Review

Review

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) -- DVD review

More violent! Definitely R rated! Hardcore action / sci-fi / horror violence mayhem carnage craziness for the fans who felt really ripped off by Alien vs. Predator!!

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg

That's pretty much what we were promised when Fox announced that they were going ahead with an Alien vs. Predator 2. Apparently the first flick did just enough bank to warrant a second spin -- despite the fact that most of the action / sci-fi / horror fans (a crowd that's always eager to be pleased) thought the movie stunk like dead rodents. Much of the blame for AVP1's "failure" was tossed at the feet of the PG-13 rating ... as if a little extra gore and a pair of bare knockers would turn Alien vs. Predator into a great movie. Trust me, it wouldn't make a lick of difference -- and I know this for sure because I just experienced AVP2 for a second time, and here's what I can say "nice" about it: It's definitely more violent than the first flick. And that's about it.

As usual, we'll take a look back at some of my initial thoughts on the flick, but just some of the more insightful stuff ... which means this should be brief...

So here's the golden question: Does AVP2 succeed where AVP1 failed? Is it harsh and brutal and gory and jam-packed with ultra-carnage? Yeah, actually it is. So let's give co-directors Colin and Greg Krause their fair share of praise for delivering what the fans asked for: Mayhem. Unfortunately, the fraternal filmmakers should probably hold on to that one chunk of praise, because in every other department -- characterization, dialog, story logic, acting -- the sequel is every bit as sloppy as the first. Perhaps even moreso in some areas (I happen to think PWS Anderson is a pretty good visual stylist), and I find that pretty damn disappointing. I mean, how hard is it to make a non-boring movie about carnivorous ALIENS and invisible PREDATORS? Seems like it'd be a no-brainer, but after two half-hearted attempts, I'm thinking they should just give up already.

Here's your plot, straight out of 1955: A sleepy American town is overrun by two warring species from outer space. The ALIENS have escaped from a spaceship and have no problem getting comfortable here on Earth. The PREDATORS, apparently very meticulous about their hunting rituals, send one mega-hunter to Earth in an effort to clean up the mess. (I guess they're afraid we'd sue them if we found out an alien invasion was their fault.) Tossed into this tale of rubber monster vs. rubber monster we have a big, splintery ensemble full of wood. There's the ex-con who JUST got back into town, his trouble-making little brother, a sexy solider woman who JUST got back into town, a few stupid bullies who get theirs but good, a stunningly ineffectual sheriff, and a hot teenage girl who has a thing for the ex-con's brother....

Why we're supposed to care about any of these people is a massive mystery to me. And I can hear some of my gorehound brethren scoffing at me right now: "Oh please," you're thinking, "why the hell would we need character development in a movie like this?" To which I'd respond, "Alien, Aliens, and even Predator have interesting characters that serve to make the ridiculous stories seem just a little bit believable." That's why you keep re-watching those movies. With the cardboard cut-out characters we're given here (and, dear lord, the words they speak), all we're left with is a small handful of action / kill scenes, and only maybe 20% of those are worth a damn in the first place. The larger-scale mayhem that occurs in Act III is the best of the lot, but most of the alien/predator scenes are dimly lit, sloppily shot, and cut together quite confusingly. Plus they're both evil monsters who kill humans at every turn ... so who the hell are we rooting for here?

So I approached Viewing #2 with some different expectations: I opted to look at Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem like a cross between a 1950's monster movie and a 1980's slasher flick. I'd just kick back, enjoy the creatures and the carnage, and keep my brain set firmly on "enjoy." So obviously I tried -- but after two legitimate attempts, this awesome concept refuses to be an awesome movie. And the problems are pretty much the same in both movies: Flimsy characters we care nothing about, dimly-lit action scenes that confuse more than excite, and a bunch of scenes in which slimy CGI monsters whack the hell out of each other. Big woop. It's supposed to be a big deal that the aliens "finally" land on Earth, but aside from the disparate settings (one is a Mayan(?) temple and the other is a backwoods little town) both AVP flicks are almost identical.

