Alien vs. Predator

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods
Raoul Bova as Sebastian de Rosa
Lance Henriksen as Charles Bishop Weyland
Ewen Bremner as Graeme Miller
Colin Salmon as Maxwell Stafford
Tommy Flanagan as Mark Verheiden
Joseph Rye as Joe Connors
Agathe De La Boulaye as Adele Rousseau
Carsten Norgaard as Rusten Quinn
Sam Troughton as Thomas Parks
Petr Jákl as Stone
Pavel Bezdek as Bass
Kieran Bew as Klaus
Carsten Voigt as Mikkel
Jan Filipensky as Boris

Special Features:
Commentary by director Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen, and Sanaa Lathan (theatrical version only)

Commentary by Alec Gillis (alien effects), Tom Woodruff Jr. (alien effects), and visual effects supervisor John Bruno (theatrical version only)

Includes theatrical version and an extended version with a new beginning

Deleted scenes

Making-of featurette

Dark Horse comic book cover gallery

DVD-ROM: the first edition of the AVP comic book, AVP comic book background study, exclusive 16-page preview of the upcoming AVP graphic novel

Other Info:
Widescreen 2.35:1
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Synopsis:
When satellites for the Weyland company discover a strange pyramid buried 2000 ft below the Antarctic ice, company founder Charles Bishop Weyland assembles a team to investigate. He chooses Antarctic expert Alexa Woods to lead the expedition.

When the team arrives, they discover many strange stone carvings and hieroglyphics on the pyramid depicting sacrifice, hunting, and strange creatures. Little does the team realize that they have stumbled upon an ancient training ground for the Predators. The alien race of hunters placed the pyramid there thousands of years ago as a location for a hunting rite of passage. Inside, they hunt the Alien, one of the fiercest creatures in the galaxy and an integral part of their hunting culture.

As luck would have it, the humans have been lured to the pyramid just in time for the latest Predator hunt. The human team is needed to incubate the Alien young. The human team quickly realizes their dangerous predicament, but will any of them survive the battle between Alien and Predator?

Alien vs. Predator is rated PG-13 for violence, language, horror images, slime and gore. (‘Slime’ earns a PG-13 rating???)

The Movie:
Let me start off by saying that I’m a long time Aliens and Predator fan. I’ve watched all the films in both series many times over and I’ve followed the spin off books and comics. I even bought the first Aliens vs. Predator comics from Dark Horse as soon as they hit comic shelves so many years ago. So it was with eager anticipation that I awaited Alien vs. Predator. However, there were a couple of troubling signs as opening day approached. The first was that they didn’t screen the film for press until the day before the film opened. This typically means the studio thinks the film sucks and that they don’t want bad buzz getting out early. The official Fox excuse was that they were working on effects up until the last minute. I wasn’t sure what to believe. The second bad sign was that AICN posted review after review absolutely slamming the movie without mercy. While I try not to read other people’s reviews before I screen films, the bad AVP buzz from AICN was inescapable. Fortunately, the bad signs weren’t that bad after all. There was nothing in the film that Fox should have been overly embarrassed about, so maybe the official line about effects was true. And I also think the people sending in negative reviews to AICN were either fakes (sent by a website with a grudge against AICN) or people just looking for an excuse to tear a movie apart regardless of whether it was bad or not.

I actually walked away from AVP thinking it was pretty decent. It wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it wasn’t the train wreck that many people were expecting either. It ended up being exactly what I thought it would be – a decent popcorn / monster flick. I thought it wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the original films, but it was a bit better than Predator 2 and Alien 3. While I wish they had simply adapted the first Aliens vs. Predator comic (which took place on another planet far in the future), this adventure ended up working out OK. In fact, the movie became more and more like the comic right up until the end. Some of the key moments from the comic are included in this film. The marking of foreheads with the alien finger and blood is here. Some of the classic AVP shots are here. There are other similarities, but I won’t go into them here.

This film also ties heavily into the film franchises that started everything. The Weyland company is the same one seen in the Aliens films. Charles Bishop Weyland is even the guy that the Bishop android from Aliens is modeled after. Lance Henriksen reprises the role, of course. (He even does a brief tip of the hat to the knife between the fingers trick from Aliens.) You see all stages of the Aliens from face huggers to chest bursters all the way up to the Queen. The Predators also have all of their trademarks. They string people up from rafters, use all sorts of nifty gadgets, and keep trophies from their victims. Though the movie doesn’t entirely feel like either an Alien or Predator sequel, these trademarks help give some authenticity to the film.

