Comparison between the Director's Cut on the 4K Blu-ray and the Director's Cut on the Blu-ray (2010 / also included in the new 4K set).
ALIEN: Theatrical version & Director's Cut on 4K Blu-ray for the first time
Ridley Scott's great science fiction classic Alien doesn’t need an introduction, too iconic is its footprint in cinematic history. So let's get straight to the reason for this comparison: On April 18, 2019, the film was released on 4K Blu-ray for the first time. Here, both versions are included in the set and the Director's Cut has a few differences compared to the DC on previous DVD/Blu-ray releases. This is by no means a "new" Director's Cut, instead, some more inconspicuous adjustments were overlooked to reconstruct them correctly for the UHD medium.
Unfortunately, to explain the differences, only the theatrical version has been restored in 4K. The DC is also available in 4K, but the DC inserts were probably upscaled from a 1080p source and then edited or adapted with HDR. Admittedly, both versions already looked very good on the Blu-ray release from 2010, so that untrained eyes may not even notice the qualitative difference in these moments and even the added value of the UHD premiere is barely noticeable with the help of image comparisons. However, it is definitely present and additional sharpness/details and even small HDR effects ensure that the cult film has never looked so good, especially with the many visually impressive space shots.
Forgotten Director's Cut adjustments on 4K Blu-ray
As described, the DC was reconstructed from native 4K material of the theatrical version and inserts. For the most part, that work was done properly. The frame is exactly identical and all additional scenes of the Director's Cut as well as the many cuts there have been faithfully reproduced. Of course, the soundtracks could also be recycled 1:1 and the changed sound effects were also correctly adopted.
Unfortunately, a few short moments were ignored when optical adjustments were made for the DC. At that time, the stars were standardized in various shots for the DC and thus quasi film errors were corrected, since this was missing in some shots of the theatrical version. For the 4K Blu-ray, on the other hand, the scenes show the material from the theatrical version. It was certainly no earth-shattering change in the DC and so one can clearly say that this deviation should not deter any interested party from buying the 4K disc. But of course it's a pity that the studio basically got sloppy here.
For an overview of the differences between the theatrical version and Director's Cut, please visit our separate comparison that focuses on the additional material of the Director's Cut and the additional material of the theatrical version.
Timecodes are ordered as follows
4K Blu-ray / Regular Blu-ray
The 4K Blu-ray starts 2 sec earlier. Thatís insignificant, though.
A note on the introduction: Due to the HDR-SDR conversion of the 4K Blu-ray for the present comparison, a 100% faithful reproduction of the colors and general image quality is not possible. Showing the differences in the images is naturally the most important aspect of this article.
09:54-10:04 / 09:56-10:06
While Ripley contacts the earth by radio, the star field in the background was missing in the theatrical version when the Nostromo is shown for a second time. This film error was corrected for the Director's Cut on DVD and Blu-ray, but the DC on the 4K Blu-ray erroneously uses the theatrical versionís material again.
14:14-14:26 / 14:16-14:28
After the DC-exclusive conversation mentioned above, several stars (e.g. directly below the Nostromo) were added to another space shot. With the 4K-Blu-ray they are missing again or you get to see the shot from the theatrical version with fewer stars.
14:37-14:45 / 14:39-14:47
Already less conspicuous, but another instance nonetheless where the DC on the 4K-Blu-ray lacks a few added stars (as well as the original theatrical version). See, for example, right in the middle of the picture, just to the left of the Nostromo.
15:17-15:24 / 15:19-15:26
Furthermore, you can find some new stars in the correct DC. Top left directly above the Nostromo.
Note: In the further course of the movie, there are a few more such shots of star fields that occur in the theatrical version and on the 4K Blu-ray. Minute 53, 58 and 102 can be mentioned where one may perhaps miss some individual stars. Possibly, however, these are only unintentionally lost details during the digital processing.
15:53-16:10 / 15:55-16:12
The 92-degree rotation lacks the complete star field around the planet.
A note on the side: In the DC-exclusive scenes, a different detail is noticeable. The 4K Blu-ray is clearly further to the right. See e.g. several pictures of the long investigation of the signal in minute 13 as well as the scene in minute 37 where Lambert slaps Ripley in the face.