The initial draw to a second Alien vs. Predator film was to discover what the PredAlien, born in the final shot of the first Alien vs. Predator, would look like in its adult stage. Then effects wizards The Brothers Strause signed on as a directing duo, an odd move by Fox to entrust a beloved franchise in the hands of first-time feature-length film directors. Expectations immediately hit rock bottom for improvement from the first AvP chapter, save for the extensive special effects experience The Brothers Strause brought to the table.
Then the infamous unrated “Red Band” trailer for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem hit the Internet that showcases the majority of major death scenes shot with gruesome details unlike seen in an Alien or Predator movie before. Expectations shot up exponentially, albeit cautiously given the unknown cast and horror staple “small town USA” setting. But as many fans predicted, AvP:R was ultimately panned by critics, fans, and even those who never saw the film.
It’s easy to see where AvP:R went wrong within the first three minutes. Picking up where AvP left off, the PredAlien is born and within seconds grows to full size, slaughters a handful of armed Predators, and causes the Predator ship to crash back on Earth. All the expectations of seeing the series jump away from Earth are squashed in a few clumsily rushed moments. The unexplainable plot holes only grow bigger as the story advances.
For example, a pizza delivery boy male lead (no kidding) and his ex-con brother climb down a sewer to look for pizza boy’s keys a jock threw down it. Upon reaching the bottom, they point their flashlights straight ahead and begin walking away from the logical spot the keys would have landed. I’m all for creating tension, but never at the expense of “common sense.”
Even if trying to forgive the plethora of basic storytelling faux pas, a common theme of paying homage to the previous Alien and Predator films drowns out what little originality was built in. Every other shot involving an Alien or Predator is heavily influenced by previous films. A nod to predecessors here and there is admirable, but forcing copied shots, characters and situations only cheapens the overall experience.
The closing shots of AvP:R set up an intriguing sequel possibility which, if put in the right creative hands, could turn into something special. At the same time, this shot could have existed without the events of AvP:R taking place at all, a testament to the recycled “run of the mill” B-grade horror plot Hollywood has a decidedly hard time deviating from. This series and its characters’ legacy deserves better. Thank goodness for stellar set design, atmosphere and a few clever kills, else AvP:R would be a complete pass ” even for the curious.
Some of AvP:R’s script inadequacies are addressed in the alternate “Unrated” cut available via seamless branching on Blu-ray that includes several scenes finished specifically for the home video release. The most notable tweaks are all-new shots of a second Predator ship added to the opening sequence that establishes a timeframe for how long the PredAlien had to grow. The addition of these shots help fill in the gaps of how only a small number of Predators perished on the way back to Earth, though still leave gaps in logic on why the second ship was headed that direction to begin with. Other added shots are a mix of additional relevant dialogue, a slaughter of National Guardsmen by Aliens, an envelope-pushing slaughter of pregnant women, and other deadly encounters with gory results.
Although the Brothers Strause intentionally filmed AvP:R in dimly lit conditions with a layer of pouring rain to hide costume and effects flaws resulting from limited funds, the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer running at average around 30 mbps successfully holds onto detail ” even in the darkest of scenes. Only a brief scene involving the use of night vision goggles produces noticeable image degradation in handling the gradation of green hues. The only other oddity, overly saturated exterior daytime scenes, is a result of creative choice and not complications during encoding.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio track is, as expected, a real aural treat. Aliens and Predators each have their own distinctive eerie sounds which come at you from every direction imaginable. Though traditional gunfire is limited, there are several large-scale explosions and Predator plasma-cannon rounds fired off to make up for it. Never is the action drowned out by the instantly forgettable score that only seems to hit the right note when cribbing from previous Alien and Predator chord staples.
Footage added for the Unrated cut is identifiable via an optional Added Footage Marker feature that places a small icon in front of new scenes. With the exception of two, the remaining non-commentary supplemental materials are directly ported from the standard DVD version, full-screen 480p video and all.
Weyland-Yutani Archives (HD, Blu-ray Exclusive) ” This interactive database opens up a history of known information on the Alien (Xenomorph) and Predator (Yautja) species. Clips from previous films are accessible, along with a sizeable number of textual encyclopedia-like entries. It’s certainly exhilarating for a moment to see scenes from Alien and Aliens on a Blu-ray Disc, even if for seconds in a small window. Picture-in-picture profile 1.1 is required to access the clips in this feature, which oddly Fox neglected to list on the back of the Blu-ray case.
AvP:R on Blu-ray includes D-Box Motion Code for D-Box enabled seating. The final act and showdown between the Predator and PredAlien is prime material for the seat jiggling D-Box provides, a next-gen facet of select Blu-ray titles we hope to address in upcoming Blu-ray reviews.
Commentary by Directors Colin and Greg Strause and Producer John Davis – The Brothers Strause are open to discussing and dissecting their first feature, despite their rambling having to be reeled in by Davis from time to time. This is a great commentary for answering lingering questions the film posed, as well as discovering elements not included due to a tight budget.
Commentary by Creature Effects Designers/Creators Alec Gillis and tom Woodruff, Jr. – The pair of special effects artists offer up everything you’d possibly want to know about the film’s visual design, from the Predator and Alien design to why moss appears on trees.
Five featurettes are edited similarly as if being cut from one lengthy documentary. Unfortunately a play all option is not included.
Preparing for War: Development and Production (15:52) ” This featurette provides a mix between recapping, interview snippets and screen tests.
Fight to the Finish: Post Production (12:13) ” A companion piece to viewing the Unrated cut with a number of axed scenes referenced.
The Nightmare Returns: Creating the Aliens (7:34) ” A brief visual guide to what’s discussed in the effects commentary track.
Crossbreed: The PredAlien (8:21) ” This featurette is noteworthy for offering a clean look at the PredAlien not offered in the film. It’s learned the PredAlien was originally to perish in the ship crash.
Building the Predator Homeworld (6:37) ” “Oh shit, what does the Predator home world look like?” The design team was given a green light for this scene during the end of production. See how they used the ship from Predator 2 for inspiration in the shortest, but most interesting featurette of the five.
Rounding out the supplemental features are seven Stills Galleries, a pair of Trailers including the infamous Internet “Red Band” trailer, a second disc including a standard-def Digital Copy now included on all Fox new theatrical releases, and a handful of Fox Blu-ray trailers. Sorely missing are deleted scenes such as Kelly firing a massive vehicle mounted 50 caliber cannon at encroaching Aliens and the remainder of that cut action sequence, as seen briefly in the Red Band trailer.
Judging by box office receipts, writing one of the male leads as a flippant pizza delivery boy with zero personality wasn’t the greatest creative move. Bad acting and script aside, the Brothers” Strause know how to push the “gore” envelope which this Unrated cut embellishes. The benefits of Blu-ray only sweeten the effects pot more, making AvP:R a must-see for technological advancements in special effects and high definition rather in lieu of its amateur and unimaginative storytelling.
– Dan Bradley