Aliens Digital UHD Review

3.5 Stars High adrenaline rush
Aliens Digital Review

Aliens, James Cameron’s adrenaline-rush sequel to Ridley Scott’s haunted house in space original, makes its 4K digital debut. However, only the theatrical cut gets the 4K treatment at this time.

Aliens (1986)
Released: 18 Jul 1986
Rated: R
Runtime: 137 min
Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser
Writer(s): James Cameron (story), David Giler (story), Walter Hill (story), Dan O'Bannon (characters), Ronald Shusett (characters), James Cameron (screenplay)
Plot: The planet from Alien (1979) has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough?
IMDB rating: 8.4
MetaScore: 87

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr. 17 Min.
Package Includes: Digital Copy
Case Type: N/A
Disc Type: Other
Region: A
Release Date: 12/12/2023
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

Fifty-seven years after defeating and escaping from the alien that killed the entire crew of the Nostromo, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is discovered floating in space by a salvage team. After being debriefed and her findings pretty much ignored, the company begins to take her seriously when all communications with a colony assigned to terraform a distant planet in the same quadrant as the Nostromo suddenly cease. A platoon of Marines are assigned to check out the planet, and Burke (Paul Reiser), the company representative, offers Ripley a chance to join the mission as consultant and be re-instated as part of her compensation. At first, Ripley refuses to go, but the nightmares of her experiences aboard the Nostromo combined with the fact that the colony consists of several families who may be in danger convinces her otherwise, along with Burke’s promise that if the terrifying aliens are found that they would be destroyed.

Aliens was only James Cameron’s third film as a director (following Piranha II: The Spawning for which he was fired from and the surprise sleeper hit The Terminator which he wrote and directed), but used much of what he learned from working in the visual effects department at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures to craft what he described as being more of a roller coaster ride compared to Ridley Scott’s haunted house original, Alien. The movie is a slow burn for the first thirty minutes or so as the Marines make their way in outer space to the planet colony (think of it as the line queue at a theme park), and kicks into high gear when Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson exclaims “We’re on an express elevator to hell, going down!” as they descend to the planet. Aliens is a terrific blend of science fiction, horror, and action genres, and is the apex of the Alien franchise. James Cameron was offered the chance to recut the film in 1990, running an additional seventeen minutes that adds more character development to Ripley and her relationship with Hicks (Michael Biehn). At the time of this writing, only the theatrical cut has been included in 4K, with the special edition only available as a special feature in HD.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Aliens was photographed and completed on 35mm film in the 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. For this release, additional clean up and processing to the film was completed by Park Road Post in New Zealand to create a new 4K digital intermediate. It was then graded using Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range, all under the supervision of director James Cameron. Disney has released this new 4K version of the theatrical cut to PVOD platforms on December 12, 2023, with a physical media release due in March 2024.

Much of the heavy grain seen on previous home video releases has been reduced, although there is still a noticeable level of fine grain visible. The image contains a high level of detail including fabric and wall textures. Colors are vivid and do not appear overly saturated, and has less of an overall bluish tone that was found on previous releases. Black levels are deep and inky with strong shadow detail. However, some of the matte paintings and front projection effects are a bit more obvious in this 4K upgrade.

Your best experience can be found on the Apple TV app, particularly on an Apple TV 4K device, which is devoid of any noticeable compression artifacts. The Apple TV app on non-Apple devices and Movies Anywhere are a close second, appearing a tad darker but again no noticeable compression artifacts. Vudu is a distant third, whose encode did exhibit some instances of banding. All of the above are in Dolby Vision and HDR10. At the time of this writing, Prime Video only offers an older HD transfer.

Audio: 4.5/5

Aliens has always had an impressive sound mix, from its theatrical 70mm 6-track Dolby and 35mm 2-channel matrixed Dolby Surround to its stereo surround LaserDisc and VHS mixes and through to its 5.1 mixes for DVD and Blu-ray. Now in Dolby Atmos (with a Dolby Digital+ 5.1 core) for this digital release, it is even more immersive than ever before. This is a wider, more intense mix with beefy LFE to better accentuate explosions and crashes and give James Horner’s excellent score an even more impressive low end. The Apple TV app on an Apple TV 4K device sounds like it has a wider dynamic range than found on the same app on non-Apple TV devices or Movies Anywhere and Vudu.

