James Cameron | Why do the 4K disc covers look like… that?

James Cameron 4K cover artwork Aliens The Abyss True Lies
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We can’t wait for the 4K disc releases of James Cameron classics Aliens, The Abyss and True Lies. But don’t the covers look a bit odd? We take a closer look.

Film fans have waited what has felt like an eternity to get 4K releases of James Cameron’s The Abyss and True Lies. Then, word finally got around earlier in November that those films, along with Cameron’s 1986 masterpiece Aliens, are all coming out on (deep breath) 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in March 2024.

This is, of course, good news. The Abyss and True Lies are particularly exciting, since they famously have never had a HD disc release – so for a generation of movie lovers, this will be their first chance to see those movies in all their crisp, high-def glory.

At the risk of sounding unfairly negative, though, we can’t help wondering whether the cover artwork for these releases is a little… lacking?

Cameron’s a famously exacting filmmaker – which might partly explain why it’s taken so long for a remaster of The Abyss to appear in the first place – so it’s a little surprising that he (presumably) signed off on this trio of covers.

The cover for Aliens is particularly odd. Judging by the copious amounts of film grain everywhere, it’s evidently been composited together from various shots from the movie itself, which have then been generously overpainted in Photoshop.

Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn’s eyes, in particular, have clearly been given the airbrush treatment – it’s easy to tell because they’re the parts of the image that lack the heavy film grain seen elsewhere. Shots of alien eggs, the Queen, and what might be a xenomorph’s snapping jaws have all been hastily comped together in the background, and then a layer of digital sparks or burning embers have been applied over the top to give it a bit of teal-and-orange unity.

Even without all the retouching, it’s an awkwardly-composed image, with the characters’ faces too far up and to the left, while the film title sort of floats apologetically in the middle. There’s no obvious sense of danger, either: Henn looks mildly concerned, while Weaver looks as though she’s squinting at a departure board and wondering whether or not her train was cancelled.

The cover’s clearly modelled on the 1986 theatrical poster, which also showed Ripley in the middle of rescuing Newt from the Queen’s nest. Where that shot was filled with atmosphere and suspense, though, the new 4K cover leaves only questions. One of them being: couldn’t anyone find the time to cut out the bit of background beneath Ripley’s pulse rifle? Perplexingly, it’s the brightest spot in the entire image.

The new cover for The Abyss fares better, its colour palette echoing the bioluminescent undersea world Cameron crafted for his original film. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s been given the airbrush treatment, though, and we’re sure neither she nor Ed Harris had quite such bushy hair in the movie itself. Bonus points for sneaking in Michael Biehn and his moustache, though.

True Lies’ cover might just be the most confusing of the lot.

Unlike the other two covers, it’s clearly been taken from an original publicity shot of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis from the film’s original 1994 release (you can see a comparison below). Rather than use it as-is, however (which would have been fine, if a little bland), the artists have done something far more strange: they’ve composited what must be someone else’s body on top.

The artists did this, presumably, so they could create the visual gag of Schwarzenegger blithely tossing a hand grenade in the air. It doesn’t really work, though – partly because it looks more like the grenade is being held aloft using Sith mind powers, and also because Jamie Lee Curtis seems completely oblivious to the explosive device hanging right in front of her.

(Presumably, the artists couldn’t find a model with a white suit that would match the one in the original film and photo shoot, either.)

Maybe we’re being a bit too hard on these poor covers, though. Who knows what kind of time constraints the people behind them were under, or how many times the artwork had to go back and forth between executives and marketing departments – each making little amendments along the way – before they were eventually signed off.

As Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.”

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