AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Produced by John Davis, Gordon Carroll, David Giler & Walter Hill
Written by Paul W.S. Anderson
Director of Photograpy David Johnson
Music by Harald Kloser
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova & Ewen Bremmer
2004/100 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
The idea for an "Alien vs. Predator" movie has been around for at least 15 years. (I would often tell people that even if the film was only an Alien action figure battling a Predator toy, just having that name on a theater marquee would have people lining up to see it.) During that time, these two film titans have clashed in other media, including comic books, novels, and video games. Well, in 2004 the ALIEN VS. PREDATOR film (AKA AVP) became a reality. And all that I have to say is, "We waited all this time for this?" (Well, that's not all that I have to say. Please keep reading.)
Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson shows that he truly intends to combine the ALIEN and PREDATOR franchises by having ALIEN VS. PREDATOR take place in the present, on Earth. (As you know, the ALIEN films are all set in the future.) As the film opens, a satellite picks up a heat signature from under the ice of Antarctica. Analysis of the signal reveals a pyramid buried under the ice. The owner of the satellite, Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), assembles a team of scientists, guides, and drillers to travel to Antarctica, drill through the ice, and explore the pyramid. Once the team reaches the site, they find that a perfect hole has already been drilled through the ice. At the bottom of the hole, they find the pyramid. The group energetically searches the structure, and upon removing some artifacts, the pyramid "comes to life", trapping them inside. Soon, Alien eggs appear and through the familiar birthing process, a group of Alien creatures are released into the pyramid. At the same time, three Predators arrive on the scene and proceed to hunt the Aliens. The human survivors then find themselves caught in a war.
Here's the bad news: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is a bad movie. Here's the worse news: That's truly a shame because the idea clearly has promise and the movie is full of clever moments. And the blame and credit for all of the film's faults and achievements rest squarely on the shoulders of writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson. Unlike many, I actually used to be a fan of Anderson's. I enjoyed MORTAL KOMBAT, and I even found things to like in SOLDIER. I feel that EVENT HORIZON is his best film and that the movie is highly underrated. But, after Anderson ruined by favorite video game series with the abysmal RESIDENT EVIL film, I totally lost faith in him. And ALIEN VS. PREDATOR hasn't helped his case.
To be fair, I'll start by acknowledging the positive aspects of the film. Clearly Anderson is a huge fan of the ALIEN series, as the film is littered with visual references and nods to the other movies. From the opening shot, Anderson tips his cap to the directors who have come before him and he's clearly trying to work within the boundaries set up by those past films. (In addition, there's one shot which was clearly taken from John Carpenter's THE THING.) Also, it's obvious that a great deal of work went into the look of the film, as the sets are massive, quite detailed, and very impressive. The special effects are good and the creatures look fine. (Although, I wasn't crazy about the elaborate helmets that the Predator's wore.)
So, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is a nice looking movie, doesn't that count for something? It would if the story wasn't so bad. The central premise is intriguing, but once the group reaches the pyramid, Anderson runs out of ideas and the script appears to be on auto-pilot. The human characters are killed off one-by-one, but unfortunately, before we get to know them. The characters run from room to room in the pyramid, and there is no sense of purpose or location. This wouldn't be so disappointing if these scenes were action-packed. But, this PG-13 feature has watered-down the gory Alien/Predator action that we are used to. Yes, there are deaths in the film, but all of the human deaths occur off-screen. The Alien-on-Predator violence is shown, but the battles don't carry any of the massive scale that one was expecting from this film. And then, we have the last act of the movie which introduces a ridiculous idea which will turn-off all but the most brain-dead viewers. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the advertised 100-minute running time of the film contains 12 minutes of credits, revealing the film to be somewhat truncated and nowhere near as long as the other movies in the series. Despite the abomination that Anderson created with the RESIDENT EVIL film (and it's equally bad sequel), I still have faith that someday, someone will make a film which accurately reflects the games. Likewise, fans of the ALIEN and PREDATOR franchises can continue to dream of a movie that does justice to these two great screen-monsters. For, as it stands, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR will only satisfy 12 year olds who aren't aware of the cinematic history that the film is insulting.
AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR bursts onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film is coming to DVD in two separate versions, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks fantastic. The picture is incredibly sharp and clear (this can best be seen in Chapter 2). The picture shows no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image has a nice amount of depth. Artifacting defects and edge-enhancement problems are kept to a minimum. Overall, a very nice video presentation. The DVD offers both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS 5.1 audio track. Both tracks sound very good, as they offer clear dialogue with no noticeable problems. The tracks deliver a nice array of surround sound and subwoofer effects. The film has a good sound design and these tracks help it to stand out. Of the two, the DTS track sounds somewhat clearer, but both sound great.
The ALIEN VS. PREDATOR DVD contains some extra features, but not an abundance, which makes me wonder if another release is in the future. We start with an audio commentary from writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson, and actors Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan. This isn't a very good track. Anderson does try to point out some important issues, such as the lack of flashlights on the set, but he's often interrupted by the kissing-up from Henriksen and Lathan. Speaking of Lathan, did she know that the commentary was being recorded, as she says brilliant things like, "Is my burger here?" "Retro-fitting? Is that a word?". A second commentary features creature designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. and Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno. This commentary is better for the simple fact that this trio stays on topic. However, there are frequent gaps in their talk and it is overly technical (read: boring) at times. The DVD contains three deleted scenes, which run about 2 minutes are utter junk. The "AVP Promo -- The Making of ALIEN VS. PREDATOR" is a 23-minute featurette which foucses on the origins of the script (with an emphasis on the comic AVP comic books), the sets, the creature design (with a detailed look into the creature shop), the miniature FX, and the cast. This segment contains a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage. The DVD features an alternate cut of the film which features a new 2-minute prologue, which really adds nothing to the story. The extras are rounded out by a still gallery of AVP comic book covers.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©