I went in to Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem expecting a terrible film. After all, the first one [on which I burned a free DVD rental coupon] was hideous beyond belief [so much so that I couldn’t believe that Uwe Boll hadn’t directed it]. I was in the mood for a big screen bonanza of senseless violence and mayhem – especially since this AvP edition carried an R rating. To my extreme disappointment, it was a decent enough timewaster.
“No peace on Earth,” scream the posters and trailers, somewhat hyperbolically. In actuality, the only place suffering from the no peace at all is a small town in middle America, which has the misfortune of having Aliens [one of which is the Alien/Predator hybrid from the last film] break free of their confinement.
The pilot of the craft takes out several before he is slain in battle – barely getting off an S.O.S. to his homeworld. In response, the granddaddy of all Predators blasts of for Earth. Meanwhile, the newly freed aliens have disrupted the lives of a man and his son who were hunting deer in their deer blinds near where the Predator craft went down.
The town of Gunnison, CO [a real place, by the way] is the film’s setting. As small towns go, it comes with the usual complement of stock characters: the sheriff [John Ortiz], a former rebellious teen; Dallas [Stephen Pasquale], the sheriff’s former cohort who is just back in town from serving time; Dallas’ younger brother, Ricky [Johnny Lewis], who lusts after Jesse [Kristin Hager] and beaten up by jock/bullies Dale [David Paetkau] and friends; Kelly O’Brien [Reiko Aylesworth], a chopper pilot just home from a tour in Iraq, and her daughter, Molly [Ariel Gade], and a host of others.
When the PredAlien [as the website calls it] brings its friends to town, the usual face-hugging and chest-bursting begins to occur. The ensuing mayhem takes place at night, and is made worse by the inadvertent destruction of the local power station – plunging the town into darkness.
With all these stock characters and situations set before us, why isn’t AvPR as awful as its predecessor? Perhaps it’s because the film’s writer [Shane Salerno] and directors [The Brothers Strause] are fans of both original movie series and their delight at being able to play in that milieu comes through in the way they juggle several character arcs and plot points with dexterity. Toss in scenes with the Big Honkin’ Predator frying, scrambling or just dissolving the PredAlien’s children – and working toward a big showdown; a military colonel promising survivors an airlift to safety, and a small group [led by O’Brien] who think the military is lying, and you’ve got plenty of action and tension.
The Brothers Strause seem far better able to use darkness and shadow to create mood than Paul W.S. Anderson [who seems to have wasted his small range of competence on the third Resident Evil flick], and the Salerno script far exceeds Anderson’s in terms of establishing character and maintaining emotional as well as action points. Unfortunately, there are too many characters and monsters to really allow any of them to become truly gripping in an hour-and-a-half.
The result is that Aliens vs. Predator – though much better than its predecessor – is just an average big screen skiffy flick with horror overtones. If the same team were to collaborate on the inevitable sequel [rather nicely set up at the end, by the way], and tighten things up, plot and character-wise, there’s no reason the next film couldn’t be quite good.
Final Grade: C+