Judge John Floyd is going to set the record straight on Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, if it's the last thing he does at DVD Verdict!
Our review of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (Blu-Ray), published May 2nd, 2008, is also available.
"This Christmas, there will be no peace on Earth!"
Directors Colin and Greg Strause pull out all of the stops to correct the countless missteps that doomed the first Alien vs. Predator to mediocrity.
Facts of the Case
An Alien-Predator hybrid runs amok on a Predator spacecraft, causing the ship to crash land in the mountains near Crested Butte, Colorado. The Predalien and several facehuggers survive the crash, the tentacled creatures quickly planting their extraterrestrial seeds inside the bellies of a hunter and his young son. Soon, the hybrid is leading an army of its purebred brethren in a bloody invasion of the helpless, rural community. The only thing standing between the defenseless humans and extinction? A homicidal Predator so bent on a successful hunt that it has no qualms whatsoever about using the planet's indigenous lifeforms as bait for its quarry.
In my review of the theatrical version of this film for my personal website, I wrote:
"Of course, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is hardly cerebral, nor will it ever be accused of being high art. However, when a movie is sold to me on the simple premise that I'll get to see two murderous beasts fight to the finish with a bunch of helpless people caught in the middle, all I ask is that it delivers plenty of brainless, popcorn thrills. This film does so admirably and with aplomb, making it easily the best sequel in either franchise since James Cameron's Aliens, and the only Predator outing besides the original worth the film stock it's shot on. More succinctly, (it) is exactly what the original Alien vs. Predator should have been—a fun, frightening frenzy that reminds you of why these two cinematic critters were so scary and cool in the first place."
Having viewed the extended DVD release, I stand by that assessment, with one important amendment: the unrated version is even better.
Ordinarily, "Director's Cuts" and "Unrated Versions" consist of just a few seconds of footage that add nothing noteworthy to the film, or send the story veering off in weird directions that prove more harmful than beneficial. In the case of this '50s monster movie throwback, however, several minutes of extra material cut for theatrical release are spliced back in, to great effect. The human characters, though still fodder for the warring space creatures, are fleshed out a bit more, and their narrative arcs made considerably more compelling. The gore effects that are restored for the DVD are delightfully grisly, making the titular terrors even more menacing than they were on the big screen. Best of all, Fox has included an "Added Footage Marker" option, which allows the viewer to see exactly what was put back into the mix. Perhaps the only thing more frustrating than seeing an "Extended Edition" of a movie that isn't appreciably better (or is, in some cases, worse) than the initial release print is watching one and not even being able to tell what footage is new. Here, the distributor avoids that problem in a way that does not distract from the action in the least.
As noted, the movie itself is basically just an update of The Blob classic plotline, with extra monsters, buckets of gore, and plenty of creature-vs.-creature action thrown in to spice up the recipe. You've undoubtedly read plenty of reviews that trash it zealously, but one has to wonder when reading such notices what audiences were expecting from a sequel to a crossover film centered around two rubber beasties from outer space fighting each other in a Norman Rockwell-esque town. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a comic book premise like this being done much better than it is here. It has more action and legitimate scares than the much-hyped Cloverfield, is infinitely more fun than the preachy, nihilistic The Mist, and delivers a lot more slimy, gooey exploitation excitement than any of the PG-13, teeny bopper horror remakes that seem to dominate multiplexes nowadays. I've been watching monster movies for as long as I can remember (and that, friends, is a long time), and even I found sights like the Predalien stalking past rows of helpless babies and pregnant women in a darkened hospital maternity ward deliciously tense and shocking.
Even those who find the film lacking will, however, have a hard time making a case against the DVD presentation. The 2.40:1 anamorphic print looks great, there are several excellent audio options (including two English tracks, plus French and Spanish), English and Spanish subtitles, and the disc is positively loaded with extras. There's an audio commentary by the Strause brothers and producer John Davis; a second commentary with monster makers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff (who doubles as the veteran Alien suit actor); five fantastic, in-depth featurettes; seven still galleries (which actually feature more than just stills from the film, unlike similar features on most DVD releases); and both the Red and Green Band theatrical trailers for the movie. Between the commentary tracks, the featurettes, and the still galleries, there's enough detailed behind-the-scenes material to send any aspiring filmmaker scrambling for his or her video camera with the intent to make movie magic.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The monster movie clichés and contrivances on display here are not weaknesses, but rather strengths. The only real knock on the film is that it pretty much closes the book on the war between these two franchise monsters. Fans of the popular Alien vs. Predator comic books and novels who were hoping to see a faithful screen adaptation are unlikely to get their wish in the wake of this movie's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink execution and paradoxically lukewarm box-office response. At best, those series devotees can hope that the solid foreign sales and this excellent DVD release will spark enough interest in the characters to spawn new solo outings.
I was skeptical going into this film, both times. With the theatrical release, I wasn't sure the featured creatures or their respective franchises could recover from the wet blanket that was the first Alien vs. Predator. With the unrated DVD release, I was afraid the studio would just dump a domestic box-office disappointment onto a cheap disc, with a few extra seconds of footage, and cut their losses. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised in both instances. How often in life do you come across a movie that exceeds your expectations twice?
Not guilty. Forget ancient pyramids, Lance Henriksen, and hokey Predator
heroics. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem exemplifies how this concept should
have been handled in the first place: two ultra-nasty alien antagonists
terrorizing helpless humans and tearing apart a whole town to get at each
other's slimy throats. Or, as I've always liked to call it, fun.
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Scales of Justice
• "Preparing for War: Development & Production"
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