AVPR: Alien vs Predator - Requiem (2007)
In 2004, Paul W.S. Anderson took the proverbial peanut butter and jelly of two sci fi series with long running comics, novels, and even previous incredible movies and gave us a rather mediocre sandwich for our dinning pleasure. Although it wasn't by any means a terrible meal, it left a bit of a peculiar aftertaste in the mouth, one that many would call the salty flavorings of the tears of franchise lovers. We have already been over my opinions of that back here, but the more important topic is that of the sequel soon to be discussed. Is it possible that the Brothers Strause threw off the shackles of bland mediocrity as they did with the PG-13 rating, or did they feebly try and salvage what was left of a situation too scarred by its plainness to make a difference?
Now, again, there is a lot of parts here that we can look at from different standpoints - movie goer and series fan - but at the very least we can't ignore the fact that for this particular movie, it's a direct continuation of the first AVP movie, and as such certain things have already been established by its predecessor that need not be re-established here. Knowing that, lets jump into the pit and cause a scene.
We start off where the last AVP left off, watching the old "Fabio" hero predator "give birth" to a cute little baby chest burster. I use the term cute loosely here - for sure it's something only its mother could love - as our slimy little friend's shot pans out to show the predator ship disengage from the main mother ship for what we can only assume is another go at the hunting game. Well, little baby grows up fast, and before long it's already dealing out a bloody swatch of xenomorphic justice across the breadth of the ship. Catching on, one of the predators begins unleashing all manner of plasma whooping all over the walls of the ship (as we find our big predalien friend is quite the maneuverable critter for its rather large stature), causing a system failure and rapid crash landing in the peaceful woods of Colorado. Right before the final living predator of the ship gets finished off by the new ugly, he sends out a distress beacon (or maybe starts to arm the self destruct and just doesn't get the chance to finish) that another predator on what we can assume to be the predator home-world gets. This one is serious business, and we can tell from the large collection of masks and fancy weaponry he has neatly placed through-out his walls, and we get to watch as he leaves the planet and sets sail for Earth in a hurry.
Yep, these poor humans are gonna be caught in the middle of another battle between species, and this time it looks like things are playing for keeps. The death toll starts stacking quick, on both the human and xenomorph side (as we find our new predator hero is much more capable then any from the last movie) as we suddenly find ourselves smack in the story of survival as we get introduced to our main human cast. Before we move on, lets just get this straight, if you came to this one expecting some kind of story more advanced than "we humans just trying to survive" or predators hunting some big game while removing evidence of their accident, you might not be in the right movie. This plot is as straight-forward and simple as can be, with only a minor slight twist that isn't so much a twist as it is something that only some of the characters in the movie itself don't see coming, but as I've said before this can be a good thing for an action movie. Horror comes from normally cheap scares, with a bit of atmospheric creep towards the end, instead of anything really psychologically deep, and the minimalistic plot helps paint a much wider canvas for the action as soon as it starts. That action, by the way, starts up nearly immediately this time around, instead of waiting for the second half of the movie like the first one.
Character-wise, we don't get much more than an introduction for most of the characters, and for most they either become fuel for the xenomorph war front or they develop so little that it's giving it too much credit to even talk about it. I mean, to show you the point here, the characters largely don't even have last names (or maybe that's all they have). Right off the bat, we are treated to the ex-con Dallas (played by Steven Pasquale) just getting off his prison term, who becomes quite the stand-up leader by the end of the film, his local sheriff buddy Morales (John Ortiz) who's day just continually gets worse, the Convict's younger hot-headed brother Ricky (Johnny Lewis), and a returning soldier mother named Kelly (Reiko Aylesworth). Of the batch, the only one we have any remote feelings for is Kelly, and I feel in part this may be because her daughter Molle (Ariel Gade) seems rather distant from her, and family strain of that sort is usually a direct string puller for the heart. The segments with Ricky especially end up feeling like some minor teen movie plugged into an otherwise dark and violent movie, and although it at least tries to add some depth to the character and set up later actions, it still feels out of place from the rest of the movie (as of all the human side-lines, this is the one that feels to get the most play besides Morales trying to do his job when all these grisly murders start happening). Regardless, by the end we do find ourselves rooting for the survivors a little bit, hoping they get out alive (and it might differ from watcher to watcher, but I imagine most people will at least be seat-edging over their desire for Kelly and Molly to survive), but in all honesty I feel that in part it comes from the action itself and not the characters. It's as though you are watching a war movie, and you just hope the civilians (in this case the humans) can get out of the way before they become collateral. Admittedly, some of the lines in this movie are delivered pretty dry, and some of the characters might have been able to squeeze a bit more out of their performances, but when it comes down to it the humans aren't the stars of this show.
It is at this point that we have to wonder how our extraterrestrial friends fare in the character department. Simply put, the aliens act like aliens. The predalien (literally just predator and alien combined) takes the role of Queen bug here, and we see numerous times how the grunts (drones/warriors) obey "big momma's" wishes, even without text. The added benefit of more exuberant suit usage really helps here as well, as it lends to itself a more real feeling about the aliens that many a time in the last film where nothing more than noticeably CG creations. Strangely enough, it seems like a lot of the chest bursters in this movie were CG (possibly due to being "packed" in there) as though to make up for the increased suit usage for the adult forms. The predalien itself has a few moments where it would seem that it might be more than what it is, as though it carried some sort of primal urges over from the predator that it got it's molecular pattern from. The predator here just bleeds copious amounts of awesome and experience, which is a stark contrast to the group from the movie previous.
