Having seen the previous Aliens vs. Predator, I walked into the theater not expecting much of the sequel (pseudo-creatively titled Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem). Every now and then, I’ll walk into a theater not expecting much, and come out pleasantly surprised. (This happened with I Am Legend) This, unfortunately, was not one of those times.
The movie starts off from the last film’s shamelessly sequel-friendly ending. From there, it takes off, and never even considers landing. This might sound like a complement, but I assure you that it is not. By “takes off,” I mean in the manner that a hummingbird might take off after some mischievous birdwatcher filled a birdfeeder with amphetamines. The movie’s attention span about matches that of it’s intended audience. Once again, this is not a complement, since it would appear that its intended audience is indeed a bunch amphetamine-addled hummingbirds. I can’t remember a single scene — and this (unlike my previous descriptions) is not an exaggeration — that lasted more than about five minutes. The cuts were so jarring and furious that what little plot there was was completely obscured.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
This fact was somewhat offset by the fact that — as I said — there wasn’t much plot to obscure. It was your standard horror-movie stuff: alien thingy crashes in the woods near a small mountain town, is discovered by hunters who subsequently meet a hideous demise, after which the aliens silently insinuate themselves into the town.
The choppiness of the transitions was only exacerbated by the seeming incompetence of both camera crew and lighting director, both of whom were apparently suffering some kind of severe muscle spasms during the whole movie. The scenes, in addition to being blindingly short, are incredibly dark. All this makes it pretty much impossible to see anything. Although, I suppose that’s for the best.
Still, I must admit that, out of context, the idea of doing an Alien/Predator movie in a small-town setting is actually fairly fresh and mildly interesting. The Aliens have spent most of their time somewhere beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and the Predators never got much farther in than a small South American village or the slums of New York (or whatever anonymous slums they were supposed to be). The interest of this idea is ruined, however, by aforementioned crappiness of plot.
Sometimes, though, even a really standard, cliché-ridden plot can be elevated to the status of “mildly amusing,” by some really entertaining characters. Well, don’t get your hopes up. Very few of the characters in AVP: R actually survived long enough to contribute anything to the plot. And, unlike most horror-scifi movies of today, the directors apparently chose not to differentiate between the characters that die during their introductory scene and the ones that (in typical melodramatic fashion) eventually escape the carnage.
Which brings me to my next point: apparently, the filmmakers didn’t give a damn about their characters. We hardly learn anything about the main characters, and what we do learn is told blandly and unenthusiastically. Basically, adult main character: typical rebellious, leather-jacket wearing macho man; male teenage main character: angsty, picked-on pizza-boy; female teenage supporting character: flirtatious, vapid, “girl-that-everyone-wants-to-hang-out-with.” Et cetera, et cetera…I can’t even muster enough enthusiasm to continue mocking these unenthusiastic two-dimensional archetypes. After all, if the directors are expecting us to care about the characters, shouldn’t they do so first?
What could be worse than uninteresting characters? Well, uninteresting dialogue. Which, as you might expect by now, the film was ripe with. At one point, a woman, when challenged on her view that the government is going to send a rescue chopper to save them all, actually says — with an entirely straight face, no less — “The government doesn’t lie to people!” Despite the laughter from the other people in the theater, I got the feeling that this was not intended as comic relief. To me, it struck me as yet another expression of the clichés with which this movie was infested (like so many Alien larvae. Yes, I did have to do that.)
And, speaking of Alien larvae, I was quite annoyed with their treatment of the Alien and Predator characters they have so shamelessly defaced. With each of these movies (and I know there have only been two, but I’m extrapolating), the filmmakers pull both of these sci-fi masterpieces farther and farther from where they should have been. First of all, it was probably a mistake to attempt to shove the Aliens out of the future and into the present. Even so, a competent director would have been able to make it work. As expected, that didn’t happen. The Aliens don’t get nearly enough proper screentime, and the little they do get is so obscenely and overtly gory, and the scenes are so short, that they don’t evoke any of the terror and disgust that they did in the other Alien movies. H. R. Giger will be spinning in the early grave that this film will no doubt send him to.
