Sony // 2003 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 14th, 2003
Earth just got its final warning.
What happens when you take Alien, mix it around in a bowl with Independence Day and John Carpenter's The Thing, and bake at 350 degrees for two hours? You get a B-level soufflé entitled Alien Hunter. Deep inside of an ice glacier is a pulsating signal. What is it? Where did it come from? The best man to answer this question is Julian Rome (James Spader, Supernova), a former cryptologist for the US government's SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program. After flying down to the South Pole, Rome encounters a giant block of ice that holds an out-of-this-world mystery, plus a batch of scientists that are A.) almost all women and B.) have apparently just stepped off the cover of Vogue magazine. When Rome is able to crack a mathematical code that allows him to figure out the alien message, the results are startling: it's a warning! Soon the entire planet is on the verge of extinction unless Rome can figure out a way to stop the alien menace from making earth history.
Here is my problem with Alien Hunter: at first glance, the movie looks like a halfway decent alien-on-the-loose sci-fi movie, but ends up being a rather flaccid meditation on intergalactic life. Ho-hum. What I assumed was a horror thriller quickly became a yawner with endless debates about opening a slimy, frozen alien pod, or not opening a slimy, frozen alien pod. There is also a lot of discussion about James Spader's character's womanizing ways and scenes involving scientists in what appear to be white underwear waltzing around an indoor corn field. Excited yet? Imagine how I felt sitting through a movie that seemingly had little to do with drooling aliens and more in common with a flatly directed drama. Look, I'm not trying to tell filmmakers how to make movies (correction: I am), but let me offer one piece of advice: if you're going to name your movie Alien Hunter, at least have a few exciting scenes where the protagonists actually hunt for the titular beastie. When the green guy does finally make his spectacularly anticlimactic entrance, he dashes around a few rooms and is finally found by a very hesitant Spader ("Don't panic, I'm not going to hurt you."). After the alien attempts to make contact with Spader (*spoiler ahead*), the poor little guy is gunned down, never to be seen again. In other words, his screen time rivals that of Marlon Brando in the original Superman. There are periphery characters, but they're all poorly realized and have been seen in a dozen other horror movies. And what's with everyone looking so attractive in this movie, anyway? Aren't there any bald, pudgy scientists in the South Pole, or does everyone in modern science look like one of the Hilton sisters? If nothing else I will say that the effects are better than I expected them to be -- though the alien seems a bit too much like every other wide-eyed space creature on celluloid, he is pretty believable. The same, sadly, can't be said about the performances or screenplay. Do yourself a favor and rent any other movie about aliens, especially if it has the names "James Cameron" or "Ridley Scott" in the credits.
Alien Hunter is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a movie relegated to straight to DVD, this transfer looks very nice. The black levels are all contrasted well without any major graying. The colors are clear and bright. There are some spots where a small amount of edge enhancement and grain enter the picture, but these moments are few and far between. Overall this is a decent looking image that should please fans of the film, all 10 of them. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. I was also mildly impressed with this sound mix -- there are a few fine surround sounds to be heard here, including some ambient background noise throughout most of the film. Also included on this disc is a French Dolby 2.0 Surround track, as well as English and French subtitles.
Surprisingly, Alien Hunter includes far more special features than anyone really needs or care about. A director's commentary with Ron Krauss will provide viewers with some insight into the making of the film, even if the film doesn't warrant a second viewing with the director's comments. No less than three fluffy featurettes ("Director's Location Scout," "Making Of," and "Storyboard Comparison") offer more information on the film's conception and production, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot and interviews with James Spader, director Ron Krauss, and other various cast and crew members. Finally there are around ten minutes of deleted scenes (plus a very different alternate ending) featuring optional commentary by the director, all presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, a short photo gallery, and theatrical trailers for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Bad Boys II, and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary by Director Ron Krauss
* Three Featurettes
* Photo Gallery
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
* Theatrical Trailer