InsidePulse DVD Review – Alien Vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition


(Credit: Amazon.com)

Directed by:
Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring:
Sanaa Lathan……….Alexa Woods
Raoul Bova……….Sebastian de Rosa
Lance Henriksen……….Charles Bishop Weyland
Ewen Bremner……….Graeme Miller
Colin Salmon……….Maxwell Stafford
Tommy Flanagan……….Mark Verheiden
Joseph Rye……….Joe Connors
Agathe De La Boulaye……….Adele Rousseau
Carsten Norgaard……….Rusten Quinn

The Movie
The idea of pitting two cinematic icons against each other is nothing new in Hollywood, from the old days of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man to the on screen battle between Godzilla and King Kong and most recently when New Line set their two largest horror icons to go mano-a-mano in Freddy Vs. Jason. So when Fox announced that they had plans to do the same with their two franchise characters, fans were giddy with glee that they would finally see live action footage of Aliens versus Predators. And who could fault them? With such a long running comic book series they all knew what magnificent stories could be told between the two extra terrestrials.

Enter Paul W.S. Anderson, fans are now worried. Add the words “written and directed by” and you could almost hear the fans praying for the movie not to be a bomb. The parts that made these creatures the icons they are today are both the director hired and the script that’s written. Ridley Scott took the first Alien movie and added his tone and atmosphere to O’Bannon’s script and Gigers designs. Cameron left all that behind and made Vietnam in space, with his stars written wonderfully and filmed it meticulously. Fincher imprinted his dark tones on Alien³. McTiernan knows action so when he needed to make a scifi action movie in the jungle he knew what was needed to make it memorable. Anderson on the other hand makes video game movies… bad video game movies, he just gets lost in the look and style while glossing over the important aspects. Like story and characters and a decent script.

Around two weeks before the premiere of the movie it was announced by the studio that the film would carry a PG-13 rating. The fans are becoming even more worried at this point. Then word began to spread that not only has the rating hurt the movie but the alteration of the creatures, CGI effects and slow motion wire-fu shots made it that much more unbearable to witness. Fans were dreading what would come, but in the end we were left to deal with the monstrosity that was Alien Vs. Predator.

When a movie is called Alien versus Predator you should know what it’s about by the title alone, three simple words that are the selling point for you to put your hard earned money down on the counter. The story is based in current day and happens after the Predator series but before Alien ever takes place. We learn that there appears to be what looks like an underground temple buried deep within the ice of the Antarctic from a thermal satellite image. Tieing to the Alien franchise we have Mr. Charles Wayland planning to gather an excavation crew to check out the remote location.

Wayland gets a group of scientists and experts to join him. When he has everyone onboard we find ourselves almost immediately shifted to the site. Oddly the hole to get to the temple is already cut, something that isn’t humanly possible yet nobody is curious about how it happened in the slightest. You see for some reason the predators in the movie come to earth every 100 years to hunt the aliens as a right of passage for the teenage predators and they do so in the pyramid with human sacrifices. So now the crew is entering a temple that is about the have a whole lot of stuff go down in it and the predators just see them as vessels to carry the alien species in.

But if they come here every 100 years what exactly was going on in the first two Predator films? Did some renegade predator feel like getting in the way of everyone elses business? Like the big kid in gym class who had to show off to everybody about how great and strong he was at everything? Things like these little quibbles are never answered and if your a fan of either series they’ll certainly make you stop paying attention to the movie and scratch your head while trying to figure out why they’re happening.

The problem with the movie lies with the cast, they just seem to be going through the motions. Not once do you think they’re in danger because they don’t act shocked, if your going down to what you expect to be an empty temple and see not one but two species of aliens wouldn’t you be, oh I don’t know, scared? Our leading lady (Sanaa Lathan) for the first three quarters of the film is a nagging annoying weight that just keeps the movie bogged down. Then we’re suddenly suppose to see her as a warrior fighting side by side with the predators. What? The fact she has the charisma equal to that of a fence post doesn’t help matters either.

So where did Anderson go wrong? He was handed two of the most infamous monsters of the 80’s yet couldn’t step up to bat and hit a home run, he didn’t even hit a single. If anything he got beamed with the ball square in the head, it certainly would explain some of the choices he made for the movie that’s for sure. AVP is something I can’t quite put my finger on, I know what I’m thinking and the words that come to mind certainly aren’t good or magnificent or acceptable it’s just sort of … there. The other six directors always tried something new with their movie, succeed or fail they at least gave it an attempt. Anderson on the other hand just uses what everyone else did making the movie one giant homage with nothing new nothing fresh, just recycling everything we’ve already seen.

Fox has released a new cut of the movie in this Unrated Edition but what’s here for new material isn’t much to change your previous thoughts on the movie if you’ve already seen it. Perhaps the best thing the cut manages to do is give us some character development in the beginning of the movie, which was one reason the theatrical cut fails. In the theatrical cut we’re never given anything remotely resembling development for our stereotypical scientists and they quickly become fodder for the aliens. Most of the new footage is finished with around the time they enter the pyramid, after that there are sparse new footage leaving it just about the same.

It’s unclear if this is the version of the movie Anderson professed as the one that he wanted to release from the get go. When the movie was first released he said the film was intended to have an R rating but it was edited down by the studio so it could get a PG-13 rating. If this was what he intended for us to see in the first place, it still isn’t very good, better but still nothing noteworthy.

Theatrical Cut: 4/10
Unrated Edition: 4.5/10

The Video
(Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
The video for the movie is in a word: beautiful, but that’s sort of a double edged sword. For a movie like this that’s not what you really want it to be, everything is too polished too finished. Gone is the rough and rugged style both franchises had as their staple signatures. The transfer is fantastic and for that it gets a 9, only because of a few new scenes not getting full restoration. Still the camera work on the movie might have been best suited elsewhere.

