So remember, even if you ain’t got time to bleed, in the Video Vault no-one can hear you scream…
Here’s Steven Neish to complete the set…
After the criminal success of 2004’s Alien vs. Predator, a sequel was quickly announced and dragged kicking and acid-spitting through production.
Replacing Paul W. S. Anderson – whose child-friendly original compromised the individual franchises’ penchant for suspence in favour of impatient thrills – with the confidently titled Brothers Strause, 20th Century Fox set the stage for a crossover that might finally do justice to the phenomenon’s fan-fictionesque premise.
Indeed, the movie’s first trailer had a lot of promise. Relocating the action from Antarctica to small town America (continuity, schmontinuity) and replacing the lamentable ‘Whoever wins, we [the audience, it turns out] lose’ with the suitably self-referential ‘In space no-one can hear you scream, on Earth it wont matter’, the filmmakers teased a return to tension – with the aliens being used sparingly as opposed to being demystified centre-stage.
Featuring an increased gore quotient, a suitably sweaty Ripley-lite and an impressive spaceship crash, I felt my cynicism start to give way to genuine excitement. The studio’s release of the opening five minutes of the movie did little to sway my anticipation. Picking up where the first movie left off, the bloggosphere was treated to a ship-board skirmish, a face-hugger attack and a tantalising glimpse of the Predator home planet. The fact that the second fatality was that of a child promised a darker tone than that set by Anderson’s original.
While Aliens vs Predator: Requiem was darker than AvP, this was achieved not through adult subtext or the pursuit of nihilism but through unforgivably incompetent lighting and excessive splatter. Desensitised by Anderson’s overexposure of the aliens and reliance on bad CGI, audiences were left squinting by the Brothers Strause who, believe it or not, had originally made names for themselves as special effects artists. What had once been excused as a result of the trailer’s low resolution was quickly clear to be little more than clumsy workmanship.
Although littered with interesting or promising ideas, the (very) few redeeming features AvP:R has to offer are obscured in a shroud of darkness. A quick browse of the film’s promotional stills show xenomorphs and Predators rendered illegible by rain, shadow and – we’re about to get to this – painfully uninteresting subplots. Like its predecessor, what this crossover conceit promised in concept, it fumbled in execution.
You see, while the Alien franchise pits xenomorph(s) against the increasingly sinewy Sigourney Weaver and the first Predator movie inflicted Arnold Schwarzenegger upon a poor, unsuspecting trophy hunter, AvP:R opts for a ridiculously pitiful component: *insert excruciatingly dreadful teen soap opera here*.
Rather than centring on one particular hero or heroine, AvP:R wastes patience-testing swathes of screentime on a multitude of tired teenage dramas and embarrassingly warn stereotypes. What might have worked – and I controversially believe did work – for Freddy Vs. Jason, has no place in a franchise steeped in such mature legacy. Not to sound elitist but there is no room for stoners in either the Alien or Predator mythologies. Rather than Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer we have a pizza delivery boy, instead of Ripley we have soon-to-be single-mother Kelly (and Newt wannabe Molly) O’Brian.
What follows the opening five minutes are an assortment of rehashed cult scenes and characters, the Strause brothers considerably more interested in inventive deaths than the lives that precede them. No character is permitted to take centre stage, instead a series of needless encounters eradicate all potential tension, resulting in a series of unrelatable characters stealing great swathes of screentime from the title’s promised men in suits hitting one another.
That one scene in particular spends entire minutes with one unsympathetic character as he tries (unsuccessfully I am delighted to report) to retrieve his keys from a drain just goes to show why experienced filmmakers will always hold my preference over newcomers and music video veterans – particularly when they are being entrusted with such cherished and cinematically important movie franchises. Ridiculously fast editing is no substitute to actual pacing.
What AvP:R had the potential and – for self-confessed fans of the source material, at least – responsibility to offer this still-birth of a franchise was a reprieve. Instead, as the self-fulfilling prophecy of a subtitle suggested, the movie delivers a coffin-nailing requiem. Although a threequiem was initially touted, three years and the news that both franchises are getting their individual shot of adrenaline all but rule out the possibility of another rematch.
The Brothers Strause, meanwhile, have apparently put the beliefs that their film “definitely led to a sequel” behind them and advanced their careers with the upcoming Skyline. From what I’ve seen Skyline is an exciting and enticing prospect, however, I have learnt my lesson and will reserve judgement until the similarly promising sci-fi is safely in theatres.
Effectively a live-action ‘celebrity’ deathmatch for the Platinum Dunes generation, AvP:R clearly angered enough of the right people to resurrect the two composite franchises. However, while all of the previous editions – might I take this opportunity to pledge my affection for Alien 3 and Predator 2 – were nothing if not watchable, AvP:R – with its daft predalien, schizophrenic editing (seriously, the fight scenes are even less comprehensible than in Transformers) and TV-commercial acting – manages to be so awful you momentarily forget what brilliance came before.
While there are undoubtedly those that rank Requiem above its predecessor, I was more disappointed by this movie than I ever was with Anderson’s. Although gorier, AvP:R lacks the reverent mythology-expanding touches of the original ‘versus’ – instilling AvP with a lifeline to the earlier franchises sorely lacked by this unwarranted side-note. Supremacy would be a shallow victory for either film, however, as a great advertising campaign once said: Whoever wins, we lose.