Alien vs. Predator Blu-ray Review
PictureWell, AVP is exactly the sort of release that you would expect to look not just great, but awesome, on Blu-ray. Shallow film-making from a lousy hack of a director it may be, but when people come round to my house (they may think that they'll be visiting my new baby girl - arrival imminent - but they will end up getting much more than they bargained for) this is one of the first discs that I will grab for a demo. Oh, there's better, deeper and more throbbingly realistic transfers out there - Kingdom Of Heaven, for example - but AVP provides an amazing showcase for detail under darkness, intense colours and immaculate sharpness and clarity. With so many sequences set in shadowy passages, dank and frigid tunnels and dark chambers, the film itself presents any transfer with numerous hurdles to overcome. The Japanese unrated edition that I already owned was no slouch in the AV stakes and really milked the SD transfer for all it was worth, but this 1080p MPEG-2 (at 18 MBPS) BD version literally wipes the floor with it.
From the detail of hieroglyphics and textures captured on the stone walls to the awesome clarity on Aliens and Predators - mandibles and muscle-definition, skeletal structure and body armour respectively - the image never puts a foot wrong. Much more is revealed in the darkness despite some grain floating about and there is nice sense of three-dimensionality provided by the sharp edge delineation and good depth of field to keep the visuals alive, energetic and striking.
Colours are bright and solid, though not quite as vivid as I had imagined. Then again, much of the film is played out in the dark and shadowy realm of endless tunnels and dank chambers. The green Predator blood is suitably garish, though, as is the vision of the face-huggers wriggling about inside their egges as seen in x-ray vision, and the flames leaping about the big guy when Lance Henriksen lights one of them up look very smart indeed, reaching a glorious white-hot fireball that doesn't overbloom or glitch against the dark background. Blacks are spot on, feeling thick, solid and almost a physical presence across the screen with only a slight drop-off into grey during one or two scenes. Contrast levels are equally reassuring and consistent.
I encountered no problems with edge enhancement, blockiness, pixilation or noise, either. All in all, AVP has a very fine transfer for a quite visually testing film and shouldn't disappoint. A good, solid 9 out of 10 from me.
Please note, the pictures supplied here are from the Japanese Edition and are just for the purposes of illustration as I do not have the means to take HD or BD screengrabs yet.
SoundAnd the sound is just as good, too. Which, again, is a bit of a niggle really, because I keep on having the urge to spin this disc and allow myself to be blasted around the lounge by its awesome dynamics, just for the sheer hell of it. Then again, there's room in the world for AV indulgence, isn't there? You don't necessarily have to like the movie itself to get a kick out of its performance.
Sadly, I could not make the most of the DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio track that graces AVP, but had to settle for the downmixed DTS Core, which, it has to be said, is terrific. I raved about the original DTS mix on the SD release and this sounds even better again, providing a deeper bass level for more gut-rumbling impacts and crash, bang, wallop, a much smoother and clearer rendering of the high ends and a superb delivery of steerage around the set-up. All the speakers are utilised with a great cumulative effect of dropping you into the heart of the action. The prior release had a nice and realistic reproduction of skittering grit and stone grinding together and that is, once again, crisply maintained here. Quieter elements are well-catered for with a flowing, room-enveloping ease that has even the minutest of effects sublimely presented. Aliens hiss and face-huggers squelch with an authentically natural sound - well, if you can imagine Aliens and face-huggers were real, obviously. Gunfire roars out with aggression and your lounge will hiss with the feel of displaced air from the multiple zip-around effects.
For sheer bombast, I even did my old trick of running upstairs to the attic - three floors up - and revelled in the enormous power and clarity of the track even from up there. Yep, I know - a bit of soundproofing would be in order for the sake of neighbours. But this little bit of indulgent overkill was fun and still revealed the disc's ability to convey crackingly sharp and pristine delivery of effects and voices that, despite all the raucous goings-on during the second half of the film, are never submerged or swallowed by the dynamics.
A top track, folks.
ExtrasTaking advantage of the 50GB disc, AVP brings over only a couple of the extras that adorned the SD release, but utilises its space for presenting pristine versions of both theatrical and unrated cuts of the film.
So, besides the theatrical trailer, which is quite nicely presented in high-definition too, we get a Trivia Track - though this BD release exclusive is not very rewarding in all honesty - and a couple of chat tracks that have been carried over from the earlier edition. The most intriguing thing that this disc incorporates is something called a D-Box Motion Control System. But, to be honest, I haven't got the faintest idea what this is, but one glance at the menu screen for it revealed that I didn't have the necessary kit to utilise it anyway. So, answers on a postcard please.
The two commentaries adorn the theatrical version of the film, and here is what I had to say about them first time around -
The first, by Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan, is quite good value. That's if you can forgive Anderson's and Henriksen's belief that they actually came up with something cool and original. Henriksen's mobile phone goes off at one point and there's even a lengthy digression to discuss the merits of Cameron's Aliens but, overall, this is quite an entertaining track. Certainly more so than the second chat-track with the FX crew of Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jnr and John Bruno. They achieved some great results here but the discussion has far too many quiet moments and a kind of techie staleness about it. But one out of two isn't bad.
The disc also features nice on-screen floating menus.
VerdictA pure trash film that almost wrecked the fun of the two franchises it patched together, AVP can gleam and shine and thunder with all the glory of next generation technology ... but the age-old adage of not being able to polish a you-know-what still applies. But, and this is a big but, folks, when you have the kit and the screen to enjoy such brain-dead antics, then it becomes mighty difficult to resist the temptation to stick the disc in, kick back and just enjoy the visual and aural pyrotechnics that it fires up.
As an example of BD quality, AVP fares very well and, as such, comes quite highly recommended. See it on the biggest screen you can find, crank the sound up and disengage your brain.
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