But you wouldn’t think that any film could screw up the Predators. After all, they’re fairly straightforward: maniacal, technological hunters with no compassion for anyone or anything that gets in their way. Alas, as the original AVP proved and AVP: R only reinforces, if you give a bunch of fools enough money, they can screw anything up. In AVP: R, the Predators, like the Aliens (and, in fact, like everything else) are bland, uninteresting, and completely un-frightening. And what’s worse, somewhere along the way, the Predators developed a cheesy arsenal of weapons oversized worse than Batman’s. Where the hell did that blue liquid come from, that so conveniently dissolves organic matter and only organic matter? And where the hell did those stupid laser mines come from (the laser mines that, incidentally, never actually end up doing anything)? Rather than being an honest and honorable safari on planet Earth, it just turned into a technophiliac, meaningless gore-fest.
And while I’m on the subject of gore, that’s certainly in no short supply in this movie. And it’s not even the Eew, that was disgusting, I must watch more kind of gore. Like the entire rest of the movie, it was executed only half-heartedly, and so gratuitously that it’s really difficult to actually react to. I think that the horror genre has probably outgrown the head-splattering, face-ripping stage. And, anyway, how are we supposed to get honestly grossed out if you can’t hold your camera still for more than five seconds?
Which brings me to my final complaint: the movie’s style is absolute rubbish. The “Predator-vision” that made the original Predator movies so cool was jerky, fuzzy, and difficult to follow; and what’s worse, the scenes cut so quickly that any dramatic effect it might have produced was completely obliterated. Every scene was un-atmospheric, un-frightening, un-disturbing, and uninteresting.
Now, as much as it pains me to do so, I must faithfully maintain my policy, which is as follows: if I really like a movie, I must find at least one bad thing to say about it; if I really hate a movie, I must find at least one good thing to say about it. This is, of course, in the interest of balance (and because I hate mainstream cinema so much that if I wrote an all-bad review, I fear that I may choke on my own bile). There was one thing that I did find mildly creative about the film: it was not at all afraid to kill off main characters, or cross the honorary borders about who is allowed to die in a horror movie. The directors are absolutely unafraid to kill (pregnant) women and children. And while this may seem to be rebellious and revolutionary, it’s so badly done that it comes across as disgustingly and disturbingly exploitative. And the film’s lack of compunctions about killing main characters — something I had (emphasis on had) been hoping to see in a mainstream film someday — probably stems from the fact that the main characters were no more interesting than the extras.
All in all, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was simply a movie without a soul. It had all the energy of the aforementioned avian amphetamine junkie, and about as much self-respect. It was impossible to connect to the film, even during it’s (conveniently and unfortunately sequel-friendly) heroic conclusion. It left me with the feeling that I’d just wasted nineteen dollars and two hours of my life. Don’t bother going to see it, if you haven’t already. When it comes out on DVD, don’t bother renting it. If you really want some good Alien vs. Predator action, go buy the AVP video game that came out some years back. That was much more interesting and atmospheric.
Of course, none of this applies if you are a Ritalin-doped adolescent. If you are indeed a Ritalin-doped adolescent then I can’t imagine how this review held your attention this long, but if you’re still reading: go see this movie. It’s just as jerky and hyperactive as you!
And, finally, a special message to “The Brothers Strause” (the pair of idiots who directed this disaster): I want my damned money back! Your total comes to $19.00 even. I don’t take checks or credit cards.
Overall Rating: ~~~~~~~~~~ (0/10 asterisks). Quite probably the worst movie of the year. Maybe the worst movie of the decade.
P.S. (I know I’ve been writing an awful lot of reviews lately, but being the angry, maladjusted cynic that I am, I quite enjoy criticizing.)