AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007)
(Release Date: December 25, 2007)

Double Jaw!Double Jaw!

The series has Crash Landed... will there be survivors?

J.C. Maçek III... 

Stuck in the Middle Critic!
J.C. Maçek III
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Franchises have a devolutionary process from their formation through their sequels and spin offs until the point at which they ultimately become parodies of themselves. 2007's sequel to Alien Vs. Predator, called Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is a prime example of the final throes of a franchise (make that two, or maybe three, franchises) struggling to remain alive without a whole lot of apparent support of their studio.
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When a solid series starts off there is unproven ground with unique ideas and plenty of gray areas and ambiguity that causes the audience to think and ask questions. Such is the case in Alien in which the title character is so frightening because of what the audience doesn't see... and what we do see is so terrifying the audience scarcely was ready to see the rest! The same is true (to a lesser degree) in Predator, which featured an actually invisible killer, each glimpse of which was more chilling than the last.

The first sequel in a series has to show more of the mystery whether the storyteller was the creator of the original mythos at all. This works, provided that the attempt isn't to "top" the original film. In Aliens we were given a very different movie than the "Ultimate Haunted House Movie" that we received in the first film. Here we saw a formidable group of marines against an entire hive of the Xenomorphs that individually terrorized the Nostromo and in the process we were told more and more of the story of these beasts without detracting from the original mystery. While Predator 2 was far from a great film, the furthering of the mythos in that film splintered off into varied media and built a new fan base for the series, especially when the finale featured a "Xenomorph" skull, hinting at the possibility of an Alien Vs. Predator movie (a concept that was already making a splash in the comics). Regardless, in the cases of both sequels the "little bit" more that we're given is a taste, leading to fan conjecture and theories which helped to keep the mythos flourishing.

Eventually, however, Franchises begin to burn out. Later entries tend to repeat the surprises of prior entries and instead of little peeks allowing for our minds to work out the rest, we are commonly given eyefuls of visuals, spoon feeding us what we already know. The prevailing concept of "Let's push this farther" becomes much stronger than the idea of doing justice to the source materials or allowing for a true expansion in any real way of the underlying mythology. After all, by this time the mythology is an open book anyway.

Unfortunately, AVPR: Aliens Vs Predator - Requiem is a by-the-numbers sequel, blowing up the story with a pushing of the saga(s) to a seam-breaking event with plenty of repetitive "surprises" and very little focus on solid story-telling. In many ways, AVPR is a standard slasher flick, complete with the ubiquitous teenage prey and the standard jump-out-and-scream-boo jolts that mark and mar the genre. The same script might have served any old horror flick, with or without a titanic match-up in the title.

Picking up right where AVP left off, we're shown ol' "Scar" being ripped out from the inside by a new baby Alien, this time with the genetic influence of the Predator it incubated within. Cool thought (one that also debuted in the comics), but this "Predalien" is only the first example of taking the Hybrid Theory (first explored in Alien 3) to a new extreme. It isn't long before the Predator ship (that has just barely reached escape velocity) pulls a Nostromo repeat, this time with a well-armed Predator inside just waiting to... rip a hole in the hull.

As the ship crash-lands somewhere in Gunnison County, Colorado a new, lone Predator (played by Ian Whyte, who previously played Scar in the last film) decides to take on the challenge and quickly takes his Chrysler on a road trip to Earth. Meanwhile the almost cartoonish, dreadlocked Alien (Tom Woodruff Jr., who previously played Grid in the last film) is busy pushing around a whole new hive of Xenomorphs thanks, in part, to the fact that the crashed Predator ships were carrying around "facehuggers" and, in part, thanks to the fact that among its various other special abilities, the Predalien is able to inseminate people (mostly pregnant women) with multiple Babliens at once.

The human thread starts with a newly released convict who brings us yet another lead character in an Alien movie named Dallas. Dallas Howard (Steven Pasquale) humbly returns to his home town in Gunnison to meet his old friend and former partner in Mischief Eddie Morales (John Ortiz) who is now the Sheriff of dem dar parts. Also on the agenda is reuniting with his hell-raising little brother Ricky (Johnny Lewis) whose job is delivering Pizza but whose hobby is lusting after the admittedly super-hot Jesse (Kristen Hager) and getting his ass kicked for doing so. And to add one more layer of plot (as well as the prerequisite ass-kicking female lead) Veteran Kelly O'Brien (Reiko Aylesworth) returns from overseas to her husband and daughter.

