Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Warring alien and predator races descend on a small Colorado town, where unsuspecting residents must band together for any chance of survival.
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Alien vs Predator - Requiem Advance Screenings 12/19/2007 12:52 PM EST
This Christmas Eve, as millions around the globe raise their voices in praise at midnight masses, New York City and Los Angeles-based fans of the iconic Alien and Predator can experience a very different take on the ritual at special Midnight Mass-acre showings of AVP-R.The events follow on the heels of Twentieth Century Fox servicing to press a special holiday gift: an AVP-R Christmas ornament pr... More>>
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem Theatrical Review
I'll note that Requiem, "A hymn, composition, or service for the dead," could denote a lot of things--most probably, the death of the franchise. So take that as a bit of a warning.
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
In 1979 the movie Alien totally blew my mind. Even today, with its 360-degree sets, a monster who's look has not only become as iconic as any movie monster (Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, or Godzilla, take your pick), but who's actual biology was scary, and a cast who's characters a lot of people can actually recall by name, it sets the standard for tightly crafted masterpieces of horror. In Jaws they didn't show the shark because of mechanical failure. In Alien, with a monster who's head was crafted with an actual, authentic, human skull, they realized it was scarier just to show flashes of it. It worked: studio heads watched the fragmented dailes with their hands over their faces.
Then something almost unprecedented happened: in 1986 lightning struck twice. James Cameron established his place in the list of legendary directors with Aliens. Eschewing the "2" for a far more organic and threatening title, the eerily wordless trailer told you that not only were you going to see something you hadn't seen before but it was going to be one hell of a ride. It was, in fact, so much of a ride that Ebert, leaving the movie, felt so worn out he couldn't exactly recommend it even while admiring its virtuoso performance. When I walked out I was also shell-shocked: I've gotta see that sucker again, was pretty much all I could muster. They'd gone from the perfect horror show to the ultimate action/war movie.
From there, though, the generalized rule of sequels took over and it went downhill. Aliens-3 (cubed, yes, but let's be real: it was back to sequel numbering) may not be a bad movie by some metrics (but again, you can name all the characters in the first two--how many can you name in the third? Oh, that's right: all the characters from the first two) and 'Snow White in space' might be artistic enough to hold some interest but it really wasn't much of a follow up for two of the greatest movies of their type of all time.
The aliens got screen time in another franchise: Following 1980's Predator (which is arguably one of the best movies Arnold has ever made) we saw what was almost indisputably an alien-skull in the trophy room of the predator's ship in 1990's Predator 2. This linked the two characters in cinema for the first time--although they were a natural fit and had appeared together in the late-80's Dark Horse comic series.
The bottom of the barrel was pretty much hit with Alien: Resurrection, and while Whedon was unhappy with how they realized up his script, there wasn't really a whole lot there, even amongst the pieces that I really liked in the first place. I wanted to see the Aliens ... come to earth.
In AVP, they finally did: if you can consider an underground unrealistic stone pyramid beneath the ice-sheets of Antarctica to be 'earth.' If AVP got anything right it was a bunch of the various Alien 'tropes'--its rendition of the predators and the aliens called back to the original movies well enough that its lack of, well, anything but a big A-v-P battle could be forgiven. After all, what else did it promise?
So we get to Requiem. It opens what must be minutes after the first AVP ended. The predators, despite probably being the life-forms with as much experience killing aliens as any in existence let an infected body on board their ship and a "Predalien" is born (the alien takes genetic traits from its host body). The battle crashes the ship near Colorado and, in record time, a "cleaner" predator is dispatched to ensure that the predalien is put down--and that traces of the outbreak are contained. It'll also kill (and skin) anyone who gets in its way.
On earth, though, the aliens are starting to multiply.
Given the premise, what do you think would happen? Well, for one thing: women and children (and of course men ... and dogs) would die. I give Requiem credit for looking this square in the face. We see children (or, at least, child) die. We see women die. We see, well, pregnant women die. There is, god help us, a scene with an alien in a maternity ward. Lots and lots of people die. Whether this is good or not is questionable (the actual deaths are mostly in the moderately tame zone--but maybe I'm just jaded).
There are also people who don't die--at least not right away. Some of these people are heroes. Some of them are just "hangers-on"--the character equivalent of a flak jacket. Trying to figure out who'll live and who won't follows, at least somewhat, the measure of charisma they have: the ones we're inclined to like a little better stand a better chance. This makes the movie reasonably watchable but feels a little artificial.
On the flip side, monster-movies are high-adrenaline tragedies. The movie does show us worried relatives, terrified victims, and scared children. It's nowhere near as disturbing as the camera view of The Kingdom which showed us a terrifyingly realistic attack on innocent civilians. The fact that people being slaughtered by monsters is actually less affecting may say something about the film (it may say something about the reviewer ... I'm not completely sure).
In any event, once AVPR picks up steam it never slows down. I am told on good authority that a major draw for the movie are people who want to see which side (Alien or Predator) will win. I'd have a hard time believing that except that I know the depths that real fan-boys can sink to in pointless debate (my take: If a predator can miss a mud-covered Arnold Schwarzenegger, the chances of them spotting nearly-invisible-in-broad-daylight aliens is about zero). I'll spare you the agony: they tie.
In the final analysis I think the movie works as a monster-movie gore-fest. It's humorless. It's relentless. The F/x work doesn't suck. We don't know or care about most of the people, the dialog is certainly nothing special (with the exception of a cringe-inducing "The Government doesn't lie to people" line which simultaneously drew laughter from the audience and condemned the character to death), and its treatment of the alien canon is moderate at best--but really, if you want to see aliens eat a bunch of people the movie's got that. I think on its own terms, it's probably a success.
That doesn't really mean I can recommend it though.
When watching these movies you can look for various call-backs to the originals. Since Alien and Aliens were made with no real examination of the continuity the things we've got to go on, like the unspoken-in-the-original name of the corporation the characters work for Weyland-Yutani, are simply sign-posts that the director is speaking the same language as the real fans.
The canonical goo on the hand scene appears--but what I think was most missed was the alien's penchant for inhabiting any escape craft. I was surprised there wasn't an end-scene where we saw something had survived. On the other hand, the swimming-aliens looked right out of the aquatic attack scene from Resurrection. We get to meet the other half of "the Company."
The movie takes some new liberties with the alien life-path. They can reproduce without large, stationary queens--the predailen is capable of "impregnating" (and the scene is one of the worst in the movie) captured humans. I was slightly disappointed to see this--having the alien's signature, frightening biological process become plastic as the needs of the plot changed seems weak (I honestly liked the original take from the cut-scene in the first movie where we see Captain Dallas being 'devoured' as he is turned into an alien egg). I will note, however, that when I read William Gibson's Aliens-3 treatment (a script which never got made by was a damn sight better than Aliens-cubed) he introduced the even more questionable alien-spore concept (which could turn people into aliens just by being around them). I guess messing with the biology goes way back.
Finally, it's also notable that the creature design (especially the head) has gone through several iterations (the current show moves back in Cameron's direction with the "ridge-headed" alien look). Looking up the Predator, I saw that its own signature mandibles came from a Cameron suggestion. Maybe they really do belong in the same universe.
-- Marco Chacon
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