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

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…

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I don't like bugs. You can't hear them, you can't see them and you can't feel them, then suddenly you're dead.

Blake's 7 2.7: Killer

Robert Holmes’ first of four scripts for the series, and like last season’s Mission to Destiny there are some fairly atypical elements and attitudes to the main crew (although the A/B storylines present a familiar approach and each is fairly equal in importance for a change). It was filmed second, which makes it the most out of place episode in the run (and explains why the crew are wearing outfits – they must have put them in the wash – from a good few episodes past and why Blake’s hair has grown since last week).
The most obvious thing to note from Holmes’ approach is that he makes Blake a Doctor-substitute. Suddenly he’s full of smart suggestions and shrewd guesses about the threat that’s wiping out the base, basically leaving a top-level virologist looking clueless and indebted to his genius insights. If you can get past this (and it did have me groaning) there’s much enjoyment to be had from the episode, not least from the two main guest actors.

When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention.

Twin Peaks 1.5: The One-Armed Man
With the waves left in Albert’s wake subsiding (Gordon Cole, like Albert, is first encountered on the phone, and Coop apologises to Truman over the trouble the insulting forensics expert has caused; ”Harry, the last thing I want you to worry about while I’m here is some city slicker I brought into your town relieving himself upstream”), the series steps down a register for the first time. This is a less essential episode than those previously, concentrating on establishing on-going character and plot interactions at the expense of the strange and unusual. As such, it sets the tone for the rest of this short first season.

The first of 10 episodes penned by Robert Engels (who would co-script Fire Walk with Me with Lynch, and then reunite with him for On the Air), this also sees the first “star” director on the show in the form of Tim Hunter. Hunter is a director (like Michael Lehman) who hit the ground running but whose subsequent career has rather disapp…

An initiative test. How simply marvellous!

You Must Be Joking! (1965)
A time before a Michael Winner film was a de facto cinematic blot on the landscape is now scarcely conceivable. His output, post- (or thereabouts) Death Wish (“a pleasant romp”) is so roundly derided that it’s easy to forget that the once-and-only dining columnist and raconteur was once a bright (well…) young thing of the ‘60s, riding the wave of excitement (most likely highly cynically) and innovation in British cinema. His best-known efforts from this period are a series of movies with Oliver Reed – including the one with the elephant – and tend to represent the director in his pleasant romp period, before he attacked genres with all the precision and artistic integrity of a blunt penknife. You Must Be Joking! comes from that era, its director’s ninth feature, straddling the gap between Ealing and the Swinging ‘60s; coarser, cruder comedies would soon become the order of the day, the mild ribaldry of Carry On pitching into bawdy flesh-fests. You Must Be Joki…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Ain't nobody likes the Middle East, buddy. There's nothing here to like.

Body of Lies (2008)
(SPOILERS) Sir Ridders stubs out his cigar in the CIA-assisted War on Terror, with predictably gormless results. Body of Lies' one saving grace is that it wasn't a hit, although that more reflects its membership of a burgeoning club where no degree of Hollywood propaganda on the "just fight" (with just a smidgeon enough doubt cast to make it seem balanced at a sideways glance) was persuading the public that they wanted the official fiction further fictionalised.

Well, who’s going to monitor the monitors of the monitors?

Enemy of the State (1998)
Enemy of the State is something of an anomaly; a quality conspiracy thriller borne not from any distinct political sensibility on the part of its makers but simple commercial instincts. Of course, the genre has proved highly successful over the years so it's easy to see why big name producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson would have chased that particular gravy boat. Yet they did so for some time without success; by the time the movie was made, Simpson had passed away and Bruckheimer was flying solo. It might be the only major film in the latter's career that, despite the prerequisite gloss and stylish packaging, has something to say. More significant still, 15 years too late, the film's warnings are finally receiving recognition in the light of the Edward Snowden revelations.

In a piece for The Guardian earlier this year, John Patterson levelled the charge that Enemy was one of a number of Hollywood movies that have “been softening us up f…

Luck isn’t a superpower... And it isn't cinematic!

Deadpool 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't.  Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.

This is no time for puns! Even good ones.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014)
Perhaps I've done DreamWorks Animation (SKG, Inc., etc.) a slight injustice. The studio has been content to run an assembly line of pop culture raiding, broad-brush properties and so-so sequels almost since its inception, but the cracks in their method have begun to show more overtly in recent years. They’ve been looking tired, and too many of their movies haven’t done the business they would have liked. Yet both their 2014 deliveries, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, take their standard approach but manage to add something more. Dragon 2 has a lot of heart, which one couldn’t really say about Peabody (it’s more sincere elements feel grafted on, and largely unnecessary). Peabody, however, is witty, inventive and pacey, abounding with sight gags and clever asides while offering a time travel plotline that doesn’t talk down to its family audience.

I haven’t seen the The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, from which Mr. Peabody & Sh…