Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis
Directed by Colin & Greg Strause
Few things run as deep as my love for Alien and Predator. These two beasts were the gateway into my passion for creature features and horror movies in general. Three years ago I saw all that love eviscerated when Paul W.S. Anderson raped my inner fan with the unholy abomination that was Alien vs Predator. It was the single greatest movie upset of my life, but despite getting burned, I held out hope for a good follow-up. Slick internet trailers and reassuring words from the new directors raised my hopes out of the gutter, and all I asked for Christmas was to see justice brought to my favorite franchises. But instead Santa has delivered a big bag of “Fuck you!”, only wrapped in prettier bow.
Yes, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem is light years better than the first (how could it possibly be worse?), but it’s still a big heaping pile of mediocrity that’s indistinguishable from decades worth of clones. Whereas AVP felt like a 10-year old’s fan film, AVP-R feels like a fan film with an upgrade instead of the real deal. This is a match made in heaven, so why the hell can’t anyone get it right?
The sequel picks up right where AVP left off, as if anyone out there gives a shit. While the Predator ship is leaving Earth, a Predalien hybrid bursts from one of the dead warriors and runs amok onboard. Several dead Predators later, the ship crash-lands back on Earth and the Aliens escape into a small Colorado town, thus starting another war with several bland humans caught in the mix.
The problems begin with a pedestrian script by hack Shane Salerno, co-writer of the first AVP and Armageddon. In a just world, Salerno would be bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly, but he somehow got a job in the film industry and is back once again to spooge his non-talent all over our favorite creations. The human characters, led by town yokel Dallas (one of many lame references), are nothing more than annoying stock WB characters who spout the kind of hideous dialogue you would expect from one of Michael Bay’s writers. When the chaos hits in the second act, what we do get is a series of predictable stalk-n-slash scenes that never stray from formula. By the time an Alien jumps into a high school swimming pool, all a fan can do is sit back and think about all the better stories that already exist in the original comic book cross-overs.
Through thick and thin, these franchises have been made by the best: Ridley Scott, John McTiernan, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. These aren’t just any directors, they’re some of the all-time great masters. So who does Fox hand-pick for their decades-in-the-making match-up? First, a soulless studio hack and now The Brothers Strause, two visual FX artists who have never directed a movie before. If history has taught us anything, it’s that FX guys don’t make for good directors (Rob Hall being the one exception), and the Brothers do little to prove otherwise. While their hearts appear to be in the right place, they focus all their efforts on imitating the other films rather than lending their own voice to the series. Direction consists of visuals that are dark and moody but lack any genuine atmosphere. While the emphasis on old school prosthetics over CGI is welcome, it’s all still one big technical exercise. The Brothers capture the look of Alien and Predator movies, but they forget the soul.
The action scenes are mostly unimpressive since the directors shoot everything dark and close up with jumpy editing. When the Predator throws down with a group of Aliens, you’re disoriented instead of excited, and that’s the biggest sin of AVP-R: It’s a versus film that fails to make you cheer in the way that all good versus films do. Every single good shot and gory moment has already been seen in the red-band trailer, so there’s nothing left to surprise us. There’s not one genuine moment of tension here.
So what’s good about the film? The creature work by Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis is top notch. The Predators looks like genuine Predators this time around, instead of the hulky WWE embarrassments from the last film, and their new weapons and trinkets are undeniably cool. The Predalien is also an impressive creation and provides the film with its only inspired moments of carnage. Add Brian Tyler’s nostalgic score, and you have several elements that would’ve worked perfectly if only this were a better movie.
The fact that Fox opted for this franchise instead of the Ridley Scott/James Cameron Alien 5 collaboration or Robert Rodriguez’s epic Predator 3 script will forever be one of Hollywood’s biggest blunders. Now that they’ve effectively ruined both franchises, the next move will probably be to go back and remake the first films in each series, permanently screwing the fans out of any good future installments. To paraphrase Jackson’s King Kong, that’s the thing you learn about Fox: They’re undying ability to destroy the things they love.
2 out of 5
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