Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alien Vs Predator (2004) extended edition review

Overall verdict: 4.5/10

The Good: fun fight sequences, a few shout-outs to previous alien and predator films, slick production design

The Bad: bland characters, thin plot, one sided fights, hand to hand combat looks artificially sped up.

Current Availability Status: on discount priced DVD in any major DVD store in singapore
DVD features:
Disc 1
- Both the theatrical AND Extended director's cut of the movie
- Commentary by director
- Commentary by cast and crew
- Trailers

Disc 2
- Extensive pre-production, production and post production "making of" featurette
- alien vs predator comic book and toy history
- deleted scenes

DVD value for money Grade: A-
It was only a matter of time after that Alien skull cameo in Predator 2 that someone made a movie pitting the ferocious Alien xenomorphs against the vicious Predators. Already that one scene spawned a number of video games, novels and a slew of comics, some good some terrible. On its own, Paul WS Anderson's "Alien Vs Predator" is a fun, mildly entertaining big budget B movie. However, it fails to live up to the reputation and standards set by its predecessors.

Alien Vs Predator starts off with the discovery of a pyramid deep under the antarctic ice. A team of explorers is sent in to investigate. Lo and Behold, they discover that the pyramid belongs to a space-faring species of hunters (the Predators) who use it to breed another type of Alien (the Aliens) as opponents/prey for their own coming-of-age hunting rituals. The humans stumbled across some "ancient artifacts", actually plasma weaopns to be used by the Predators. They unknowingly screw up what was to be a standard hunting trial for three young Predators by taking their plasma weapons and unwittingly setting the Aliens free ahead of schedule. What follows is a frantic free for all as Humans, Aliens and Predators duke it out in one surprisingly bloodless fight after another.

Now of course coming to a movie with "versus" in the title would imply lots of fighting. Instead Alien Vs Predator plods along for the first 45 minutes or so as we are introduced to one bland B movie stock character after another. Lots of talking, which perhaps the writers intended for "character development" sake, but nothing else substantial happens aside from a little nod to Aliens fans in the form of Lance Henriksen playing the role of a character named "Bishop" again.

When the action finally does come, it is seems like more bark than bite and ultimately not worth the 45 minute wait. There was only ONE actual bona-fide "Alien vs Predator" fight which is dressed to impress. An epic crescendo in the otherwise mediocre movie background music accompanies the very first big-screen face to face meeting of the two movie monsters. Fantastic fight choreography coupled with some clever use of slow motion makes that one fight very satisfying to watch and it is actually quite a nail-biter as you would never know who would turn out the victor until too late. However, most of the subsequent action sequences seem lack that level of intensity and actually seem a little "cartoon-y"; Some scenes involving the Aliens look to have been "sped up" in post production, possibly to make their movements seem faster and more inhuman.

One good fight just does not make up for the other disappointing ones. In fact, the creative team tended to be more partial toward the Aliens. The Predators are a far cry from the unstoppable killers in the previous movies. Here they are presented as big bulky bullies who pick on helpless humans with ease but are constantly being overpowered by their half-sized Alien opponents. It has been confirmed in behind-the-scenes interviews that director Paul WS Anderson is a bigger Alien fan than Predator fan, basically making the entire movie like a "fixed" fighting match with a biased referee.

Lots of action might be entertaining, but action was not the only thing that made the Aliens and Predator movies the classics they are. Ridley Scott's "Alien" film managed to keep up its eerie atmosphere and genuinely scary feel while giving viewers some well written character drama, James Cameron's Aliens upped the ante on action and threw in some very heartwarming character arcs with an impressive production design. Even Predator delivered unforgettable characters and intense bloodshed. Alien Vs Predator had none of these. It was not scary, the characters were under-developed, the pacing was erratic and even the violence was toned down despite the extended edition DVD featuring more blood letting.

Failing to live up to the hype, Alien vs Predator was seen big let-down for fans of the franchise. No doubt the set designs for the underground pyramid interior and the snowy antarctic scenes look awesome but that is where the praise usually ends. This movie lacks the smart gritty narrative themes of the comics and the all out bloody violence of the video games. The fact that the versus match was fixed from the start might not help matters.

AVP is essentially a whole lot of "style" trying to mask its lack of substance.

For the review of the sequel "Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem" see here

***********Review End***********

Go For it: if you really are that desperate to see two sci/fi horror icons duke it out in a mindless series of scuffles.
Avoid it: if you are going to miss the high level of action, drama and narrative standards set by this film's predecessors.

Entertainment: B-

Story: C- 
Acting: C+

Characters: C-
Replay value: B+
"Brains": D-

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