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

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

Angry man is unsecure.

Hulk (2003)
(SPOILERS) I’m not a Hulk apologist. I unreservedly consider it one of the superior superhero adaptations, admittedly more for the visual acumen Ang Lee brings to the material than James Schamus, Michael France and John Turman’s screenplay. But even then, if the movie gets bogged down in unnecessarily overwrought father-son origins and dynamic, overlaid on a perfectly good and straightforward core story (one might suggest it was change for the sake of change), once those alterations are in place, much of the follow through, and the paralleling of wayward parents and upright children, or vice versa, translates effectively to the screen, even if the realisation of the big green fella is somewhat variable.

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Sometimes when you take people away, they don't come back.

The Ward (2010)
(SPOILERS) I’d felt no particular compunction to rush out and see The Ward (or rent it), partly down to the underwhelming reviews, but mostly because John Carpenter’s last few films had been so disappointing, and I doubted a decade away from the big screen would rejuvenate someone who’d rather play computer games than call the shots. Perhaps inevitably then, now I have finally given it a look, it’s a case of low expectations being at least surpassed. The Ward isn’t very good, but it isn’t outright bad either.

While it seems obvious in retrospect, I failed to guess the twist before it was revealed, probably because I was still expecting a supernatural element to be realised, it being a Carpenter movie. But then, this doesn’t feel very much like a Carpenter movie. It doesn’t have a Carpenter score (Mark Killian) or screenplay (Michael and Shawn Rasmussen) and it doesn’t have Gary B Kibbe as lenser (Yaron Orbach). I suspect the latter explains why it’s a much more professi…

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.