Earlier this year, a very interesting and very enlightening article about Hollywood’s ridiculous obsession with the colors teal and orange made the rounds through the blogosphere. I’ll be damned if every word in it isn’t true. I very much agree that this modern trend in film color grading is extremely annoying. Sadly, major filmmakers have fallen for the craze, and they’re even retroactively imposing it on their older movies. The latest victim: James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’.
I’ll admit, a couple of months back I wrote a post here fretting about an interview James Cameron gave which stated that the new Blu-ray master for ‘Aliens’ had been “completely de-grained” – buzzwords that imply excessive Digital Noise Reduction. At its worst, this type of de-graining results in an ugly and unnaturally rubbery picture, such as what happened to the atrocious ‘Predator: Ulimate Hunter Edition‘ Blu-ray. Fortunately, my paranoia on that subject proved largely unfounded.
It seems that Cameron’s use of that phrase was misleading at best. I have to assume that the director was just throwing out buzzwords he thought would appeal to a non-techie audience. Although I’m not reviewing it for this site, I am in the process of reviewing the ‘Alien Anthology‘ Blu-ray set for one of my other jobs. I’ve watched ‘Aliens’, and it doesn’t look DNR’ed at all. The picture’s sharpness, detail, and clarity are downright amazing. While the movie’s still grainy, it’s no longer swamped in grain the way previous video transfers were. The grain structure looks much more reasonable and appropriate.
On the other hand, it turns out that another part of that interview is what I really should have been worried about. Specifically:
I just did a complete remaster of Aliens personally, with the same colorist I worked with on Avatar… [We] color-corrected it end to end, every frame.
Indeed, he did. In the past, Cameron often favored a “steely” blue color palette in his movies. ‘Aliens’ was one of his signature pictures in that regard. It was a very blue movie. But no longer. The color grading has now been completely revised so that, from the point that the Colonial Marines arrive on planet LV-426 forward, literally every single shot of the movie is teal. Every. Single. Shot. There’s of course a fair amount of orange thrown in for contrast, but there are few other colors beyond those anymore. The amount of teal in the movie is just off-the-charts absurd. Once you notice it, you can’t stop noticing it. I found it terribly distracting.
I’m really conflicted on this one, and am not sure what grade I should give the disc’s video quality. From a technical perspective, the transfer is fantastic. Yet, aesthetically, I find it just plain hideous. Really, I’m kind of sickened by it. Perhaps it’s not quite as bad as what William Friedkin did to ‘The French Connection‘, but it’s honestly not far removed.
Ah well, at least ‘Alien’ looks great. That goes a long way.Dammit, I just went back to rewatch the first ‘Alien’, and it’s inundated with teal and orange too. Perhaps not as badly as ‘Aliens’, but there’s a ton of teal all through the movie. I don’t know how I missed this the first time.