AVP:R Aliens vs Predator - Requiem Review
3Ok, folks ... here's a quick belated cinema review of the awesomely disappointing Alien vs Predator sequel, Requiem, a suicidal broadside that the series most definitely didn't need. I meant to post this up a while ago, but got distracted by so many better things to review. So, at the very least, this can now serve as a warning to those who might have considered this a blind-buy purchase on home video.
Well, as is fairly common knowledge by now, you should all be aware that AVP: Requiem (or AVP:R as it likes to be called) is a letdown ... especially after that opening paragraph. But, honestly, did you really expect it to be anything else? I saw that fabulously nasty trailer too, promising - a bit like Stallone did with his tantalising Rambo pre-release footage - to declare that this time, it would be gore. But when you lash in a horde of irritating teens, a boring, down-to-Earth (literally) location and let two self-confessed “fan-boys” direct it, I surely can't have been the only one who thought that this was just waiting to prove what a glossy dud it could be. But, and here's the thing, so long as you can distance this movie (and the first AVP, for that matter) and yourself from the classic originals from both franchises, this OTT slayathon-smackdown need not be so unpalatable. Admittedly, you shouldn't have to make such allowances, though. Someone coming onboard a cult series like this has an obligation to, at least, try and get it right.
“People are dying! We need guns!”
A decent script and some talent either side of the camera wouldn't go amiss, either.
Now, I don't have a problem with pure fan-boys getting their dream-shot at making a movie. I mean ... I would love to be asked to remake The Beast Must Die (as already mentioned in my review for it), or tackle a version of I Am Legend (the dog lives - hurrah!), or even, dare I say it, Gladiator 2 ... but just loving an established story and its characters is not enough to make a film work. It takes a dedicated filmmaker who can distance him - or herself from the project enough to be objective about it and, thus, be able to inject something new, respectful and legitimate into the mix without just wallowing in geekish overdrive and a falsely amateurish, wishful-thinking vision. Plus, if they should be lucky enough to get that miraculous assignment afterall, they should not - and this is a big, glaring, neon-lit NOT - sell themselves with the overly portentous and risibly self-important title of The Brothers Straus if it is their first-time directorial gig, and they are no more talented than to dole out the sheer embarrassing dross that is Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem.
Folks, I pride myself on being able to find and, indeed, extol any virtue possible in any film that I am confronted with. Somebody has, when all said and done, sat down and written the screenplay, a cast has arrived and delivered (supposedly) their utmost and a director (or, in this case, directors) has attempted to wring the required emotion, action and all-round credibility from a story that they believe demands to be seen. I can't accept that anybody does this sort of thing lightly - especially if they are as fanatical about the subject matter as Colin and Greg Straus purport to be. Which is precisely why filmmakers such as these two deserve all the critical flack that they get when they deliver such contrived, ineptly plotted idiocy as this. Basically, they knew what they were putting together. In one recent interview with a British genre publication the duo even discussed the relative merits and demerits of all the previous entries, vowing to deliver something new and fresh. Even clouded by their wish coming true, former visual effects guys (with 300, both Fantastic 4's, T3 and X-Men: Last Stand to their credit) should be well-versed enough in cinematic lore and conventions to know exactly what works in an instalment of such an established genre franchise as the cross-pollination of Alien and Predator, Fox's cream of the creature-crop and pure dynamite icons of modern-day monsterdom, and, more to the point, what doesn't work.
Taking up exactly from the final shot of the first AVP - which looks almost like a masterpiece when compared to this - the sequel details in banal, easily-dismissible and wholly lamentable fashion what happens when a Predator ship crash-lands on Earth, on the Middle-American outskirts of sleepy low-budget “hicksville”, and its vicious and remarkably swift-growing Alien-Pred Hybrid, the Predalien, escapes the wreckage and goes on the rampage, impregnating all and sundry and unleashing a veritable army of xenomorphs upon the daft cardboard citizenry of the town. When signalled by the ailing ship during the subsequent massacre-and-crash, some super-elite Predator back on the subliminally-glimpsed homeworld of the dreadlocked hunter-race dons his armour and blasts off to intercept and destroy the beast and its slime-dripping cohorts and “clean up” all evidence of their existence. Thus, the misguided movie is set on a collision course for successively lacklustre confrontations, wholly insipid characterisation as enacted by a cast of complete no-marks and that rare thing - an actual insult to the already shallow comic-book arc that the series has regressed into. A horribly naff denouement with a Miss Yutani is yawn-inducingly crass, as well.