Special Features: 4/5

Apple TV appears to have the motherlode, while Prime Video is movie-only.

Apple TV (only on Apple TV devices)
Aliens: Special Edition (1080p; 2 hrs. 35 mins.): The 1990 special edition cut in HD and 5.1 audio, sourced from the new 4K remaster, yet only the theatrical cut is provided (as of this writing) in 4K across all platforms.

James Cameron Introduction (SD; 0:35): Cameron’s brief audio introduction to the special edition cut with production stills. Interestingly, he notes that this is his preferred version of the film, yet only the theatrical cut is provided (as of this writing) in 4K across all platforms.

2003 Special Edition Audio Commentary: An edited assemblage of talent before and behind the camera: director James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, effects artists Stan Winston, Robert Skotak, Dennis Skotak, and Pat McClung, and co-stars Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn. As with all of these edited tracks, prime information is provided with very little dead time, so fans will savor this if they haven’t heard it already.

The Inspiration and Design of “Aliens” (1080p; 30:55): Created for the film’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Cameron discusses his love of Ridley Scott’s original, how he became involved in the project, and his inspirations for the film.

2003 Theatrical Edition Audio Commentary: Nearly identical to the special edition commentary with the same participants.

Final Theatrical Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.): As the title says, James Horner’s music score in its final form.

Composer’s Original Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.): James Horner’s original intentions for the score before last minute editing to the final theatrical cut.

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” (SD; 3 hrs. 5 mins.): A highly detailed look at the making of the film.

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” Enhancement Pods (SD; 59:10): If the above documentary wasn’t enough, 25 additional short featurettes are included that cover everything else such as test footage, props, and a salute to the late Stan Winston.

Preproduction: Includes a text slideshow of James Cameron’s original story treatment, pre-visualization vidoematics (SD; 3:17), storyboard archive, The Art of “Aliens” gallery, and Cast Protrait Gallery.

Production: Includes Production Image Gallery, Continuity Polaroids Gallery, Weapons and Vehicles Gallery, Stan Winston’s Workshop Gallery, Colonial Marine Helmet Camera Feeds (SD; 5:08), Video Graphics Gallery (SD; 4:06) and Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers (SD; 3:38).

Post Production and Aftermath: Includes Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes from Special Edition (HD; 20:40), Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned (SD; 1:33), Deleted Scene Montage (SD; 4:08), Image Galleries (Visual Effects, Music Recordings, Premiere, Special Shoot), Main Title Exploration (SD; 3:01) and Trailers (SD; 5:08).

Movies Anywhere
James Cameron Introduction (SD; 0:35)

Aliens: Special Edition (1080p; 2 hrs. 35 mins.)

2003 Special Edition Audio Commentary

The Inspiration and Design of “Aliens” (1080p; 30:55)

2003 Theatrical Edition Audio Commentary

Final Theatrical Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.)

Composer’s Original Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.)

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” (SD; 3 hrs. 5 mins.)

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” Enhancement Pods (SD; 59:10)

Pre-Visualization Vidoematics (SD; 3:17)

Colonial Marine Helmet Camera Feeds (SD; 5:08)

Video Graphics Gallery (SD; 4:06)

Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers (SD; 3:38)

Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes from Special Edition (HD; 20:40)

Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned (SD; 1:33)

Deleted Scene Montage (SD; 4:08)

Main Title Exploration (SD; 3:01)

Trailers (SD; 5:08)

Vudu
James Cameron Introduction (SD; 0:35)

Aliens: Special Edition (1080p; 2 hrs. 35 mins.)

2003 Special Edition Audio Commentary

The Inspiration and Design of “Aliens” (1080p; 30:55)

2003 Theatrical Edition Audio Commentary

Final Theatrical Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.)

