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There was a time when the Alien and Predator franchises wielded huge sway with fans and critics alike. Alien is probably considered the most important Science Fiction/Horror crossover of all time, and Aliens ranking as one of the greatest sequels ever created. Predator was an essential stepping stone for both its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its director, John McTiernan, both of whom would go on to create hallmarks of the Action genre after the movie’s success. Yet with each sequel to these respective classics, the law of diminishing returns always seemed to be in effect.
This would culminate when 20th Century Fox would combine the two series into one film; Paul W.S. Anderson’s Aliens Vs. Predator. Arguably the worst film either franchise has ever produced, AVP is a PG-13 snooze-fest born out of two of the most graphically violent series ever created, pleasing no one with its tame action and plethora of non-scares. One could only hope that the sequel to the film would find a way to be an improvement, even with the premise of Aliens and Predators finding their way to Small-town America.
The resulting film is a frustrating one. Yes, Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is a masterpiece compared to its predecessor, with sequences of decent invention and some action and horror scenes that show flashes of the glory days for these two series. On the other hand though, this film is still nothing compared to the legitimate masterpieces associated with these iconic sci-fi monsters, and at times the movie only manages to proliferate the feeling that Fox is beating a dead horse by keeping this franchise going.
On the bright side, directors Colin and Greg Strause seem at some level to understand a lot of the things that we’ve always loved about these various creatures. AVP:R is not the teen-friendly movie that its predecessor was, and in fact, the film actually pushes the limits of gore seen in these series previously. Some will argue that they also manage to push the limits of good taste, but it is appreciated that these directors managed to take chances with this film, which seemed to be the furthest thing on the mind of the previous filmmakers.
Scenes with just Aliens and Predators fighting are without a doubt the finest in this picture. With no dialogue or conventions to weigh the performers down, we’re left with the pure cinema of alien races fighting to the death. These fights include new weapons and different types of Aliens in sequences that display what the full potential of this series could be. Also, things such as showing us the Predator homeworld expand this universe, showing us possibilities for future movies.
Unfortunately, when we’re not watching Aliens and Predators fighting, the film is a complete mess. We’re stuck watching family struggles such as ex-cons trying to find a job and pizza boys trying to fall in love with the high school prom queen. These used to be films that featured Special Forces teams and space marines, now the most bad ass character we can get is National Guard member having problems readjusting to civilian life. Apparently, the prevailing thought is that if we can identify with the surroundings, the movie will be scarier, but all the film ends up doing is giving us characters that are so mundane that we just don’t care about them at all.
If there is indeed another film, what this series needs to do is go back to its roots. Give us characters that are interesting enough that we care about them, or take a real chance and just give us a film with just Predators and Aliens. Humans only seem to get in the way of the real conflict that we care about in this movie anyway, so perhaps we should discard them all together. The bottom line though, is that film makers need to make a picture that feels like a part of these series, and not just on a surface level of musical queues and using some of the catchphrases. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is a film that is at least moving the series in a better direction that its predecessor, but the franchise still needs a tune up if it wants to keep scaring us in the future.
Well, for all its shortcomings as a movie, it looks pretty good on this DVD. There are times when the image is a bit dark, but it seemed that way in the theater too. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The sound for the film is also quite good on this disc, with every splatter and bad piece of dialogue coming in fine.
Feature Length Commentary by Co-Directors Colin and Greg Strause and Producer John Davis – As commentary tracks go, this one is okay, but nothing to really get excited over. Producer John Davis gushes over the brilliance of the Brothers Strause, apparently not aware that this film isn’t quite as good as it should have been. The Strause Brothers are a little more subdued, obviously happy with this chance at putting their own mark on this franchise.
Feature Length Commentary by Creature Effects Designers/Creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis – The much better of the two commentary tracks is this one by these Alien effects gurus. Each has been working on the Alien series for a long time and go into great detail about stunts and makeup used in the film. Again, this is by far the better commentary, as the two guys here probably represent the best this film has to offer.
Prepare for War: The Making of AVP-R – Going over 15 minutes, this Featurette covers a lot of the aspects of this production, especially the decision to make this film in modern day small-town America. Overall, this is pretty much just your normal promotional Featurette.
Fight to the Finish: Post Production – This Featurette covers a little bit of the editing done to the film, and focuses a lot of attention on the Pre-viz and CGI in the movie. This is really a lot of tech guys talking about how important they are to the movie, compromising the most tedious of the extras.
AVP-R: The Nightmare Returns – Creating the Aliens – This is, without a doubt, the best of the Featurettes on this disc. Focusing mostly on the work done by Creature Effects Designers/Creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, this is the closest thing we get to an Alien retrospective, showing us the evolution of the creatures throughout the series, leading up to the changes made for this film.
Crossbreed: The PredAlien – This shows you the design process creators went through in forming the PredAlien for the big screen. It is amazing how the filmmakers were able to make the creature so menacing on screen, because in this Featurette, the beast is kind of goofy looking, being sort of disproportioned on set. Still, the final result of the PredAlien in the film itself is actually quite satisfying.
Building the Predator Homeworld – It’s funny to think that this sequence almost wasn’t in the movie, because it’s actually one of the most impressive in the film. The ratio of in-camera effects to CGI may actually surprise you here considering how good the sequence looks.
“It could have been a lot worse” is a phrase that will probably often be associated with this movie. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem isn’t a very good movie, there are moments in the movie that are quite sold, and when there are just Aliens and Predators on screen, there’s actually quite a bit to like. It’s too bad those pesky humans had to show up and try to ruin everything. Still, the movie is a good time if you’ve got some friends over and you just want to watch a gore fest. The DVD itself fine for this type of release and actually had more Featurettes than I was expecting.
20th Century Fox presents Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem (Unrated Edition). Directed by Colin and Greg Strause. Starring Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, and John Ortiz. Written by Shane Salerno. Running time: 93 minutes. Unrated. Released on DVD: April 15, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.