And... mayhem ensues right about that time. Soon the town is being over-run by more Aliens than we've ever seen before, which is clear evidence that somewhere along the way they were given XGH (Xenomorph Growth Hormone) or by the time the events of Alien take place they slow down considerably. Man, these "Chest Bursters" are born, and are seven feet tall in what seems like about an hour. They're well-fed, though, I'll give them that.

It's hard to say for sure where the blame is to lie for what follows. Shane Salerno (writer of Armageddon which ate fried pickles) takes a few cues from the previous entry's screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson and a lot of collected cues from various prior entries in both film series. The directors (Colin and Greg Strause, credited as "The Brothers Strause") seem to milk every gag that Salerno pumps into the script for all they're worth. Further each borrowed bit is amplified to a bloated degree. The final result shows the exact same sequences from previous films done in a way that seems calculated to outshine the original versions but instead feels pale and rehashed. Still, the brothers have an eleven year history (so far) in the visual effects field and they do pull off a few no-brainer testosterone explosion action feats.

The choice of this duo (whose directing credits include more music videos than features) could have been either an honest chance for some fresh meat on the creative team (a la Fincher on Alien 3) or an attempt by 20th Century Fox to save some production costs by having the boys wear two hats. While AVPR never looks "cheap", there is a definite air of corner-cutting in this film. Plot points fizzle and evaporate as soon as they attempt to make a splash and the creative flow is sacrificed for a series of sight gags that sometimes work but often feel trite. This ranges from the editing (which may or may not result in continuity) to the one-off appearance of what appears to be an Alien/ Alligator hybrid to such experiments in bad taste as the use of pregnant women as Alien incubators (and babies as food) to a number of shot-for-shot "tributes" to the previous films in both series.

Further, not only the franchises of Alien and Predator are mined for material here. The predictable ending is straight out of Return of the Living Dead (incidentally written and directed by Alien co-author Dan O'Bannon) and includes a low-rent cameo by Robert Joy and (to fulfill the foretaste of AVP's "Charles Bishop Weyland") Françoise Yip as (drumroll) Ms. Yutani! With such sad rip-offs, non-surprises and strange, weak themes seen here, it's striking that the list of executive producers included Walter Hill and David Giler. Protect your Investment, guys!

The main sadness about this film is what it is as compared to what it came from. Alien is almost universally acclaimed as is its sequel Aliens and while Predator isn't considered on par with Alien or Aliens, it's far from a bad or derided film. AVP may have been a money vehicle, but it was a money vehicle that was well thought out and worked hard to be canonical to both mythologies. AVPR is none of these films. To be fair, it's not all bad. Though the situations are primarily stock and the characters poorly developed, none of the actors (in any leading capacity) are bad. Reiko Aylesworth is still great to watch and she still manages to keep that blend of toughness and femininity mixed into a realistic whole. She's equally fit to drive the military vehicle through an Alien-infested town as she is to play loving mommy to her daughter Molly (Ariel Gade). Meanwhile Ortiz gives more than the script warrants in his portrayal of the Sheriff who worked hard to get where he is and suddenly finds himself outclassed by EPIC proportions. The special effects are at least passable, though the "unseen" here feels more like a symptom of unfinished monster effects than it does an experiment in horror. There are some mighty fine battle scenes here and there too (well, maybe not mighty fine). Any way you slice it, those who have been waiting since the previews for 1992's Alien³ for the fulfillment of the promise that "On Earth EVERYONE can hear you scream!" might get a jolt out of this one. That is except for the miniscule percent of you who both have seen Alien 2 and considered it at all satisfying.

Without question this film is making its money back, even if it's not to be heralded as anything near the first Alien or even the first Predator film. The film's Forty Million Dollar budget is the lowest of any Alien movie since Aliens from over 21 years ago, but seeing as how the film has already made almost twice that amount worldwide (its Christmas 2007 release was simultaneous across 15 countries and there are more releases scheduled throughout January and February of 2008). The question has to be, is it really worth it?

Financially, sure it was worth it. Artistically? Well, perhaps the final stage in the decline of a Franchise is its inevitable devolution into lower and lower budgets and straight-to-video attempts at cash-cow continuations. If this is the end for now (and clearly the END is overdue), we're sure to see the comics continue and possibly a television offspring and perhaps eventually a remake or a reboot of either franchise solo or combined. Somebody is sure to watch what ever they come up with. Two Stars out of Five for AVPR, a movie that can be fun and even exciting but is neither scary nor thoughtful and wastes the potential it has. It gives me no pleasure to say such a thing. Maybe I should give the collective Aliens a hug... Come here, guys! Wait... not the face... NOT THE FACE!!!

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AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
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