Composer’s Original Isolated Score (HD; 2 hrs. 17 mins.)

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” (SD; 3 hrs. 5 mins.)

Superior Firepower: Making “Aliens” Enhancement Pods (SD; 59:10)

Production Footage (SD; 12:54): Includes  Pre-Visualization Vidoematics, Colonial Marine Helmet Camera Feeds, Video Graphics Gallery and Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers.

Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes from Special Edition (HD; 20:40)

Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned (SD; 1:33)

Deleted Scene Montage (SD; 4:08)

Main Title Exploration (SD; 3:01)

Trailers (SD; 5:08)

Overall: 3.5/5

Seeing Aliens in 4K with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos is a treat, although it would have been nice if the Special Edition cut had been included in the same formats (although the studio has indicated that they are working on getting that included).

The Abyss, Aliens and True Lies will be available in 4K Ultra UHD for the first time ever on December 12 at digital retailers and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc March 12, 2024. Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water Collector’s Editions will also be available at digital retailers December 12 and on Blu-ray December 19.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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Michael Osadciw

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I'm very disappointed with all these Cameron releases. Not new 4K scans from OCNs (some are confirmed 2K scans of the OCN) and then AI-applied processing for depth and detail based on what AI believes to be detail after grain has been stripped away. I can't watch this. It's just too noticable. It feels wrong. Makes me wish Arrow Video got a hold of the OCNs and just did their magic.
 

Tino

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Great review Todd. I think it looks great too. Not perfect but the best it has ever looked. 👍
 

Wes Candela

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I'm very disappointed with all these Cameron releases. Not new 4K scans from OCNs (some are confirmed 2K scans of the OCN) and then AI-applied processing for depth and detail based on what AI believes to be detail after grain has been stripped away. I can't watch this. It's just too noticable. It feels wrong. Makes me wish Arrow Video got a hold of the OCNs and just did their magic.
So many people dislike the latest 4K. Cameron releases because of the digital noise reduction.
I watched aliens last night and Dolby vision, and Dolby Atmos
I loved it.
It's clean, details of never seen come across Sterling clean now and the presentation makes it look like a brand new film. I don't understand why people have such an issue.
 

Michael Osadciw

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I would say some people. A vocal minority. The majority of viewers, like myself, are thrilled with this new 4K transfer. It looks and sounds tremendous
It's for this reason that "remastering" music albums is popular on mostly older albums to make them sound louder like dynamically-compressed current mastering practices. During the remastering effort, the wide dynamic range that many albums once had is flattened to sound loud all the time. Most people either don't know or don't take care to notice the audio tricks used to grab attention, so all streaming sites are adding "remastered" editions of older albums without the original mix available. Finding an earlier CD release may be the only way to hear the original mix/master. Remixes like Pink Floyd's Animals is a great example of going back to the multi-tracks and remixing the album on modern playback equipment while maintaining the dynamic range of the original release. The results sound brilliant and is akin to going back the the film's OCN and using the most up-to-date technology to preserve the film for viewing with the understanding that it was captured on film and has a different look than a digital camera.

What's happening with these Cameron releases feels too similar; taking a 2K scan, stripping out the grain and applying AI to fill in perceived detail and creating a 4K scan from that is like that of a remastering effort for music. Tweaks to the available (2K) source to give the impression of new detail is not the same as working on an reconstructing from the ground up. While I'm sure the efforts here were considerable with these Cameron releases, it's a pity to a considerable number of people (not some) who appreciate and value what's being done on restoring other films with fresh 4K or 6K scans of OCNs and preserving the look of the medium it was captured on. If it were only "some people", then the praise we give to Kino Lorber, Arrow Video, and Shout Factory, and all the other emerging boutique labels would go to the wind and those companies would shut down without a customer base to serve.
 