The major problem with the film is the raw and seething teen-brigade who must battle both invading races at once, whilst dealing with their own petty squabbles at the same time. I won't even bother detailing the hows and the whys of the protagonist gang we are forced to tag along with, sufficed to say that every damn single one of them has leapt straight out of a join-the-dots, make-your-own cash-in play-book. Whereas you can quite readily accept such one-note, cack-spouting stereotypes in a relative stalk 'n' slash entry - I mean the genre was seemingly made for them in the first place - something like this, with Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, John Hurt's Kane, Arnie's Dutch and Danny Glover's Harrigan nestling realistically right back at the start of things and lending the franchise an absolutely rock-solid foundation, needs characters with personality, credibility and intelligence. If you're just going to throw the likes of TV's Steven Pasquale as ex-crim-turned noble hero Dallas (where'd they get that name, I wonder?) and Reiko Aylesworth's lithe army-mommie Kelly against such formidable opponents, then at least have the intelligence not to make them stock clichéd puppets designed purely to spout cringe-worthy dialogue and affect crass, mock-heroic postures. Give them life and charisma. Even Alien Resurrection had people that you could buy into as solid three-dimensional personalities with agendas and motivations. Barring the need for redemption and the protection of a thoroughly annoying young daughter with a predilection for infra-red goggles (Ariel Gade's diminutive cliché Molly), there is no reason for existing for anyone in this film, other than to get offed.
Ahh, you say ... isn't that the point, then - to simply show a cavalcade of acid-dissolved flesh, heads broken open by extendable, tooth-tipped tongues and flesh-stripped corpses hung out to ripen from the trees? Well, yes, of course it is. But does any amount of senseless slaughter, gratuitous carnage and frantic paced mayhem matter if you simply couldn't care less about those involved? There is a huge difference between the violence in this and the violence in, say, Rambo ... because the tones are so different. Rambo, as hard to believe as it may sound considering how so many soldiers can manage to miss the man-mountain that is Stallone, is infinitely more realistic and shocking to sit through. AVP:R is boring, repetitive and wholly contrived. We are asked to believe that a team of teens - with a mum and a child in tow, don't forget - are capable of mounting a search and rescue mission with automatic weapons and dishing-out some serious whup-ass on the extraterrestrial entities who have been born and bred for war around a town that has been almost completely decimated by the ensuing chaos. If you had trouble buying Warrant Officer Ripley's transformation from aggrieved mother trying to come to terms with her own elongated lifespan (courtesy of hyper-sleep) into a pulse-rifle wielding, alien-splattering battletruck-driver and maternal marine, then you will have no chance at all with this cluster of bumbling chick-flick strays turning on the killing stuff. Even the gangly town-nerd gets to unload a full clip at the Predator whilst yelling the ubiquitous “Muthaf***er!”as he charges. Mind you, the fact that a pure babe confesses to fancying him whilst she strips off is possibly even more incredible again!
Even the action is surprisingly inept and disappointing. Whist kudos must go to the film's use of men-in-suits as opposed to going purely CG - the monster makeup was again handled by creature FX gurus Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff - the fun of watching a Predator employing his arsenal and the Aliens skittering about the secreted catacombs they have created in the wards of a hospital is thoroughly negated by such scenes as a dire swimming pool Jaws-attack riff, the laughable “creeping around dark corridors and trying to look serious” manoeuvre and the wholly deplorable use of a handy APC in which the ragtag survivors tool around the town in a truly awful homage to Cameron's Aliens. Listen out for the little musical nods that composer Brian (Rambo) Tyler pays to both James Horner and Alan Silvestri (who scored, respectively, Aliens and Predator 1 & 2) which just seem childish and embarrassing when coupled with such shameless identikit scenes. Otherwise, Tyler's score is generic and uneventful, the soundtrack making much more use of the audio effects of hissing Aliens and the great library of clicking, growling and tech-gizmo noises of the Predator's various attachments. I said at the start that if you can accept this film on its own merits - forgetting about the joint-inspiration that kickstarted it - then you may find it easier to get along with. Well, having written about it now with its scenes replaying in my mind, I think it best to retract that statement. However you cut it, this movie sucks. Full to brimming with no-hopers running about trying to act tough and let off a few wisecracks, this just plays out like a high school condensed version of all that has gone before. Damn studios for having target audiences in mind when they green-light and produce a film.
