Added 23 January 2008.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

Starring Stephen Pascale, John Ortiz, Reiko Aylesworth, Robert Joy, David Paetkau

From 1989 the concept of the meeting of two iconic and predatory alien species, H R Giger's Alien and the Predator from the Schwarzenegger film respectively, was mooted and given space in graphic novels (or comic books, depending on your point of view). With the ageing of the original Alien series and Sigourney Weaver's reluctance to be further involved, the way was open for the franchise to be either rejuvenated or milked (again, depending on your point of view) with its merger with the Predator, which had last been seen on the big screen in 19??.

The first Alien vs. Predator film took place in Antarctica, in a rediscovered underground citadel that had features of Mayan and Egyptian civilisations. Although generally thought by critics to be inferior to the original Alien series, it was a fair effort and at least had the advantage of including one of the original cast, Lance Hendriksen (starring once again as Bishop, this time the very original human on whom presumably the later cyborg was based). Bishop, along with most of the humans, at least one of the Predators and most of the Aliens, was killed in the city, while the surviving Predators bore their dead comrade back to the ship and took off. Once in orbit they left the corpse unattended, and the last shot of the film was of an Alien with Predator features bursting out of the dead Predator's body in triumph.

The film

Alien vs Predator: Requiem picks up where the last film ends, as in now-familiar Alien style the hatched creature rapidly grows and then wreaks havoc on the spaceship, killing or maiming the crew and causing it to fall out of orbit and back to Earth. It crash lands in forest in Arizona, not far from a small town going about its ordinary business: a released prisoner returning home, a sheriff meeting him, a female soldier returning from duty and so on. Needless to say the most dangerous occupants of the Predator ship have survived. Meanwhile a distress signal has been sent back to the Predator home planet and is answered by a single warrior who immediately kits up and shoots off to deal with this unwanted biohazard, as the escaped Aliens begin to launch their reign of terror on the town.

It would be fair to describe the first two Alien films at least as classics, but sadly this film does not reach such heights despite borrowing at times from Aliens. It's not appallingly bad, nor even a waste of money: it's just that one feels that a potential opportunity for a truly great monster film was missed, and instead we get the filmmakers going through the motions. My main criticisms are twofold. Firstly, and perhaps this is common in many run of the mill sci-fi and horror films, most of the cast have got "victim" written on their foreheads as soon as they appear. One expects that to a degree, but the tendency seems to be particularly marked in AVP: Requiem. With the exception of about three characters, we hardly know any of the cast long enough to put a name to them. In fact a lot of the energy in the film seems to go into notching up a body count rather than getting us to actually care or even distinguish between the victims. This brings me to the second criticism, which is the way the film has been shot. Much of the fighting and killing is done in darkness and rain, but whereas in Aliens this was done fairly masterfully - a fine balance between the chaos of war and allowing us to see who or what was dying - in AVP: Requiem we are merely left baffled half the time as to exactly who or what has been killed. Even the setpiece fights between the "PredAlien" (the original creature that burst out of the dead Predator) and the Predator seem blurry and unclear, rather like watching Saturday afternoon wrestling on an old black-and-white portable TV with bad reception. In a perverse way this almost sanitises the gore and violence, even though there is plenty of it. It's almost as if the filmmakers can't quite decide whether to reach for the bar to attain the essential "Alien-ness" of the original films or just relax and make a standard run-of-the-mill slasher flick for teenagers.

To be fair, the film does have some good points. Stephen Pasquale and John Ortiz stand out as Dallas and Sheriff Andy Morales, while Reiko Aylesworth does make a reasonable fist of trying to follow in Sigourney Weaver's footsteps. There is an interesting subplot about the usual threat to the humans from their own kind, and at the end the film does provide a link to the rest of the series. Overall however it risks parodying itself, not the worst fate a film of this genre can undergo but certainly one unworthy of the two imaginative species it features. Such iconic creatures deserve better than this.

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