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dpippel

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Well, I decided to rent this from Apple and watched it this morning. I used the latest generation ATV4K with a 250 Mbps internet connection and a 77" LG G3 OLED panel (calibrated to the best of my ability with Spears & Munsil). The 4K streaming version of Aliens certainly does not look like film. Depending on the scene, there's VERY little to zero grain, as has been reported. To my eyes, it looks like it was shot on video for most of its runtime. While not as bad as 4K T2, it definitely shares much of the same DNA.

I'm very interested to see how much the disc release will improve things, if at all. Quite disappointing.
 

Tino

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It's for this reason that "remastering" music albums is popular on mostly older albums to make them sound louder like dynamically-compressed current mastering practices. During the remastering effort, the wide dynamic range that many albums once had is flattened to sound loud all the time. Most people either don't know or don't take care to notice the audio tricks used to grab attention, so all streaming sites are adding "remastered" editions of older albums without the original mix available. Finding an earlier CD release may be the only way to hear the original mix/master. Remixes like Pink Floyd's Animals is a great example of going back to the original master multi-tracks and remixing the album on modern playback equipment while maintaining the dynamic range of the original release. The results sound brilliant and is akin to going back the the film's OCN and using the most up-to-date technology to preserve the film for viewing with the understanding that it was captured on film and has a different look that a digital camera.

What's happening with these Cameron releases feels too similar; taking a 2K scan, stripping out the grain and applying AI to fill in perceived detail and creating a 4K scan from that is like that of a remastering effort for music. Tweaks to the available (2K) source to give the impression of new detail is not the same as working on a reconstructing from the ground up. While I'm sure the efforts here were considerable with these Cameron releases, it's a pity to a considerable number of people (not some) who appreciate and value what's being done on restoring other films with fresh 4K or 6K scans of OCNs and preserving the look of the medium it was captured on. If it were only "some people", then the praise we give to Kino Lorber, Arrow Video, and Shout Factory, and all the other emerging boutique labels would go to the wind and those companies would shut down without a customer base to serve.
I hear what you’re saying Michael but I disagree with your opinion. I still think it’s some people and certainly not the majority. Sorry you ( and Doug!) were disappointed. 🙁
 

Wes Candela

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I would say some people. A vocal minority. The majority of viewers, like myself, are thrilled with this new 4K transfer. It looks and sounds tremendous

The amount of people of discussed Cameron‘s transfers with, tore them to shreds because there’s not enough Film Grain.

the films now look to “clean”

what?

I think they look beautiful, as you do. I’ve just been noticing the arguments.

I haven’t been noticing the arguments on here mind you at Home Theater Forum

But other forums, I go to other social media sites I visit are tearing them to shreds.

just saying
 

Wes Candela

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I'm very disappointed with all these Cameron releases. Not new 4K scans from OCNs (some are confirmed 2K scans of the OCN) and then AI-applied processing for depth and detail based on what AI believes to be detail after grain has been stripped away. I can't watch this. It's just too noticable. It feels wrong. Makes me wish Arrow Video got a hold of the OCNs and just did their magic.
I am glad they did not. I love the new transfer.
I'm seeing this movie for the 50th time and I'm noticing things I've never noticed before

It looks so damn clean

Whatever technology, they used is fantastic in my book
 

Wes Candela

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It's for this reason that "remastering" music albums is popular on mostly older albums to make them sound louder like dynamically-compressed current mastering practices. During the remastering effort, the wide dynamic range that many albums once had is flattened to sound loud all the time. Most people either don't know or don't take care to notice the audio tricks used to grab attention, so all streaming sites are adding "remastered" editions of older albums without the original mix available. Finding an earlier CD release may be the only way to hear the original mix/master. Remixes like Pink Floyd's Animals is a great example of going back to the multi-tracks and remixing the album on modern playback equipment while maintaining the dynamic range of the original release. The results sound brilliant and is akin to going back the the film's OCN and using the most up-to-date technology to preserve the film for viewing with the understanding that it was captured on film and has a different look than a digital camera.

