February 4, 2016

Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007)

After an alien bursts from the chest of a dead Predator, its spacecraft crashes into the woods outside a small American town. When a number of facehuggers emerge from the wreckage and begin impregnating the humans, another Predator arrives to clean up the mess. For the unsuspecting humans in Gunnison, Colorado, it means a long night of violence and terror as they run around like panicky kittens trying to survive.

After Paul W.S. Anderson directed Alien vs Predator and earned 20th Century Fox a tidy profit, it seemed as if the studio had a pulp B-grade movie franchise on its hands. After one sequel directed by visual effects specialists Colin and Greg Strause Alien vs Predator was stone-cold dead, with each property splitting back off into its respective franchise with Predators and Prometheus. It was not a matter of money: Alien vs Predator: Requiem turned a reasonable profit. It is simply as if the relevant executives at Fox saw where their combined film series was headed and simply broke it up before too much damage was done.

Alien vs Predator: Requiem (often shortened to AVPR) is not a good film. Out of the combined ten films comprising Alien and Predator it is very easily the worst. It is a failure for two pretty obvious reasons. Firstly, and more than any other film of the ten, it works as a haphazard greatest hits package of scenes, dialogue, action beats and camera angles from Alien, Aliens and Predator. There is very little at work that is original to the franchise in any way.

I wrote 'very little', and that leads to the second critical flaw of the film: what few new elements that are introduced are very poorly considered. For one thing the film relocates the action for the first time to a small town in contemporary America. The aliens in particular do not work in this sort of environment. They come across as silly and vaguely ridiculous. It might almost work if the film attempted a sort of self-aware, light-hearted tone, but instead the Brothers Strause (that is genuinely what they name themselves in the film's closing credits) go for a deadly serious vibe from beginning to end.

The other main creation for the film is what was referred to as the "Predalien", an alien burst from the chest of a Predator. It's taller than the average alien, which is sort of cool. It has larger claws, and Predator-like mandibles, which also works quite well. It retains the Predators' dreadlock-like tentacles, which looks ridiculous and pretty much spoils the design of the whole creature. It also impregnates victims directly, latching onto their faces with its mandibles and pumping alien embryos into their stomachs with big hollow tongue. That concept has a disgusting sort of potential, but the Brothers only employ the attack on women in the film - and in all but one case on pregnant women, which makes it all feel like a vile kind of deliberately gendered violence.

There is a lot of violence in the film. Earlier Alien and Predator films did not ignore blood and gore, but it was used rather sparingly with more shocks and scares based around dark creepy corridors and barely glimpsed monsters. AVPR goes to town with blood effects, including acid blood melting off faces, chests and stomachs bursting open, arms being dismembered and heads exploding. It is excessive enough to simply feel sensationalistic and tacky. As with the small town setting, it could potentially work with a more self-aware tone but we fail to get it.

The characters are uniformly generic and dull, akin to the teenage cast of an average Friday the 13th movie. They die one by one, in a variety of sudden and violent manners. One of them is so abrupt that it made me laugh out loud, but from the scene involved I do not think it was an intentional gag.

Once the action picks up the film is so ridiculously boring that the best thing to do is play 'spot the homage'. One character urges another to "get to the chopper". The Predator gets wounded and has to use a field medicine kit. The aliens all shriek like the ones in Aliens. There's an escape from a nuclear explosion in a helicopter. One action sequence sees a group of marines get torn to shreds by a group of aliens that is effectively a shot-to-shot remake of Aliens. It even has the armoured personnel carrier, the banks of shoulder-mounted camera feeds, and James Horner's score.

The film is 94 minutes long. It has one good scene, at the very end. A government official delivers a recovered Predator weapon to an Asian women referred to as Miss Yutani (Francoise Yip). She comments that Earth is not ready for such a weapon, and the official replies that 'but this isn't for our world, is it Miss Yutani?'

That's rock solid franchise gold! Alien vs Predator introduced the Weyland Corportion and killed off its owner Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen). AVPR now introduces the Yutani Corporation, destined to merge with Weyland and become the Weyland-Yutani Corporation of the original Alien trilogy. I can see it now: a future-set Alien vs Predator 3 with a cast of colonial marines fighting both aliens and Predators on some offworld colony. AVPR commits the cardinal sin of ending a boring sequel by pointing to a much more exciting sequel - one that never got made. Instead we got Predators and Prometheus. I think I might have preferred a solid AVP3.

The Alien/Predator Rewatch
Alien (1979, d. Ridley Scott.) (review)
Aliens (1986, d. James Cameron.) (review)
Alien³ (1992, d. David Fincher.) (review)
Alien Resurrection (1997, d. Jean-Pierre Jeunet.) (review)

Predator (1987, d. John McTiernan.) (review)
Predator 2 (1990, d. Stephen Hopkins.) (review)
Predators (2010, d. Nimr√≥d Antal.) (review)

Alien vs Predator (2004, d. Paul W.S. Anderson.) (review)
Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007, d. the Brothers Strause.)

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