Starring Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, and Ewen Bremner
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Released by Fox Home Video
What happens when you take two R-rated franchises and strip them down into one PG-13 film? You get the ever so lame theatrical version of what should have been a milestone of a monster movie: AVP. What good is an Alien movie with no chest burster scene? The backlash was swift. Fans were all over director Anderson about the kid gloves used during his production. Not only that, but he changed a lot of the rules of said franchises (i.e., the instant gestation of the Alien). Anderson was quick to blame the studio, stating that some of the things we all wanted to see were indeed filmed; they were just cut to get the ill coveted PG-13 rating. Well, it’s make or break time for those sentiments as a year later the unrated DVD is finally here.
Before we get into what was added, let’s bring everyone up-to-speed on the storyline. Apparently the Predators needed an arena to host their coming of age rituals. So with Aliens in tow they landed on Earth and taught man how to build pyramids in exchange for some sacrificial humans. Once the chosen ones were picked, they would birth the Aliens for the teenage Predators to hunt. This happens every one hundred years, and the time for the rituals is now once again upon us. Things don’t go exactly as planned, however, as humans have evolved a bit and don’t take easily to becoming cattle for the intergalactic Olympics. After a few twists and turns the Predators are out in full force hunting the Aliens, and we pesky humans just happen to be caught in the middle. The plot is functional as a possible Predator 3 or prequel to Alien and in essence is not a bad story. It’s just not a great one either.
So what’s been added? According to the box there is “more VIOLENCE…more ACTION…more INTENSE BATTLES!” Nothing like the use of CAPS to get you sweaty with anticipation, eh? Hey, it works in those naughty chat rooms. Not that I’d know anything about that of course. Ahem, let’s move on. Truth be told, the new cut of the film is indeed a bit better. The alternate opening from the first DVD release of the film makes its way back along with about six extra minutes of footage. The newly added stuff is mostly exposition, and it serves to flesh out the characters a bit more. There are a couple of throw-aways like a really stupid shouting match between two of the film’s characters, but all in all I found myself better understanding their relationships and actually giving slightly more of a damn when they got iced. Speaking of which — How about that extra added violence? Sadly, it really looks as if Anderson was shooting for a PG-13 rating all along. There is some more of the red stuff, but it mostly appears running down walls or being splashed on ice and rocks. Why any of it was excised in the first place is completely beyond me. Also included are a couple of random wrist blade impalings and quite possibly the shortest chest burster scene imaginable. But at least it was there. Anderson claims to be a HUGE fan of both franchises. From someone making that claim I really expected more.
Where this DVD comes out head and shoulders above the original release is in the extras department. If you’re even slightly a fan of this film, there is a lot to enjoy in this two-DVD release. The first disc contains two cuts of the film, the completely useless theatrical version and the slightly redeeming unrated edition. There’s a commentary included, but it’s from last year’s release of the PG-13 version. The second disc is brimming with supplemental goodness. Fox always does the right thing with its special edition releases, and whether it is deserving of it or not, AVP gets the royal treatment. Anything you can think of is here including two very well put together documentaries about the film’s pre-production and actual production. The interviews with the cast and crew are great, but they serve to make you a bit sad. It is apparent that everyone involved in this production really cared about what they were doing, and they believed in their hearts that they were indeed making the film that fans have waited so long for. One can only wonder where everything went wrong.
So, is the unrated version of AVP worth your time, cash, and attention? Maybe. It was a bit more cohesive and played a lot better on the smaller screen. However, some things are just unforgivable. Liberties were taken that were needless, and if you’re looking for the type of R-rated action that flowed freely in every other film in either franchise, you will be sorely disappointed. Shit will still smell like shit no matter how much air freshener that you spray. In this film’s case, even if you sprayed all the stage blood in the world on the walls behind the victims of AVP‘s many offscreen kills, it is still impossible to mask the fact that this is very much a neutered entry into two very ballsy franchises.
And you call yourself a fan, Anderson! For shame.
AVP: The Beginning featurette with branching footage
AVP Production featurette with branching footage
Visual effects breakdown
Deleted scenes with optional director’s commentary
Licensing the Franchise: Aliens vs Predator the Comic Book featurette
Monsters in Miniature by Todd McFarlane featurette
HBO AVP special