Coming on the heels of 2003's disastrously pedestrian Alien vs. Predator (or AVP), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (or AVP:R) is a perfect example of how studio stupidity and fanboy obsession can ruin cinema. Why Fox chose to destroy one of its best franchises will be debated for decades to come, but there is no doubt that the Alien saga (and to some extent the perpetually fledging Predator series) is effectively over. What was once a playground for inventive directors with clever scripts has quickly devolved into a wasteland of lowbrow rubbish. Sure, blame Fox, blame the producers (Walter Hill, have you no shame?), but don't forget to put a pudgy, popcorn-flaked finger at the comic and computer jockeys who have been slavering for another cosmic smackdown between the two titular baddies. They screamed, the studio heard, and now, well, now we have this.
AVP:R starts off on what should be an engaging note. We're aboard a predator spaceship zooming away from Earth when the body of a deceased predator (killed in AVP) bursts open to reveal an alien baby. Only, and here's where things start to slide downhill, this chestburster has predator-styled dreds. Or maybe those are Hasidic payos. This little booger tears the crew apart and the ship crashes into the mountains of Colorado (though the forest is decidedly deciduous). Within minutes the woods are teeming with alien spawn and the human population of Gunnison, Colorado is minutes from annihilation. Good thing the predators have sent their equivalent of John Wayne to clean up the mess. Is he powerful enough to stop not only the wave of xenomorphs overrunning the town but also the "predalien" hybrid (seriously, I wish I made that up) leading the invasion? It only takes 86 minutes to find out. Article continues below
Oh, right, the people. I forgot to mention that the film spends about 30 minutes worth of valuable screen time detailing the back stories of five or six Gunnison residents. You get the high-school sweethearts (Kristen Hager
and Johnny Lewis
), the well-meaning but stubborn sheriff (John Ortiz
), the bad boy come back to town (Steven Pasquale
), all the usual clichés. And you also get sub-WB dialog with pot jokes and kid humor. It is clear from the outset that the only reason people are even in this movie is for them to be fodder for alien destruction, we not only don't care about them we want them to hurry up and die already.
I'll go out on a limb and say that AVP:R is not as bad as AVP. While Paul W. S. Anderson's first take on this material was truly mind-boggling in its ineptitude (a royal middle finger to fans of the Alien and Predator series), AVP:R is shorter and more brutal. The film is well-shot, the special effects are top-notch, and the acting, as expected, is atrocious. Then there's Shane Salerno's (Shaft) by-the-numbers screenplay. Not only is the dialogue cheesy but the plotting is exceptionally lazy; nearly every action sequence in AVP:R is cribbed from an identical scene in an earlier Alien or Predator film. But it's the film's scope that's really lacking. Setting the movie on Earth leads to expectations of seeing the massive destruction audiences thought they'd see with the first AVP film. Something on the order of Independence Day. But once again, the action is limited to a small space and a small cast. Maybe it's due to budgetary restrictions or maybe it was written that way to increase tension, either way it sucks. The film is neither frightening nor powerful. It's like a half-hearted typhoon in a teacup.
I came out of AVP:R with a realization: Maybe the very idea of an aliens vs. predators film is a bad one. Maybe combining these two series was a mistake. Yes, I've read the Aliens comic books, I've even read some of the Predator vs. Aliens books, and I liked them, but what works on paper won't necessarily work on screen. On paper, the scope can be immense, the plot twists stunning and crafty, but when translated to film -- shepherded through a jaded and myopic Hollywood system -- all of that can be lost. And in this case it was. In other words: Ve careful what you wish for, you just might get it.