Alien Nation - Ultimate Movie Collection

Format: Box set, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
English, Spanish
1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs:
20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date:
April 15, 2008
Run Time:
447 minutes



The 1988 Alien Nation movie starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin which "inspired" the series of the same name and these made-for-TV movies could be best summed up as Lethal Weapon, but with aliens.

It was a prime example of what can be described as "fake" sci-fi: the basic concept would have worked without any of its sci-fi trappings. To recap: an alien space ship containing hundreds of thousands of aliens bred for slave labor crash-lands on Earth.

The aliens (or "Newcomers" as they are referred to in the movie) have no way of going home, even if they wanted to and must stay on Earth becoming Los Angeles' latest minority group in the process. It is an interesting concept, but the movie preferred to be a typical mismatched buddy / cop action movie. Had the human cop played by James Caan been teamed with some other minority group member such as, let's say, a Hispanic or African American the net effect would have been pretty much the same. The movie really never fleshed out the concept or had much fun with it.

With more running time at its disposal the 1989-1990 TV series however played around more with the ideas afforded them by the basic concept, preferring to focus on its various characters instead of violent action. Unfortunately the series was cancelled after only one season, but the storyline was continued in five made-for-TV movies featuring the same cast and characters.

The movies are:

Dark Horizon - aired 10/25/1994
Body and Soul - aired 10/10/1995
Millennium - aired 01/02/1996
The Enemy Within - aired 11/12/1996
The Udara Legacy - aired 07/29/1997

The movies are somewhat dated now. The haircuts and fashions particularly in the first movie are quite jarring and feels like an 'Eighties left-over even though it was only made in 1994. Also, the movie titled Millennium which aired in 1996 was set in the then future year of 1999 shortly before the start of the new millennium (as one character correctly points out, the new millennium actually kicked off only in 2001). The effects, particularly of CGI space ships and the like, are bad. Despite this, they have much more fun with the original concept and it becomes a potent, if somewhat over-obvious, metaphor for issues such as racism, xenophobia, bigotry and so on.

Don't fret however: these movies are never as heavy as it may sound and the moralizing never feels forced. Part of why the movies still work is because of their focus on the various characters and human (or is that alien?) interaction. A light sense of humor also pervades the series. Even when the plotting seems mundane - Udara Legacy (the last movie) tiresomely rehashes the old Manchurian Candidate plot line for instance - the acting and human interest pulls it through. In one movie, Body and Soul, the subplot (of interspecies sex) is actually more entertaining than the main plot involving dodgy genetic experimentation involving Newcomer technology.

Even though Dark Horizon picks up where the TV series stopped, newcomers to the show (no pun intended) won't feel left behind and will easily catch up on events. It is however recommended that you view the movies in the sequence they were aired.

THE DISCS: All five movies are presented in their original 1.33:1 full screen TV aspect ratio on three discs. Two of the discs are double-sided and contain a movie on each side. Only Dark Horizon is presented on a single-sided disc. All the movies feature photo galleries and an audio commentary track by show writer / director / creator Kenneth Johnson. It is a pity that some of the cast members don't join him for these talks, but Johnson's talks are interesting even though you'll probably end up with a lot more info on Alien Nation than you would have liked. His memory is quite clear though, and he supplies some interesting info on low-budget film-making. In one scene for instance a small set is made to look like a long corridor by making a character walk down it twice using through different angles and some clever editing.

WORTH IT? Entertaining in a there's nothing else on right now way, these Alien Nation movies make for decent rentals. Fans of the show would want to buy them.



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