The effects vary in quality, but they are generally good. I was particularly impressed with the CGI Aliens. They looked great. There are some great shots of the warrior Aliens as well as the Queen. You get to see her in full battle action and it was quite spectacular. Shots of her and thousands upon thousands of swarming Aliens really made me eager to see a purely Alien sequel. I’d really like to see what they could pull off with new technology. The Predators looked best when their masks were on. I didn’t like their faces as much when they removed their masks, but this was a rare occurrence. Their ships were also portrayed in a cool stealth manner.

As for the human actors, they weren’t terribly impressive. But then again, they are there simply to be killed by the monsters. Nothing more. Besides Lance Henriksen as Charles Bishop Weyland, Sanaa Lathan is the only other notable one as Alexa Woods. She and all of the others have all sorts of bad dialogue and cheesy moments, but that’s OK. I didn’t go to see Shakespeare. I went to see Aliens fight Predators and that’s what I got.

Overall, I thought it was a decent action flick. If you’re an Aliens or Predator fan, I think you’ll find moments throughout the film that will impress you. It wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been, but it wasn’t a bomb either.

Unfortunately, AVP has a lot working against it. Besides the previously mentioned bad buzz, I know many people take issue with the fact that it isn’t R rated like its predecessors. It’s PG-13. In many people’s minds, this means it is not as good. They believe that the scares and gore have been toned down for the kiddies. Well, yes and no. The film didn’t get the R rating because it wasn’t people getting gutted, cut, and mangled. It was the imaginary monsters that were. Because there isn’t so much violence against humans, it got the lighter rating (which makes business sense if you want as many people watching the film as possible.). That being said, though, the film isn’t scary like its predecessors. Aliens was the last movie to actually give me nightmares while Predator was scary on a whole other level. Alien vs. Predator doesn’t capture any of what made those films scary. In fact, I didn’t flinch once during AVP. Maybe it was more because I was jaded to big screen frights, but I didn’t find any suspense in it at all. It was mainly about the action.

I also wish the film was still based on the comic and set on another planet. While this film worked OK, I like the futuristic, frontier setting a lot better. I think it would have given the audience a better, stranger environment. Another minor gripe was that the whole Alien lifecycle was greatly accelerated for the film. Rather than going from facehugger to full alien in a few days, it’s a matter of a few hours in the movie. I didn’t like it, but maybe you can justify it by saying they were modified by the Predators to grow faster.

As for other problems with the film, I already mentioned the bad dialogue and poor Predator faces. To that I’ll add that I didn’t like the look of some of the action scenes. The camera would pull in extremely close to the action and the lighting would kind of strobe. The end result was a big blur during the fight scenes. I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on. The camera pulled back a bit more as the movie progressed and I got a better sense of the battles, but early on it was frustrating.

I think you’ll find Alien vs. Predator worth checking out. Don’t listen to anyone else’s opinions – good or bad. Just go in expecting a popcorn flick and I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Extras:
For a genre film, this DVD is a little light on the extras. Here’s what you will find:

Commentary by director Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen, and Sanaa Lathan – Of the two commentaries, this is probably the more entertaining of the two. Lance Henriksen tells stories from the set, his days on the Aliens film, and more. This one is definitely geared more towards the characters, story, and making of the movie.

Commentary by Alec Gillis (alien effects), Tom Woodruff Jr. (alien effects), and visual effects supervisor John Bruno – As you would expect, this commentary is much more technical in nature and the guys get into detail about how they pulled off the numerous effects in the film. It’s a little weird to hear them refer to the Predator by the actor’s name, but it’s informative if you’re into special effects. It was definitely a unique blend of CGI, live action, and miniatures.

Extended version with a new beginning – This is a very brief alternate opening showing the whaling station as it looked in the early 1900′s. You see a whaler being pursued by a Predator, then being attacked by an Alien. It’s extremely brief.

Deleted scenes – There are only three deleted scenes. One shows more of the archeologist at the beginning finding the Pepsi bottle cap and dealing with investors. The second scene shows a guy being attacked in the maze. It’s hard to tell what was new from it. The third scene shows the Predator skinning an Alien, then making its second mouth pop out as a joke to scare Alexa. I imagine it was dropped to reduce the gore and secure the PG-13 rating.

Making-of featurette – This was actually a promo for the film from before it was released. It’s about 20 minutes long and it details the comic history of the story, the casting, the sets, the creature effects, and more. It’s an interesting look behind the scenes, but otherwise it’s your standard “making of” video.

Dark Horse comic book cover gallery – This feature allows you to view the covers of ALL of the Aliens vs. Predator comics that Dark Horse has released over the years. I’ve actually read most of them, so it was kind of neat to see the artwork again without having to dig through comic boxes.

The Bottom Line:
Despite bad buzz, Alien vs. Predator is a decent popcorn flick with some cool moments here and there. It’s worth checking out.

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