Predator Week: ‘Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem’ (2007)

On paper, I’m sure Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem looked like the “Xenomorphs on Earth” movie fans had been clamoring for since Ripley shot one of the bastards out of the airlock back in 1979. It is not that. The concepts in this story, some of which are great, are literally overshadowed by their execution. The finished work lacks a few things, but the main one is light.

Picking up right where AvP ended, a Yautja ship comes under attack from within by a newly hatched hybrid, lovingly referred to as the Predalien. It’s a bipedal Xenomorph with a shrimp mouth and a couple other tricks up its sleeve. The creature dispatches of the Predators on board and the ship crashes somewhere in Colorado. That’s problematic by itself, but the ship was also carrying a boatload of facehuggers in liquid-filled jars. Now, prowling through the woods of Crested Butte are dozens of first-stage Xenomorphs and one displaced Predalien. Meanwhile, on Yautja Prime, the Predator homeworld, one single sentry has been monitoring the progress of that ship. I don’t know; maybe his mom was on it. Upon discovering that the craft has gone down, he jumps into his little Jango Fett shuttle and hyperdrives his way to Legalized Marijuana, USA.

Direting team The Brothers Strause make a bold choice in the first fifteen minutes of the film by having the Xenomorph’s first victims be a hunter and his young son. A chestburster popping out of a ten-year-old kid sends a strong message. This is not some watered-down PG-13 concession to The Man. These guys are here to kick some ass. Unfortunately, things begin to go downhill quickly after that.

The newly arrived Predator investigates the crash site. He’s Detective Yautja. When he realizes the alien cargo has escaped, he gears up with weapons he finds on the ship (because he didn’t bring any, which seems odd for an alien hunter), destroys the spacecraft and heads into town to destroy the Predalien and his scuttling Xeno-minions.

Yeah, there are people in town, but who cares? We’re not here for them and they are not interesting in the least. There are four memorable characters in this movie, and even so, it’s only short term. One of them is named Dallas, in the most clever callback to the original to be found here. There’s his brother. And, um, an Army chick. Oh, there’s the brother’s blonde girlfriend, who used to be his ex-girlfriend or something. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that these schmucks are going to attempt to save the town. The brothers shuffle around like low-rent Winchesters, scowling and yelling when the play calls for it, mostly saying lines like, “What’s going on? I don’t know what’s happening!” They are both like very loud Mark Wahlbergs.

Meanwhile, there are aliens in the sewers using homeless people as hosts. It’s dark down there in CHUDville, and it looks like these scenes were filmed only with available light. That’s impressively Dogme 95 for a studio sci-fi sequel, but it doesn’t help the audience, because we literally cannot see what is going on. It was like that when I saw it in the theater, and it’s still the same watching the Blu-Ray on a 55″ hi-def television. You’ve gotta crank the brightness up to My Little Pony levels to make heads or tails of it.

The lighting problem is consistent throughout most of AvP:R. Matters are not helped by the fact that a major plot point involves a town-wide power outage caused by a fight between the Predalien and Detective Yautja. It’s not just the sewers that are dark. Everything is awash in varying shades of black. Following the action onscreen is difficult when all you can see is the reflection of your own face squinting back at you.

There are some fight scenes that I assume are awesome. I am going to believe that they are, although I have no visible proof of this. I am also pretty sure that CGI was used sparingly in AvP:R, and that is a great thing. The effects look to be practical. The monsters look like tall dudes in latex suits, as they should. But the detail and craftsmanship that I feel sure is there is lost on the viewer, and it’s a shame.

One of the coolest ideas in AVP:R is how the Predalien evolves. There’s a hospital scene involving mouth-to-mouth egg laying, oral ovipositing, that results in bedridden patients giving birth to litters of baby Xenomorphs. It’s horrific, and one of the few effects scenes one can actually see well, and that whole sequence is worth a watch.

It leads one to think what the filmmakers were trying to hide. Why did no one in charge bring this up during dailies? “Cool movie, bro, but what’s going on?” Because of this, AVP:R feels more like a proof of concept reel than a finished product. It doesn’t help that all the characters are morons and the ending is a hot piece of rip-off ridiculousness.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem evokes the feeling of watching your favorite athlete suffer a career-ending injury. So much potential wasted, and you wonder what would have happened had things gone differently. The movie comes achingly close to being something substantive and special. It could have been a game changer. Instead, it’s like a potato left to rot in the dirt because it refused to get out of the dark.

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