we seen up to that point had to impress, and then the aliens had to blow it all away. Without the facehugger and xenomorph, Alien would simply not be Alien.

VFX artists and designers Brian Johnson and Nick Allder created effects that still hold up today. From the spaceships and alien planet to the flamethrowers and robotic fight sequence, Alien has as much verisimilitude in its most outrageous and fantastical moments as in its most grounded elements and scenes. The attention to detail ensures there’s no danger of losing the deep immersion in the story.

I found myself pausing the movie to marvel at the level of detail, of grit and grease and sweat in each frame. In such a consistent factory-style color palate, with sharp contrasts between workplace lighting and dark industrial halls — all pipes and wires and grated flooring — we get sudden bursts of red and purple light, of flares and mist.

Since I also rewatched Aliens in 4K UHD release, I want to note that one of the biggest advantages of the 4K remastering is that it brings Alien closer to the color and light of Alien, and the more comparable colors and shadows reveals a lot more subtle similarities (likely intentional) between the way similar scenes were lit, colored, and filmed in both movies — the cafeteria scenes, for example.

Alien in 4K UHD is the right way to honor the film’s 45th anniversary, and to prepare for the arrival of the much-anticipated Alien: Romulus, a direct sequel to the first film. Four and a half decades later, we still can’t wait to return for more terror.

‘Alien’ 45th Anniversary: Reviewing The Sci-Fi Horror Classic New 4K Release (2024)


‘Alien’ 45th Anniversary: Reviewing The Sci-Fi Horror Classic New 4K Release? ›

Since I also rewatched Aliens in 4K UHD release, I want to note that one of the biggest advantages of the 4K remastering is that it brings Alien closer to the color and light of Alien, and the more comparable colors and shadows reveals a lot more subtle similarities (likely intentional) between the way similar scenes ...

Is Aliens 4K worth it? ›

The Ultra High-Definition Disc release of Aliens is exceptional, though the grain situation, or rather the lack of pronounced grain compared to how we've seen this film in the past, will cause (and already has caused) consternation.

Does Alien 4K have Dolby Vision? ›

Not only does that detail remain, it too has been “enhanced” algorithmically. The image has then been graded for high dynamic range, with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 available.

Which version of Alien is better? ›

The director's cut is shorter than the theatrical cut and has a faster pace, but it didn't drastically alter the film. Despite the changes, Ridley Scott considers the theatrical release to be the true version of Alien and the preferred viewing experience.

Is there an aliens 4K Blu Ray? ›

Aliens (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital Code) - Walmart.com.

What is 4K HDR10 vs 4K Dolby Vision? ›

Beyond more vivid colors, Dolby Vision does something else that sets it apart from HDR10: dynamic metadata. You can think of the HDR metadata as an embedded instruction manual for hardware screens — TV, mobile, or computer — telling them how to display the image.

Is Aliens 4K delayed? ›

However, the Aliens movie on 4K Blu-ray disc which is supposed to have an official release date of 3-12-2024 according to both Blu-ray.com and Amazon's website, is showing on the Walmart website an official release date of 3-19-2024 after login in and not even shipped out yet.

Do all 4K HDMI cables support Dolby Vision? ›

Check your HDMI cable

4K video, especially HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision, requires an HDMI cable compatible with these formats. Apple recommends HDMI cables that have the Compatible Dolby Vision mark as they have been tested with Apple TV 4K and a wide range of TVs.

What year is Alien set in? ›

5. Alien. The events of the original horror masterpiece take place in 2122, which puts only 18 years between it and Covenant. Of course, this being the movie that started it all, everything in Alien stands on its own.

Did aliens use CGI? ›

All of the visuals shown on the computer screens on the Nostromo's bridge are computer-generated imagery (CGI). The staff used CGI because it was easier than any alternative. For scenes showing the exterior of the Nostromo, a 58-foot (18 m) landing leg was constructed to give a sense of the ship's size.

Is Alien being rebooted? ›

20th Century Studios recently revealed the trailer for Alien: Romulus, the new entry in this legendary franchise. Federico Álvarez, the director of the Evil Dead remake, will direct this film, which will release in August of this year with a whole new cast. These are five games that match the movie's atmosphere.

Is 4K really that much better? ›

A 4K monitor offers a higher resolution than a standard 1080p monitor, resulting in sharper and more detailed visuals. This can enhance the gaming experience, especially for games with intricate graphics and textures.

Is 4K worth the extra money? ›

4K content is becoming more widely available, but it's still far from becoming the new norm and replacing 1080p. But as long as you have the right internet speed to use 4K technology, there's no reason to avoid 4K TVs. That said, it's not worth paying extra until more 4K content is available.

Are 4K movies really 4K? ›

4K delivers precisely four times the pixels of 2K. 2K digital cinema provides an image container roughly 2000 pixels across (2048 x 1080 or 2.2 million pixels). 4K digital cinema doubles those dimensions to 4096 x 2160. This equals 8.8 million pixels, exactly four times the count of 2K projection.

Is Toy Story 4K worth it? ›

The Toy Story 4 4K Blu-ray's picture delivers a slightly inconsistent but sometimes gorgeous upgrade over the HD Blu-ray. The extra features add up to a pretty decent package. And while its Dolby Atmos track isn't reference grade, it's still a step up from the 5.1 mix you get on the HD Blu-ray.

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