Skip to main content

What is this, the Titanic? Screw the women and children first shit, man.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
(2007)

(SPOILERS) The brutal evidence, if any were needed, that Fox had no interest in the quality of its franchise(s), let alone admiring their purity. There’s almost (I stress almost) something beserkly admirable about Alien vs. Predator: Requiem’s flagrant disregard for anything and everything that set the primary series apart or made it distinctive. You might, at a stretch, argue this is a not bad Predator movie, in that it gives Wolf (not the Gladiator, alas; informally named after the Pulp Fiction character Harvey Keitel has since trodden into the dirt and repeatedly stamped on in a series of whorish adverts) motivation and everything, but that’s really doing it too much credit: AVPR is simply a bad movie.


I hadn’t seen this since its release, when I was marginally more charitable to its appetite for transgressive behaviour. And, to give it its backhanded due, in the establishing sections, the marriage of never-destined-to-meet genre subplots is at least bizarrely arresting; I doubt anyone ever thought they’d see a teen bullying/romance storyline vying for attention with xenomorphs. And, which is more of a reflection on AVP than an endorsement of Requiem, the characters are generally more engaging than they were in the PWSA movie. But still…


Shane Salerno, as well as working on AVP, has a number of cinematically antisocial credits to his name including the Shaft remake and Ghostrider. Who knows, perhaps he’s just gotten unlucky, and his name being attached to Avatar 4, the Fantastic Voyage remake and Frankie Machine is a sign of a writer with untapped potential. As far as I can tell, though, Salerno has to cop the blame for Requiem, since the Strausse brothers came in after the fact, despite having pitched an idea for the original AVP. Yes… the Strausse brothers, Colin and Greg, effects guys who made the leap to feature directing with this (their résumé previously included a Nickelback video) and subsequently made the flat-out dreadful Skyline, which if nothing else, which it wasn’t, was an ad for their effects work; they haven’t returned to calling the shots since, but still keep very busy with the old visuals.


That knowledge might have come in too handy for Requiem, as half the time it’s nigh-on impossible to understand what’s going on in any given sequence. Sure, you want to light something to the advantage of the creatures, to make them as effective as possible, but you don’t want to rob the audience of any investment in the proceeds through abject blindness. Although, in the case of the star attraction, the “Predalien” (I mean, really – it’s telling that it was originally killed off in the first scene but execs were so impressed by it, they opted to retain the prime antagonist throughout), that might not have been such a bad idea, since it’s a dumb concept rendered in a manner that makes it entirely devoid of essential alien-ness. When two familiar characters are conjoined, they become part of the furniture.


Occasionally, the incongruity of dumping this universe in present day Colorado has a payoff, be it a face hugger in a woodland setting or an alien in a swimming pool, but mostly it has the effect of diminishing the whole deal. Salerno does exactly what PWSA, in his relative wisdom, expressly eschewed, and dives into a scenario that conflicts with the entire basis of the alien-verse. In this version, Predators and xenomorphs have been known about, have been identified, for more than 100 years at the point of Alien, and there’s nothing mysterious or exciting about them. There’s even rather tired Terminator 2-ing, where we see Ms Yutani with the Predator gun as a spur to scientific advancement (as mythology goes, we also glimpse the Predator homeworld, but I doubt it elicited much pant-wetting, even from diehards).


As did PWSA, Salerno and the Strausses, impatient and desirous to cut to the chase, also fiddle with the life cycle of the alien. The Predalian (I don’t want to think the word, let alone use it, but I can’t help myself) queen can directly implant alien embryos that chew their way out of their host’s abdomen. In this case, indicative of an almost petulant, wilful indulgence in the worst taste possible (perhaps nursing the delusion it will redeem the franchise of the PG-13 thrills of the previous instalment), the queen impregnates a pregnant woman in a hospital bed while other pregnant patients scream on in understandable terror. 


We also see the Predalien eyeing up an entire maternity ward full of babies; presumably, it was felt showing the slaughter might be a step too far, even for a movie that, in one of the initial scenes, shows not only a face hugger leaping onto a small boy, but then also has him wake up, observe an alien erupt from his father’s chest, and then suffer the indignity of one bursting from his. Bad taste doesn’t even begin to sum up the Strausse brothers’ approach.


Nevertheless, before AVPR becomes a generic aliens run around, when it’s a small-town movie you’ve seen a million times before but aliens and predators pop in and out periodically, there are some effectively dark moments riffing on old concepts. “It’s outside the window… the monster” Reiko’s daughter announces, as her parents reassure her, before a xenomorph breaks in and kills daddy (True Blood’s Sam Trammell). And the young lead’s just-about girlfriend (Kristen Hager) gets offed by an alien when she’d normally be a shoe-in to make it to the final reel (I guess she’s a bit too loose, trope-wise). I’d like to say, with better directors and a better script, this could have worked, but really, it’s the mere relocation that does the xenomorph ill. It’s oddball to throw it in an arena where we would normally see Jason or Freddy (indeed, in this scenario, the Predator is the blundering axe-wielding Voorhees while the xenomorph is the violating, sexually invasive Kruger), but that doesn’t make it intriguing, or something worthwhile. At points, it’s a bit like watching Gremlins without the laughs, satire, or any kind of narrative acumen.