The costumes of both are incredible as well., and as I stated just a moment ago we see a much larger usage of suits over CG this time around. There's something to be said of practical effects - both in how it looks on screen and the way it allows actors to better play of it then a green screen and someone yelling "there's a monster in front of you" off screen. The predator this time around is much slimmer, a welcome change of pace from the linebacker designs from the first film, as now we see something that looks as though it could stalk its prey through a crowded wood. The xenomorphs also seem to have less of a slimy shine than before, but again this could be from the larger amount of suit use over CG. As far as the humans go, what really can be said? They all look as they belong in a modern setting, the items they get throughout the movie are feasible things, and it helps cement the fiction of it all into a more real environment.
Speaking of which, outside of a few earth space-views and that wonderful rendition of the predator home planet, this entire thing takes place on earth. We trade icy tundras for mountainous forestland, and elaborate pyramids for a rural town from dinners to hospitals. The backdrops look enough as one would expect to be believable, although the fact that most of this happens at night does wash out a lot of potential details that we might have seen - particularly in the sewer scenes. Some have a harder time than others, but it wasn't so dark for me that it became unwatchable, and the reasoning easily could have been for the dramatic effect it has on the horror side of things when you have something as dark as a xenomorph involved. At one point, the characters in the movie actually see one in the darkness before even I did, but outside of that it's mostly all probably brighter than what it would be if it where to truthfully happen so I can't fault it much for it when it really adds to the atmosphere. Whether intentional or not, it also adds to the classic feel of keeping monsters hidden during movies, so as not to spoil some of the magic of the creatures themselves.
Audio here is an interesting mix - with a very large amount of queues and scores being throwbacks to the original Predator movie. Effects sound pretty crisp on everything from alien hisses to bodily impacts and thundering explosions. Many a false queue is mixed in from the score as well to throw the viewer off towards bad things happening in the film (giving you the impression something bad is about to happen when it doesn't). It does a good job of supporting the movie while not stealing the show.
I feel that I would be doing a disservice to everyone if I didn't at least touch on the topic of the action scenes in this film. Although for most of the start of the movie the humans are either getting killed off or going about their (relatively boring) lives, when we start having the proverbial crap hit the fan they start arming themselves and joining in on the action scenes, making for a good chance for the more vocal characters to get some harassment in while also giving us a message that humans are a bit better than cows at staying alive. The real meat of the action scenes, without a doubt, come from our new hero predator, who fights with skills that couldn't be attained if we added all the predators from the first movie together. Traps, whips, shoulder cannons and claws, this predator fights as though he means business and has been doing this for a while. All of the skirmishes start piling up for the final battle, which starts as a high-octane one against many battle (until its so rudely interrupted by Ricky) and ends with a monster-a-monster battle on the roof between the predalien and the predator. It's a great fight, and it makes you wish they would have nixed some of the human parts to give us more like it.
So is the movie good? Well, if you are watching for a plot or superb acting, than you should probably pass on this one. If you are looking for an action packed alien on alien battle and can put up with some trivial human parts during the first half, it could be well-worth your time. If you have a hard time seeing darker things, you may want to boost your brightness settings a bit though - this movie is pretty dark. Honestly, rent it to see if you can stomach buying it.
Again, there is a lot of back-history for this movie, but as I've already discussed some of it in the previous entry, lets only get into the stuff really relevant here okay? Setting wise, this makes more sense - it's at least a reasonably warm climate. At the beginning we also see the predators carrying facehuggers in little containment tubes for seeding a place to hunt (one could even argue they had meant to go somewhere that wasn't Earth before the predalien had its way with them). Speaking of, the predalien itself is something that has existed in the fluff, and therein given even the predators themselves a run for their money in sheer strength - the only notable difference here is the ability of the predalien to rule facehuggers out of the situation by essentially raping people with its secondary mouth. Not gonna lie, it was a completely silly thing, but as far as the movie went I guess it was the most logical thing to allow for such an expendable xenomorph count. On that note, I am a little sad to see that the facehuggers specifically ignored all lifeforms that weren't human. Those little guys have been known to spread to anything with the mouth to deposit in, and in the past have provided such things as the dog (or ox, depending on what cut you watch) alien from Alien 3 , and with all the wildlife in Colorado I feel the brothers Strause really missed an opportunity to play with some really impressive xenomorph ideas.
Outside of that, the only real major issue to be taken from this aspect is that again, how does no one in the future (Alien series) know even the slightest of these things existence with the events that unfold in this movie? We get a shot at the end of a woman named Yutani (assumingly the other part of the mega-corporate greed machine known in the future as Weyland Yutani), although here entire manner of speech makes it seem as though she isn't even human (your world?) or at the least from Earth.
Final verdict, this one is more worth the time than the original one is, as the brothers Strause continually throw nods to the films that came before them (a strong female character protecting a child, motion-tracker audio being used for the radar screen showing the planes approach) and show that they might have been the ones who should have handled this franchise in the first place. It still isn't the best movie ever, but for the fans of predators it at least is something worth a rent, as we get to see the character really live up to its title.