'Alien' at 40: Ripley's Still the Most Kick-Ass Civilian in Movie History

Sigourney Weaver kicks ass as Ripley in the original 1979 "Alien." (Fox)

"Alien" has just been reissued on a new 4K UHD edition that's one of the finest upgrades released for the still-new format. Ridley Scott's sci-fi/horror classic looks incredible. The restoration keeps the original film grain intact but brings out color and shadow that no one's probably seen since the original prints were new in 1979.

"Alien" is one of the scariest movies of all time and follows a commercial spaceship as it picks up strange cargo at a previously unscheduled stop on its return to Earth. Tom Skerritt is the captain, and Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm are the crew.

Ridley is the only crew member who keeps a level head as the ship's alien stowaway starts picking off the crew members one by one. The deaths are gruesome, the creature slimy and the whole thing has a kind of pervy vibe that no filmmaker would dare attempt in 2019 (unless you count "Prometheus," Scott's own "Alien" prequel from 2012).

Weaver predates Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone's later turns in the military sci-fi genre, and none of them really matches her strength, determination and resourcefulness. It's taken almost four decades, but we're finally starting to see other women get the chance to kick ass in action movies.

Noted sci-fi artist H.R. Giger was brought on to design the creature and won an Oscar for his efforts. "Alien" was made in the last days before digital manipulation revolutionized special effects, and the design here is extraordinary, delivering imagery that CGI has yet to match.

Also incredible is the set design. The ship is cramped and creepy, but the details are magic. Along with Scott's next masterpiece "Blade Runner," "Alien" features a level of practical world-building that may only be matched by the original "Star Wars," the version before George Lucas decided to "fix" things.

Speaking of "fixing" things, Scott has his own history with final edits that take place years after the movie's released. With both "Blade Runner" and "Kingdom of Heaven," those repairs yielded definitive versions that tower over the originally released versions.

Scott also did a 2003 re-edit of "Alien" for a box set that included the sequels. He cut some footage and added some in for a new version that has almost the same running time. It's nice for fans, but Scott has said the original version is his preferred cut, and he's right.

This release includes both the 1979 and 2003 versions in 4K. There's a Ridley Scott commentary recorded in 1999 and another one with Scott, cast and crew done for the 2003 version.

The 4K comes with a Blu-ray and digital version. The digital version includes hours of bonus material that was originally exclusive to the "Alien" box set.

"Alien" is a masterpiece and a movie that's just as scary today as when it first hit theaters. This 4K version is spectacular and a must-own for anyone who's made the investment in the gear to watch it.

 

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