Besides the Predalien, I don’t have anything really negative to say about the design work. And I quite like the idea of a Predator cop, like Columbo with dreads, although in practice he’s more Victor the Cleaner (Mr Wolf being an obvious Tarantino steal from Luc Besson), suggesting some kind of space non-interference treaty the Predators must abide by (dubiously – either that or Wolf is incredibly anal), but he still seems to spend much of the proceedings doing things that aren’t at all smart, drawing attention to his movements (hanging up skinned bodies) as much as he covers his tracks. And then there’s the absurd moment when the Predalien waits around for Wolf to remove his helmet before they square off.


Ultimately, Wolf has no more character rigour than any of the humans, but that’s still more than AVP gave us. Casting wise, I do quite like 24-vet Reiko Aylesworth as a squaddie. She’s as underwritten as anything in AVP (required to rekindle her maternal relationship with a tot, is right when the authorities are wrong, and even manages to have a laugh with studly Steven Pasquale at the end, so her hubby can’t have been all that important, and that’s about it). Pasquale, Johnny Lewis (of Sons of Anarchy, who had a particularly troubled life and end) and John Ortiz (never a big fan, but he’s reasonably well cast here as a wavering cop) all make an impression, which is to their credit, rather than Salerno’s. It has been suggested that the likes of Arnie and Danny Glover and Bill Paxton were all lined up for cameos, so fortunate for them that schedules didn’t permit (or that’s what they told the makers, at any rate). And no, “Get to the chopper!” isn’t cute.


It probably seems like splitting hairs to compare and contrast AVPR and AVP quality-wise, but at least with the former there’s a sense that it’s trying to come up with a ruse to make its setting work. You can blame it for leading into this, but the makers could just have chosen to have the Predator ship crash on the Moon. Or Mars.


Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is a rotten idea for a movie, shot through with tonal and conceptual dissonance, but it isn’t actually a chore to watch for most of its brief running time: only really when the Strausses decide to shroud the action in darkness. They evidently much prefer the Predators to the aliens too, since aside from the odd moment, this is probably the xenomorphs’ least impressive appearance in terms of general disposish. The only real surprise is that it would take only three and five years respectively for the franchises to come out to play again. The fortunate side effect of a movie hardly anyone wanted to see and those who did deigned to forget.





Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

Ladies and gentlemen, this could be a cultural misunderstanding.

Mars Attacks! (1996) (SPOILERS) Ak. Akk-akk! Tim Burton’s gleefully ghoulish sci-fi was his first real taste of failure. Sure, there was Ed Wood , but that was cheap, critics loved it, and it won Oscars. Mars Attacks! was BIG, though, expected to do boffo business, and like more than a few other idiosyncratic spectaculars of the 1990s ( Last Action Hero , Hudson Hawk ) it bombed BIG. The effect on Burton was noticeable. He retreated into bankable propositions (the creative and critical nadir perhaps being Planet of the Apes , although I’d rate it much higher than the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo ) and put the brakes on his undisciplined goth energy. Something was lost. Mars Attacks! is far from entirely successful, but it finds the director let loose with his own playset and sensibility intact, apparently given the licence to do what he will.

So the devil's child will rise from the world of politics.

The Omen (1976) (SPOILERS) The coming of the Antichrist is an evergreen; his incarnation, or the reveal thereof, is always just round the corner, and he can always be definitively identified in any given age through a spot of judiciously subjective interpretation of The Book of Revelation , or Nostradamus. Probably nothing did more for the subject in the current era, in terms of making it part of popular culture, than The Omen . That’s irrespective of the movie’s quality, of course. Which, it has to be admitted, is not on the same level as earlier demonic forebears Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist .

I’m giving you a choice. Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can.

They Live * (1988) (SPOILERS) Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of They Live – I was a big fan of most things Carpenter at the time of its release – but the manner in which its reputation as a prophecy of (or insight into) “the way things are” has grown is a touch out of proportion with the picture’s relatively modest merits. Indeed, its feting rests almost entirely on the admittedly bravura sequence in which WWF-star-turned-movie-actor Roddy Piper, under the influence of a pair of sunglasses, first witnesses the pervasive influence of aliens among us who are sucking mankind dry. That, and the ludicrously genius sequence in which Roddy, full of transformative fervour, attempts to convince Keith David to don said sunglasses, for his own good. They Live should definitely be viewed by all, for their own good, but it’s only fair to point out that it doesn’t have the consistency of John Carpenter at his very, very best. Nada : I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a

Are you, by any chance, in a trance now, Mr Morrison?

The Doors (1991) (SPOILERS) Oliver Stone’s mammoth, mythologising paean to Jim Morrison is as much about seeing himself in the self-styled, self-destructive rebel figurehead, and I suspect it’s this lack of distance that rather quickly leads to The Doors becoming a turgid bore. It’s strange – people are , you know, films equally so – but I’d hitherto considered the epic opus patchy but worthwhile, a take that disintegrated on this viewing. The picture’s populated with all the stars it could possibly wish for, tremendous visuals (courtesy of DP Robert Richardson) and its director operating at the height of his powers, but his vision, or the incoherence thereof, is the movie’s undoing. The Doors is an indulgent, sprawling mess, with no internal glue to hold it together dramatically. “Jim gets fat and dies” isn’t really a riveting narrative through line.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

I think I’m Pablo Picasso!

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) (SPOILERS) I get the impression that, whatever it is stalwart Venom fans want from a Venom movie, this iteration isn’t it. The highlight here for me is absolutely the wacky, love-hate, buddy-movie antics of Tom Hardy and his symbiote alter. That was the best part of the original, before it locked into plot “progression” and teetered towards a climax where one CGI monster with gnarly teeth had at another CGI monster with gnarly teeth. And so it is for Venom: Let There Be Carnage . But cutting quicker to the chase.

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.