As Sigourney Weaver reported in the genre press last week, it was not the poor domestic box office performance of Alien Resurrection that killed her character, Ripley; twas the beasts that killed beauty.
Yep, it was 20th Century's decision to produce the AVP (Aliens vs. Predator) films that murdered the possibility of future Alien franchise films featuring the great action hero Ripley. I don't even know where to go with this; but there it is. I must say I agree with Sigourney Weaver, these AVP movies are a terrible idea (and worse in execution than in theory). I never, never could have imagined that I would see a worse AVP movie than the PG-13 2004 original. I was wrong.
Boy was I wrong!
So Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem is apparently what 20th Century Fox thinks that Alien fans want out of a franchise movie these days. They must think we're blithering idiots. First, I'd like to apologize to the makers of 30 Days of Night for my relatively tough review of that film a few weeks back. They made an absolute masterpiece about "small town horror" compared to this under lit, incoherent piece of junk. I'm sorry 30 Days of Night, I just had no idea that AVPR was coming. Had I known, I would not have been so harsh.
So anyway, AVPR is the utterly incoherent tale of aliens and one predator set loose in a small Colorado town (no, not the one with Kenny, Cartman, Kyle and Stan -- that actually would have been in an improvement) in the early twenty-first century. Basically, the pred-alien (and I can't believe I just typed that word...) that hatched at the end of AVP causes a ruckus on a predator ship in orbit and it crashes in Colorado. A bunch of face-huggers get loose in the woods, thus spawning more aliens, and the Predators send one of their own (from the home planet...) to clean up the mess. Caught in the middle are a bunch of horny teenagers, a former juvenile delinquent named Dallas (get it? get it?) and sexy Reiko Aylesworth as an Iraq War vet.
The most trenchant critique I can make of AVPR is that it represents the first film in either classic franchise (and twenty-nine years...) that feels the necessity to have teenagers skinny dipping in a school pool after hours. And yep, these horny teens are attacked by swimming aliens there.
Once upon a time, neither franchise required stripping teenage babes to draw audiences. Once upon a time, both franchises were intelligent, beautifully-designed meditations on the darker angels of human nature. Like I wrote in my post the other day, Alien 3 was about the fact that survival isn't always a "win." One could also look at Aliens as a metaphorical comment on the Vietnam War. And the original Alien was about, in some subconscious sense, human sexuality co-opted by a nasty xenomorph. Even 1997's Alien Resurrection - for all of its myriad flaws - made some worthwhile comment on the morality of human cloning.
But in 2008, the best that AVPR can muster is to steal a page from the slasher film formula: vice (sex) precedes slice-and-dice (or in this case, attack by alien). I just find this element of the movie immensely depressing, that the rolls royce of horror franchises is now settling for Friday the 13th-style scenarios that are so cliched they were being made fun of by Scream twelve years ago. I happen to like (some...) of the Friday the 13ths, I'm not trying to be a snob...but I hate to see Alien lobotomized into a bad slasher flick.
AVPR also puts the final nail in the long- erosion of the "unkillable alien" meme first realized by Ridley Scott in 1979. In his original film, the alien couldn't be killed, couldn't be stopped. You just had to get away from it...to leave it behind floating in space. Here teenagers with hand-guns literally blow aliens away left and right. Twenty-first century weaponry is more than efficacious at blowing up these once unstoppable beasts. The trademark xenomorph - once a genuine terror from the id - is now just a big "bug" to be swatted with our state-of-the-art hardware. Forget the fact that it took advanced, futuristic hardware like smart guns and pulse rifles in Aliens to do the same job. Nope, now we can do it with good old fashion shotguns and pistols.
The Predator fares better, though he operates by no sense of logic I can discern. This Predator arrives on Earth with the mission to "clean up" the mess. We periodically see him spilling some kind of glowing blue acid stuff on the corpses so as to cover the tracks of both the aliens and his own kind. It's his mission, we presume, from this act of destroying the evidence, to hide the incursion of extra-terrestrials on Earth. Given this, the fact that the predator skins a police deputy and hangs his corpse from a tree --- to be found by the sheriff - doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact, the Predator goes out of his way to kill the deputy, who runs from the extra-terrestrial hunter screaming like a little girl. The only possible reason the predator could have for killing the inept human police officer is the fact that he discovered him. Again - he has to clean-up and "leave no witnesses."
But still he leaves him there skinned, for police to find. Why?
That's just one incredible gap in situational logic, but there are bigger fish to fry here. Before seeing the movie, for instance, I read a number of reviews from unhappy fans indicating that the film was poorly shot: that it was too dark. I thought this was just fan griping. It isn't. I know of no modern-day corollaries for this overt flaw in a major, big-budget production; but for some reason, AVPR is terribly, terribly under lit throughout. Even the daylight scenes are hard to see. You'll spend the entire movie squinting, trying to make-out the crappy action.
AVPR plays like a movie made by two sixteen-year old buddies. One is the writer and one is the director. And they've seen all those cool old Alien and Predator movies, so they decide to put together their own version. But being just sixteen, these kids don't have any authentic sense of how to tell a dramatic story beyond having monsters fight. But being sixteen, they don't have any sense of what real people, not character stereotypes, would sound like. Instead it's all just a collection of moments that a sixteen-year old would think are cool. Like wouldn't it be neat if a Pred-alien (*sigh*) attacked a maternity ward? Wouldn't we be bad ass mfs if we had a face hugger impregnate a little kid? Would it be cool if a teenager got his hands on a predator weapon and started blowing aliens away? Pass the doritos, man!!!!
But I insult the metaphorical sixteen year olds out there...
In the final analysis, AVPR isn't merely an insult to the intelligence, it's an insult to the great tradition and lineage of Alien films. From Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet to...the Brothers Strause?
Heck of a job, guys
A requiem, in case you didn't know, is a hymn for the dead, a musical composition for the expired. In this case, the "requiem" sung by AVPR is the death knell of not one, but two classic sci-fi film franchises. Rest in peace Aliens and Predators...