Except for the nasty stuff, which the theatrical cut of AVP2 had in spades. But to throw a bunch of gore at a screenplay like this is like painting a barn that has no roof. Aside from the fleeting little moments of "eww, nasty" and "OK, that was pretty gross" (which certainly can be fun), the extra splatter adds very little besides ... extra splatter. (People still remember the "chest-burst" scene from the original Alien, so why can't these semi-sequel-makers take a few chances and create their OWN memorable moments?) Basically, if Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was a rock band, it'd be one of those mid-'60s groups that still tours (at very small venues) and sells a few tickets to the loyal fans who just dig the nostalgia. The difference is, those aging rockers generally try pretty hard. I don't really sense that sort of effort behind a flick like AVP2. So sure, ignore the faceless characters and the frequently indecipherable action bits; dig down deep for those few small moments of genre-flick gravy. This movie does have a few slick bits if you happen to be a fan of mindless action / sci-fi / horror concoctions ... but by this point the franchise is little more than a patchwork quilt of four Alien flicks, two Predators, an Alien vs. Predator, and more comic books, video games, and feverish fanboy expectations than any series can deal with. I'm glad someone is still pumping out matinee-style B-movie mish-mash flicks; I just wish the studios would loosen up and let their screenwriters cook up some new ideas for these slimy sci-fi beasts.

So if the first Alien vs. Predator: Unrated Edition is presently a tenant on your Guilty Pleasures DVD shelf, then of course you have to make it a matching set. And while the sequel might not be all that scintillating, the fans will be pleased to learn that (of course) the DVD is stocked. First off, we're getting an unrated cut that runs about seven minutes longer than the theatrical version. I won't spoil all the new touches, but some are actually character-centric (nice effort, at least) while others are (of course) extra goo and gore. The unrated cut is actually a slightly better film than the original, but it's a move of maybe D-plus to C-minus. If you REALLY have to know (very specifically) which scenes are new, you're in luck: The DVD comes with an option that flashes a big red icon on the screen whenever the "new stuff" is playing. Specs-wise, it's a very crisp (and very dark) anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer, with audio presented in DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround 5.1, Spanish 2.0, or French 2.0. (Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.)

Here's where it might get confusing. Your options are many where AVP2 is concerned. First off is the R-rated theatrical cut that no horror fan in her right mind would bother with, so who cares? Then there's the Unrated Edition, which comes as a single-disc if you buy the 2-disc AVP Unrated Pack (which comes with both AVP Unrated and AVP2 Unrated -- single-disc versions only), or as a 2-disc Special Edition which offers all the same feature as the one-disc Unrated, but also has some extra featurettes on disc 1 and nothing but a digital version of AVP2 on disc 2. (Whew!) Regardless of which Unrated Edition you get, disc 1 offers two audio commentaries: one with producer John Davis and directors Colin & Greg Sprause, and another with FX masters Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. Neither chat-track is what you'd call thrilling, but if you're a big fan of this particular series (and hey, I'm not judging) then you'll probably dig the commentaries. But wait, there's more ... on some versions, anyway (I told you it was confusing.) On the more expensive version (the one with the "digital copy" you'll never use) you'll find five behind-the-scenes featurettes called Preparing for War: Development and Production, Fight to the Finish: Post-Production, The Nightmare Returns: Creating the Aliens, Crossbreed: Creating the PredAlien, and Building the Predator Homeworld. Typically diverting movie-land set-babble stuff. But I could watch the "creature creation" stuff for hours.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem feels really bottom-heavy, as if Act III is where Fox spent most of their time and money. Too be bad the first 50-some minutes don't add up to a whole hell of a lot, movie-wise, but once the mayhem starts exploding all the hell over the place, the Strause brothers seem to be in their element and the movie becomes halfway fun. Not enough to right the whole ship, unfortunately, but we should take the good stuff where we can find it. Here's hoping they try something a little different for round three.

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