A terrible waste of time, folks. Visually uninspiring, singularly mechanic and woefully steered by two lightweight dreamers, AVP:R literally is hell on Earth to sit through and a sheer embarrassment to the two franchises that spawned it. Stick with the originals and don't throw any of your hard-earned to these hacks.
PictureThe film is unquestionably dark.
You kind of expect that going in. Alien was a film that depended hugely upon shadows and claustrophobic lighting. Aliens was just the same. Alien 3 took that a stage further and literally wallowed in grimy murk - yet still kept it appropriate and atmospheric. By contrast, both Predator films have been bright and colourful. The first AVP somehow managed to be both despite being set, for the most part, in a deep, dark subterranean temple. But this time out, the xenomorph fracas is inexplicably darkened to the point that it becomes irritating, almost as though the Straus Brothers are deliberately keeping things from us ... or maybe they were just afraid that any more light would show the seams in their creaky plot. Either way, Requiem is just too dark.
The scrap in the subway and the tussles in the Alien-ised hospital are too thick with shadows to enjoy properly and, considering that the film has eschewed building suspense and atmosphere, it is a definite mistake to mask the action when that is all that it has left to show off. Even the final dust-up between the Pred and the Predalien lacks energy and style because the makers have opted to shroud the proceedings in a veil of silvery rain, too.
Slick and glossy, yes but too dark to fully enjoy.
SoundWell, the cinema in which I saw this had the sound unfeasibly cranked-up, so my opinions as to the exact audio delights this film has to offer may well be unfounded. But, just for the record, AVP: Requiem came across as woefully bass-heavy. Literally every impact, every thud, fall, blast, hiss, scream etc was fed with so much bass that I could've slept through a nuclear explosion in the garden afterwards and not noticed a thing. Even dialogue had the texture and timbre of an old, rusted-up manhole-cover being slowly dragged over concrete.
However, even with this blighted mix, the film obviously featured a lot of immersive effects and some duck-or-you'll-get-smacked whip-around steerage. The Predator ship blasting off from the homeworld, the roaring crash-landing in the forest of the original Predator ship, the smash-and-blast fury as the two otherworldly opponents explode out of the sewers and up into the street, the roar of the Predator - particularly as he tumbles down a lift-shaft - and the various sshting!-type metallic sound effects as the hunter makes use of his honed weaponry - all posses thoroughly exploited audio effects. So, at the very least, the film will probably sound very impressive when it comes to a hi-def format near you.
VerdictAVP:R is one for the hardcore, devoted fans only. And even they will have to admit that this is just so much shovelled alien-snot. Instantly forgettable on its own merits, this offering still marks the absolute nadir for two once estimable franchises.
The acting is appalling, the direction is juvenile, the script is risible in the extreme. But who cares about any of that? We already know an AVP movie made by two visual effects dweebs is going to be vacuous tosh at best, so does the film, at least have it where it counts ... in the kick-ass, action and suspense departments? Erm ... well ... barely. There are indeed some set-pieces that perk the interest and the whole thing does rattle along with plot-jettisoning ease. But somehow, the skirmishes revealed just don't excite. Neither beast is scary and the level of menace has now diminished to less than you can find in the last, and certainly least of Universal's vintage monster-mashes, The House Of Frankenstein which was, at least, atmospheric. Unlike this.
The timing of this review means that my warnings may have come too late for some people and for that I apologise. If only the Brothers Straus had the courage to say they were sorry ...
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