What's happening with these Cameron releases feels too similar; taking a 2K scan, stripping out the grain and applying AI to fill in perceived detail and creating a 4K scan from that is like that of a remastering effort for music. Tweaks to the available (2K) source to give the impression of new detail is not the same as working on an reconstructing from the ground up. While I'm sure the efforts here were considerable with these Cameron releases, it's a pity to a considerable number of people (not some) who appreciate and value what's being done on restoring other films with fresh 4K or 6K scans of OCNs and preserving the look of the medium it was captured on. If it were only "some people", then the praise we give to Kino Lorber, Arrow Video, and Shout Factory, and all the other emerging boutique labels would go to the wind and those companies would shut down without a customer base to serve.
Well…
Yeah, I don't know that I agree with this assessment.

Preserving dynamic range in audio, doing proper remastering like mobile Fidelity sound lab does… There are audio files like myself out there that will not accept brick walled " loudness war " releases of albums.
when I look at the new remasters of the James Cameron movies
What I am seeing is detail, I've never seen before noise that was inherent to the film removed without destroying the image

we can talk about the loudness wars and what the streaming sites are doing to music anytime

but that's not comparable to what James Cameron is doing to his films in 4K in my book

by the way, I'm the audio note, check out Mobile Fidelity sound labs if you don't know about it already.
It's the only place I go for my remasters

They keep the dynamic range intact. Their work is incredible.
 

Wes Candela

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Well, I decided to rent this from Apple and watched it this morning. I used the latest generation ATV4K with a 250 Mbps internet connection and a 77" LG G3 OLED panel (calibrated to the best of my ability with Spears & Munsil). The 4K streaming version of Aliens certainly does not look like film. Depending on the scene, there's VERY little to zero grain, as has been reported. To my eyes, it looks like it was shot on video for most of its runtime. While not as bad as 4K T2, it definitely shares much of the same DNA.

I'm very interested to see how much the disc release will improve things, if at all. Quite disappointing.
I watched the same version on my Apple TV 4K with one gigabyte up and down Verizon FiOS connection
on a 77 inch Sony OLED television (A80J)
and listen to it in Dolby Atmos

and I was rocked.
The fact that it is clean, and you can still see the sweat and water on peoples faces, the pours the detail on the militaries outfits, the very clear detail of the aliens work to the Substation where the Marines first see the colonists

All the way to the queen

To me, it was a revelation to see at this clear
And at the same time to not lose detail

this must come down to matter of preference at this point.
The film grain has been taken away, and I love it
Because what is left is a bright luminous image

But I can completely understand why purist are getting upset
this is not a straight up scan of the original camera negative

this has been touched up to yield an image that James Cameron find satisfactory.
And in James Cameron, I trust
 

dpippel

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I'm glad you like it, but to me it looks like 60fps video most of the time, almost as if the motion smoothing setting on my display is turned on (it is disabled). There's also a waxiness to it that comes and goes. It does not look like film. But, as has been mentioned many times, this is what Cameron wanted. I just find that disappointing, especially considering that Aliens is one of my favorite films. I may not even buy the disc release and will just pick up the stream at some point down the road when it's cheap.
 

Robert Crawford

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I'm glad you like it, but to me it looks like 60fps video most of the time, almost as if the motion smoothing setting on my display is turned on (it is disabled). There's also a waxiness to it that comes and goes. It does not look like film. But, as has been mentioned many times, this is what Cameron wanted. I just find that disappointing, especially considering that Aliens is one of my favorite films. I may not even buy the disc release and will just pick up the stream at some point down the road when it's cheap.
I watched the movie in its entirety this morning and I thought it looked great on my OLED. I didn't notice any waxiness and I was looking out for it. I can't wait to own the 4K/UHD because then I can see the director's cut in 4K/Dolby Vision.
 

dpippel

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I watched the movie in its entirety this morning and I thought it looked great on my OLED. I didn't notice any waxiness and I was looking out for it. I can't wait to own the 4K/UHD because then I can see the director's cut in 4K/Dolby Vision.
I find it interesting that there are such diametrically opposed opinions about this title. I wanted to love it, really I did. ;)
 
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