Tuesday 27 May 2008

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

Tuesday 27 May 2008
Directors: Colin Strause & Greg Strause
Writer: Shane Salerno

Cast: Reiko Aylesworth (Kelly O'Brien), Ariel Gade (Molly O'Brien), Kristen Hager (Jesse), Robert Joy (Colonel Stevens), Johnny Lewis (Ricky Howard), John Ortiz (Sheriff Eddie Morales), David Paetkau (Dale Collins), Steven Pasquale (Dallas Howard), Sam Trammell (Tim O'Brien), Ian Whyte (Predator) & Tom Woodruff Jr (Aliens)

Citizens of a small town have to defend themselves from an outbreak of Aliens, as a lone Predator arrives on the planet to cover-up the incident...

The law of diminishing returns is proven true by this tiresome attempt to keep the Alien and Predator franchises going, an incredible 20 years past their prime. There was a certain novelty in seeing two iconic movie monsters wrestle each other in Paul W.S Anderson's Alien Vs. Predator (2004), but this retarded sequel surely hammers the final nail in the coffin...

The signs were never good to begin with: it's directed by two brothers armed only with a background in FX, a laughable premise that puts the two intergalactic creatures in a modern-day town, and a red-band trailer that tried to distract you from its awfulness with in-your-face blood and guts. Speaking of the trailer – if you've seen it, you've effectively seen the whole film in fast-forward. I'm not exaggerating.

For what it's worth, the "plot" continues where AVP left off: a Predator-Alien hybrid chestburster inexplicably grows to adult size aboard the departing Predator spaceship, causing it to crash just outside a small American town. On the Predator homeworld, a lone Predator (Ian Whyte) hears of the disaster and travels to Earth to cover-up the incident by destroying the downed ship, but has to contend with a town full of multiplying Aliens – as the local populace, inevitably, become a breeding ground.

The only good thing about AVP2 is that it makes you reassess AVP. To be honest, as far as cynical cash-ins go, I thought Paul W.S Anderson's crossover was decent enough if you lowered your expectations. He at least secured the services of Aliens star Lance Henriksen, came up with a back-story that made a modicum of sense, and the buried pyramid location enabled the film to mine additional scares from the environment. But this sequel is woeful in comparison: it's a bunch of Aliens versus a single Predator in a town, populated by sketchily-written "characters". Oh, and the fan-boy pleasing element of a "Predalien" creature just means one of the Aliens has dreadlocks, mandibles and can orally impregnate victims with multiple chestbursters. It's a storyline apparently jotted down by browsing internet forums.

But hey, that must mean this is what the fans want, right? No. A few teens may already be salivating at the notion of multiple chestbursters, but even they will come to realize how effective Alien, Aliens and even Predator were as entertainment – and how it had little to do with simply putting creatures on-screen for us to gawp at. Alien and Predator kept their monster in the shadows until the climax, while Aliens spent time character-building, and all the films managed to carve some memorable characters to serve the story well.

You wanted Sigourney Weaver to blow that Alien out the airlock, or club the Alien Queen around the head with her high-tech loader. And who wasn't grinning as Arnold Schwarzenegger's old-school booby-traps beat the Predator's futuristic weapons? The "heroes" in AVP2 are wafer-thin and entirely forgettable. Heck, they're not even memorable enough to be forgotten! Or do anything heroic. They're utterly disposable fodder, which is a route cause of AVP2s total failure to entertain. And what persuaded Reiko Aylesworth (a popular heroine on 24) to sign up for this crap? I hoped she'd somehow rise above the clunky material, but it was clearly an insurmountable task.

With no characters to care about and a rudderless plot, everything else just falls apart. Colin and Greg Strause (a.k.a The Brothers Strause; pretentious, non?) have absolutely no business directing movies. Everything they shot is badly edited and drowned in darkness, meaning it's impossible to tell what's going on – particularly during the handful of Alien versus Predator punch-ups. But no matter, as the choreography for said fights are ham-fisted and totally uninteresting, anyway.

The only plus points are that, given the Strause's fanboy credentials and FX background, the Predator is thankfully more lithe than the chubby hockey-masked goons from AVP, while the sound FX and score takes cues from Aliens and Predator's soundtracks. An emphasis is also placed on old-fashioned creature-feature techniques, resulting in less of the distracting CGI that dogged Alien: Resurrection and AVP.

But these are superficial plus points. While it's nice to hear the Aliens screech and a reprise of the ominous jungle drums from Predator's OST, it's a shame similar attention wasn't spent on the aspects of filmmaking that really matter: characterisation, plot, cinematography, acting, choreography, and... oh, everything else.

There's not really much else to add. Suffice to say, this is an awful movie and a terrible blight on the respective film sagas it crowbars together. The fact this nonsense cost twice as much as the original Predator (even allowing for inflation), beggars belief that they didn't just make a third Predator film. From a financial perspective, the Alien series has always been expensive and not that viable after Resurrection tanked and Sigourney Weaver's salary would take a big slice of the profits, but the Predator franchise stood a chance of standalone revival. It certainly couldn't be any worse than this, could it?

Overall, despite the odd creative decision to please fanboys and a return of the blood sadly missing in AVP, everything else about this enterprise is a catastrophic waste of everyone's time and energy. It's frequently incomprehensible, unoriginal (the climax is a steal from Aliens), unimaginative (the Predalien is wasted, the Predator's weaponry a bore), there are no characters to identify with, the story jumps from scene to scene, and even at a primal level of watching two monsters fight it's dreary and soulless. The only thing that scared me was the painfully clumsy cliffhanger for another sequel.

I only hope the fairly unanimous negative reviews will be enough to kill the AVP saga off for good, but it ended up taking $128 million worldwide. That's an unjustified $88 million profit. You do the maths.

20th Century Fox
Budget: $40 million
94 minutes (theatrical cut)
101 minutes (unrated edition)