Aliens vs. Predator: RequiemReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 12/26/07 17:40:48
I can honestly say that there was actually one moment during “Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem,” the not-exactly-eagerly-anticipated rematch between the two hugely popular creature franchises, that actually caused myself and my fellow moviegoers to leap out of our seats and set our collective pulses pounding. Alas, this moment occurred just before the screening was to begin when an employee of the multiplex where I saw the film as part of my Boxing Day rituals (since the good people at Fox, the same people who gave you the likes of “Epic Movie” and “Hitman,” didn’t have the stones to screen it in advance for critics) came in and informed us that, due to a technical malfunction, the film would actually be playing in an auditorium clear at the other end of the building. Of course, it would have been nice if she had come in more than one minute before the show was to begin to tell us what theater we should have really been in. Of course, it would have been nicer if she had directed us to a theater that was screening a better movie than the one we were about to see–it wouldn’t have been that hard since I suspect that she could have pulled that trick off simply by naming any one of the other 20 movies that were also playing. (I am hedging my bets on this only slightly because I haven’t seen “Alvin & the Chipmunks,” another fine offering from the folks at Fox, the people who gave you “The Comebacks,” on the basis that I don’t review things involving musically-inclined vermin.) Of course, it would have been nicest of all if she hadn’t come in at all and let us just sit there because having seen “AVP: R,” I can assure you that staring at a blank screen for 86 minutes will provide far more entertainment value than the film that was supposed to have been projected on it–better action scenes as well.“AVP: R” kicks off right where 2004's “AVP” left off as a Predator warship departs from Antarctica, the locale of the previous film, bearing the body of a fallen comrade from which a Predator-Alien hybrid issues forth in inevitably messy fashion. (By the way, the review is being written under the assumption that anyone who is actually reading this knows what I am talking about regarding Aliens and Predators and such.) The PredAlien grows to full-size in about six seconds, decimates the rest of the crew and causes the ship to crash in the woods just outside of the bucolic town of Crested Butte, Colorado. Luckily, the PredAlien and a bunch of young Aliens that were along for the ride survive the crash and set off to wreak havoc on the countryside while another Predator arrives to clean up the mess that his comrade have left behind by destroying the creatures and any evidence of their existence via some weird blue substance that dissolves anything it touches. (Of course, when he kills someone, he leaves the body dangling from a tree for all to see for reasons that defy explanation.)
Caught in the crossfire are the innocent denizens of Crested Butte–including a faceless tough guy who has returned home after a mysterious absence (Steven Pasquale), his faceless younger brother (Johnny Lewis), a faceless soldier who has returned home from overseas (Reiko Aylesworth), her faceless young daughter (Ariel Gade), a faceless sheriff (John Ortiz) and a teen sexpot (Kristen Hager) whose cleavage is so prominent that you probably won’t even notice if she is faceless or not. In order to survive, they have to figure out how to defeat both the Aliens and the Predators and survive even when the military, after losing an entire National Guard platoon to one creature in their most embarrassing on-screen battle since “Southern Comfort,” decides to contain the problem by nuking the entire town. Note to the National Guard: I don’t want to be telling you how to run your business but if you insist on running that monstrous “Citizen Soldier” video in movie theaters as part of the pre-show “entertainment,” you might want to reconsider placing it before a film in which a number of your members not only get wiped out in about six seconds flat but apparently can’t sense a ginormous acid-dripping beast when it is literally standing right behind them.
Although I am an enormous fan of the four “Alien” films (yes, even the unjustly maligned “Alien 3" and “Alien Resurrection”) and have a certain affection for the two “Predator” films, I have to admit that I have always been one of those many individuals who has felt that the notion of having the two species duking it out in a spinoff film (an idea born out of a throwaway background gag in “Predator 2") was a fairly dopey idea born out of the desperation of a studio looking for a way of extending two of their properties without putting any real effort into the job. This was pretty much proved by the original “Alien Vs. Predator,” in which the already unpromising property was placed in the hands of the singularly untalented Paul W.S. Anderson (and yes, I am fully aware of whom he has successfully impregnated and affianced, so you can just hush up now) and resulted in a film that not even the most ardent devotees of the respective franchises liked very much. Of course, while virtually no one who saw the film had anything kind to say about it, enough people showed up to gawk at the wreckage in their local theaters (and later on DVD) to make it profitable enough to warrant a sequel. Although it is doubtful that anyone who saw the first film went away from it clamoring for more, the idea of doing a follow-up wasn’t the worst idea in the world–having proven that an atrocious “AVP” film could bring in the crowds, the people in charge this time around (not including Paul W.S. Anderson, who was moving on to greener pastures, as it were) could actually sit down and create one that was worth watching. (My dream “AVP” film, for example, would take the form of one of those old Disney Tru-Life Adventure films and simply feature Aliens and Predators beating the crap out of each other on a distant planet without any human interference to speak of outside of a narrator.)
Alas, not only is “AVP: R” not an improvement on the original, screenwriter Shane Salerno and directors The Brothers Strause (don’t they have a show on the Disney Channel?) Have somehow managed the singular achievement of making a film that is decidedly worse than the previous installment. For starters, fans of the two franchises will be appalled with what have been done to their beloved creatures in an effort to slap together 80-odd minutes of incredibly inconsequential entertainment–“Alien” buffs will be appalled with the manner in which this story wreaks havoc with the already-shaky continuity of the previous films (including yet another pointless variation on the creatures’ gruesome reproductive cycle), “Predator” freaks will be annoyed by how easily they get picked off by the Aliens and both will be up in arms over the fact that these seemingly indestructible monsters can be so easily dispatched by a bunch of yokels with machine guns. Gorehounds who are thrilled with the fact that the film has been rated R for bloodshed will be annoyed to discover that since virtually every scene is set in the dark–the last half of the film takes place during a town-wide blackout but the first half is, if anything, even murkier–that it is almost impossible to discern who is an Alien and who is a Predator, let alone what they are doing to their unsuspecting prey. Those who are simply looking for an agreeably mindless monster mash to kill some time and brain cells with are going to be up in arms over the laughable dialogue (a collection of cliches so threadbare that “We need guns” pretty much serves as its version of the St. Crispins Day speech from “Henry V”), moronic characters (one actually appears stunned to discover what exactly can be found within the walls of your friendly neighborhood sewer), pointless subplots (let’s just say that a local bully gets more play in the film’s opening half than either of the titular creatures) and attempts at suspense that will put off even the most undiscriminating genre buff with their nastiness and gratuitous–this is the kind of film that brings in a young child and a woman just about to give birth for no other reason that to let us see them torn to pieces by creatures popping out of their stomachs in scenes that I suspect will be played down considerably in the next Fox shareholders report.Sharp-eared audience members at “Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem” will notice that one of the central characters–I think it is the faceless older brother with a past–has been given the name Dallas, the same name of the character played by Tom Skerritt in the original “Alien.” My guess is that this was done as some kind of in-joke nudge for fans to chuckle over. (For all I know, there may have been similar shout-outs to the “Predator” crowd as well but I am admittedly not as well-versed in those films.) However, I bet if you poll any fans that actually make it to the end of this unpleasant and unwatchable disaster, they would have preferred a different kind of tribute to their memories–something along the lines of a Predator going back in time to dump some of that blue stuff on Shane Salerno’s computer (and possibly on Shane Salerno himself) in order to prevent this affront from ever making it to the big screen in the first place.
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