The Audio
(English Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1 Surround, French & Spanish Dolby Surround)
Speakers are used nicely on all the audio options and any choice you make to watch it in you’ll be happy with. Much like the video there really isn’t anything at all to complain about, the producers of this set should be proud of the work they did.

The Extras

Disc One:

Feature Length Commentary – Director Paul W.S. Anderson along with actors Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan are on the first track. With this option you can enjoy listening to Sanaa eating a hamburger and Lance answering his cell phone during the recording. It’s too bad too because there was potential with the commentary every time Lance and Paul would begin to discuss something important about the production Sanaa would break them up to say how gross a scene is or something even less relevant.

Feature Length Commentary – The second audio commentary is comprised of Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and visual effects supervisor John Bruno. Much like every other technical track they spend the time pointing out all the practical and visual effects while supplying some humorous one liners at one another.

Deleted Scenes (11 mins) – six scenes are added here, all of which are used in the unrated version. One included is an alternate opening that is suppose to take place in 1904 to show the audience the whole 100 year thing. The remaining five are simply extended scenes already in the movie.

(Note: the commentaries are only accessible on the Theatrical version.)

Disc Two:

Pre-Production:
AVP The Beginning
(25 mins) – To start off the disc we have director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer John Davis individually talking about getting the movie off the ground. Paul had hired an artist to draw up story boards for him that he could use to sell the studio on making the movie, and it worked as within 15 minutes everyone was onboard. They bring up the comic book series and how it could translate so well on screen. the rest of the piece has Tom Woodward who did the props for the movie (he also worked on the 3 previous Alien movies) showing us around the workshop with the crew hard at work creating just about everything you see in the movie.

ADI Workshop (7 mins) – Nothing is talked about on this, it’s just a camera man walking around the shop taping people work their craft. It also includes some test footage for the facehugger walking and some test stuff of the predator costume.

A gallery for both Storyboard & Concept Art round out the pre-production part of the disc.

Production:
AVP Production
(59 mins) – For the first half of this featurette it’s your standard “i love everyone and everything about the movie is awesome!” type deal. All the actors talk about Anderson’s script and style and how brilliant he is. The cast brings up Lance Henriksen and how even though he’s been in countless movies he’s still like a kid in a candy store when he’s on set. After the first 20 minutes or so things really kick in to gear showing how one day actor Carsten Norgaard broke a rib in his fight with the predator. They show how it was lighting the dark pyramid and using paint to try and give detail to the dark areas. Then they show the actor in the Predator suit and some of the animatronic queen alien and regular alien and how they worked.

Miniature Whaling Station (7 mins) – Is a short piece that covers the miniatures at the whaling station that need to be destroyed during the finale. Each building was built at 1/6th scale and the entire landscape was 28 by 16 meters. Each piece was built like a jigsaw puzzle since they needed to put the sets back together around 3 times to make sure they got the shot.

Facehuggers & Eggs (15 mins) – Here we get a cool behind-the-scenes look at how they prepare for the scenes involving eggs. They show two scenes, the sacrificial chamber and the scene where Miller is about to be attacked by a face hugger but manages to reach a close by gun in the nick of time. It’s a really cool look at the crews day-to-day stuff.

Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel (4 mins) – Well the title kind of tells what this one is about, when they were filming the big explosion at the end, the fire “experts” used around 170 gallons of gasoline to create the fire ball. And they got their shot, along with half of the set burning down. Luckily no camera was harmed during the making of the scene.

Post-Production:
Visual Effects Breakdown
(30 mins) – This starts off with Anderson talking about how he and visual effects supervisor John Bruno both choose to use practical effects over visual effects as much as possible and how they only used it when it was the only option. Once they say that the remaining time of the half hour is dedicated to the visual effects used in the film, odd how they both profess their love of practical effects yet there isn’t a piece dedicated to that anywhere on the disc. Shown during the featurette are scenes from the slow motion face hugger, the swarm of aliens charging the temple, the aliens and the alien queen.

Deleted Scenes (2 mins) – One scene here is added into the unrated cut on disc one, the other two aren’t that great either. Although one scene gives and alternate version of how Miller is captured by the aliens and would have probably been better off being left in the movie. There’s an optional commentary with Anderson and Henriksen available on all three scenes, but since combined they run for 2 minutes nothing important is brought up.

Licensing the Franchise:
Aliens vs Predator the Comic Book
(12 mins) – The creators of the Alien Vs. Predator comic series sit and talk about how they came up with the idea and how it was easy to get the greenlight from Fox since they already own the rights to both franchises. They don’t go in to as much detail as most would like but it’s all worth listening to with very little filler.

Monsters in Miniature by Todd McFarlane (14 mins) – This was a strange one, McFarlane talks about how he has over the years managed to use multiple mediums to sell his brands. I’m not sure why they included this on here but it is really interesting hearing the guy talk. He shares a lot of information on how he loves making quality products for grown adults and how he stays in contact with his offices around the word through video conferencing. Definitely check this one out.

Marketing:
HBO Special
(13 mins) – This is the video package HBO played in between movies around two weeks before the film opened nation wide to hype the premiere of the film. If you’ve watched everything already then by the time you get to this you’ll notice it has a lot of footage of what you’ve already seen in other sections of the disc.

3 Theatrical Trailers for AVP along with trailers for the 35th anniversary Planet of the Apes DVD and the Alien Quadrilogy.

Score: 9/10