DECEMBER 25, 2007
Going to the movies on Christmas night is a tradition of mine that goes back to when I was 14 (the movie was Street Fighter!!). I can't remember if I went in 1996 (if I did it was Mars Attacks) but every other year is accounted for, and usually the movie is pretty good, and some are among my favorite films of all time (Cast Away and Jackie Brown, for examples). Every now and then though, it's a downright stinker, wrecking Christmas in the process (such as Paycheck). Well this year's movie was Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, and as it turns out, its an ironically apt title. A requiem is another word for funeral, and this film has surely killed whatever goodwill that either the Alien or Predator franchises have ever earned.
Making the original (which wasn't all that great but I didn't hate it as much as many folks did) look positively brilliant in comparison, this has to be the one of the dumbest fucking movies I have seen all year. And since just 2 days before I watched a movie that told us that Mt. Rushmore was carved for the sole purpose of hiding a clue that would lead to a lost city of gold that could have been used to restart the Civil War, that's really saying something.
For all its faults, at least the first film FELT like a franchise film. We had the team of scientists and badasses, like the first two Alien films, and, well, some Predators, like in the Predator movies. Our group this time? A bunch of kids, a sheriff, an ex-con who constantly reminds everyone he's an ex-con, a waitress, a female soldier who just returned home... in other words, a stock motley crew out of any generic action/horror movie. There's a brief mention of the Company in the film's final scene, but otherwise this feels like the most standard Sci-Fi original movie ever. albeit with better effects (one nice thing I will say about the film - the effects are great throughout, with no bad CG and lots of decent blood gags).
Remember Ash, Burke, and the other great human (or at least, humanoid) villains from the other films? Here the primary human antagonist (apart from Robert Joy's military guy who appears in the film for about 47 total seconds) is "Dale", a punk high school kid who punches out the hero's brother (how half-assed does a movie have to be that it doesn't even give the human conflict to the actual hero?) because they are both after the same girl. Yup, if you ever watched one of the other movies in the series and thought that it didn't have enough scenes of high school kids throwing each other into a pool and doing PG rated stripteases, then this is the film for you!
Speaking of the rating, lots of folks, myself included, were excited when this film was announced to be R rated, an upgrade from the PG-13 original. Sadly, while the gore content is upped and there are a few f-bombs thrown into the dialogue, the film is aimed DIRECTLY at a younger audience, content wise, making the rating all the more puzzling. In theory, no one under 17 can see the film, and yet no intelligent person ABOVE 17 can possibly enjoy it. But then again, this is Fox, who have never made the least bit of sense when it comes to their franchise films.
As directors, the Strause brothers certainly know how to keep the pace moving (maybe too fast; this is the shortest film in either franchise), but their technical skills leave much to be desired. Several of the action scenes are shot so close up and edited so quickly, it becomes confusing as to what is happening (I can't see this being DP Daniel Pearl's fault, since he shot both the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and the remake, the former being one of the greatest horror movies ever and the latter made worthwhile solely on the visuals). And I'm not usually the type to complain about these types of things; for example, there isn't a single moment in Armageddon where I am confused by the on-screen action, and that film is universally reviled for its editing style. Incidentally, this film shares a writer (Shane Salerno) with that film, and much like the first AvP, Armageddon can possibly be re-evaluated by its harshest critics after they sit through this goddamn thing.
Reiko Aylesworth (aka Michelle Dessler from 24) is cute, and in the maybe 20 seconds of screentime where she is kicking ass (pretty much all seen in the trailer), she does well. But her character disappears for long periods of time, and she really comes off like any other random person from the group most of the time, rather than the badass female warrior that any self-respecting Alien movie will have. I half expected her character to get killed off maybe halfway through, for 'shock value', but they don't even bother to do that much with her.
Some of the dialogue in this movie may someday end up on a list of the worst movie dialogue of all time. There's some nonsense about a clock behind a hot girl that, even 2 hours later, my brain has forced itself to forget verbatim, but I'll try. Basically, the hero's brother guy claims that he wasn't looking at the hot girl in class, but at the clock behind her. So later, she strips down to a bathing suit (ALIEN VS PREDATOR!!!), and turns to face the kid as the camera pans a bit to reveal another clock in the background, and she says "Are you STILL looking at the clock?" or something. Are you fucking kidding me?? I like to imagine the set decorator coming to the pool set and being told by a producer that he had to hang a clock on a wall so that they could "pay off" a line that was fucking stupid in the first place with a line that's even fucking stupider, and then crying about what his life entailed. Then he went home and his wife was like "What did you do today, honey?", and he fell onto the floor in fetal position, weeping as he explained. "I had to hang a clock on a wall so that this movie that is called ALIEN VS PREDATOR could make a visual gag concerning some slut's desire to fuck a pizza boy."
The writer(s?) also continually set things up that never pay off, such as a pair of night vision goggles that Aylesworth gives her daughter. Will the Predator find them and look through them for a visual gag? Will she help the Predator find an Alien with them? Nope, they are forgotten about halfway through the film, after continually referring to them over the course of 3-4 scenes. It's bad enough they take time away from the Predators and Aliens to try to develop the human characters, but if you're not even going to follow through with it, it just becomes insulting and even more pointless. In interviews, the Strause brothers claim that they wanted to populate the film with people you can identify with, which was lacking in the other films since most people don't know tough marines, or prisoners, or space pirates. But you know what? I'd RATHER know those people than hang out with any of the fucking dipshits in this movie. Apart from a waitress who gets killed in her second scene, I didn't care if a single one of these people lived or died (and the only reason I wanted the waitress to live is because she was pretty hot).
If the film does well at the box office (which will, if nothing else, prove R rated horror isn't dead), a 3rd film will likely come along. If so, I just hope that whoever writes and/or directs it remembers one thing: The name of the movie is Aliens Vs. Predator. That's what we want to see. I don't think a single person on the planet would give a shit if there were no humans in the film at all. But if there MUST be a group of people that the audience is supposed to identify with, for the love of Christ make them at least somewhat interesting and likable.
What say you?