Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) Review

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
During the movie, no one can see what's going on!
I know this isn't saying much, but AVP: R shows improvement upon its unwatchable predecessor. This time around, the filmmakers seem to have tried the hardest they could to create a worthy take on the AVP concept. First time directors The Brothers Strause are huge fans of the Alien and Predator franchises, and they create AVP: R as a loving tribute to the two iconic movie monsters. This is essentially a film made by fans for fans, with multiple references to characters, sound effects, dialogue, and memorable camera shots from both series. Unfortunately, someone forgot to mention that a good movie must be present underneath all that enthusiasm and reverence.

Plot Synopsis: We pick up right where the first film ended, as the new predalien bursts forth from the fallen predator warrior. After growing to adult size, the predalien dispatches the predators that are flying the ship, causing the ship’s shuttle to separate from the main body. The shuttle then floats through space, until it finally crash lands back on Earth in a small Colorado town. The face-huggers being held on the shuttle break free from their containment and scatter around the forest until eventually they find hosts in the form of homeless people, and a father/son hunting team. After being alerted to the crash, the predators send a lone warrior out to go clean up the mess and deal with the alien infestation. The rest of the townsfolk have no idea that an intergalactic feud between two warring species has just come to their little town.


The first thing I noticed right off the bat was that, unlike its predecessor, this actually felt like an Alien or Predator movie. Gone are sterile and cheap looking sets, now replaced by grungy and time-worn locations. In addition to the gritty tone we also get a hard R rating this time instead of the sanitized PG-13, and the film wears it proudly. Limbs are chopped off, heads are blown off, acid-drenched melting occurs, nasty chest-bursters come out, and the list goes on. And the great thing is that most of this gory display is done with practical effects (except the occasional glimpse of CGI assistance) making the carnage that much more satisfying. But while many of these are used to great effect, a lot of them are shrouded in overbearing darkness. Cinematographer Daniel Pearl has tried to create a very dark and haunting atmosphere, but the problem is he made the film too dark. Some scenes are nearly incomprehensible in their under lit sets; even rather simple ones such as someone walking down a hallway are hard to understand. Thankfully, the final battle between the predator and predalien doesn't suffer too much from this, delivering us the kind of down and dirty monster clash that we have been waiting for all these years.

Previously I derided the first AVP as having boring and indistinguishable characters, and AVP: R follows suit, but the difference is that this time each character at least felt different and had their own plotline. Dallas has been recently released from prison and is helping his brother Ricky get together with a girl he has a crush on, who has a boyfriend that constantly abuses Ricky for his advances on her. There's a wife who has just returned from the Iraq war and tries to reconcile with her daughter, who hasn't seen her for a long time. We also have the town sheriff, who is looking for the missing citizens that were killed by the aliens. They're all cardboard clichés, but at least they stand out from one another. That doesn't help the fact that the drama feels cheap and corny though, especially the teenager angle.

While the film has the makings of a fun B-movie, the tone wildly veers from being brutally fun to just brutally disgusting. It's one thing to blow the heads off of regular people or strike them with your deadly head tongue, but when a child is shown giving birth to a chest-burster that's when you have gone overboard. This sometimes unsettling vibe mounts itself again when the climax of the film moves to a hospital, where pregnant women are at the mercy of the predalien and have to give birth to a different kind of baby. Some attempts at legitimate horror work occasionally, but the off-putting nature of many of these ruins the genuine fear. Not to mention the fact that the overwhelming darkness obscures what's happening on screen at the time, so we don't even get the ability to see the pay off.

Well now 20th Century Fox is 0 and 2 for their AVP franchise. I used to be excited to go and see two of my favorite movie monsters duke it out, but maybe the concept just can’t work well on film. Or maybe Fox could be smart and just hire some people with actual talent to work on it.


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