Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Summer School: 'Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem' (2007)

Once again, I'm looking back at previous installments of some of this summer's big returning franchises.

And here we hit rock bottom. On the whole, the Alien franchise is remarkably durable, accommodating the visions of various distinctive filmmakers, sometimes within the same movie, while building up memorable characters and providing long-lasting licensing opportunities. It can easily survive a movie like Paul W.S. Anderson's Alien vs. Predator, a disposable B-level action thriller with little to say and even less lasting impact. But the directors of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (brothers Colin and Greg Strause) make Anderson look like Ridley Scott, and it's a testament to just how durable this franchise is that not only did Requiem not kill it, but it also managed to bounce back to creative and financial heights only five years later with Prometheus.

Requiem is such a poorly made movie with such a generic, hacky premise that it's beneath the dignity of both aliens and predators. After the events of AVP, which took pains to isolate the aliens and predators in a remote location on Earth and limit their contact with humans, the Strauses and screenwriter Shane Salerno just dump the creatures in a small town in the middle of Colorado, where they encounter hundreds of people and eventually face down the U.S. military. If Anderson was doing his best to preserve series continuity, the filmmakers here are basically making a mockery of it, and their lazy callbacks somehow make the disregard for previous movies even more insulting.

You don't need to be a dedicated fan of the Alien or Predator movies in order to be insulted by the shoddy filmmaking in this movie, which is shot like someone fired the lighting department and consequently edited like no one involved could see what was going on in each frame. The predator ship that took off from Earth at the end of the last movie quickly crashes, thanks to an alien that gets loose on board, triggering an alert for another predator to travel from the creatures' home world (the glimpse of which is the movie's only moment of mild creativity) to Earth to clean up the mess. Soon there are multiple aliens loose in the small Colorado town of Gunnison, where they function as second-rate slasher-movie villains taking out tired stereotypes including horny teenagers, a troubled loner returning to town and a local sheriff who's quickly in over his head.

The predator is pretty much the hero of this movie, although its motivations aren't entirely clear -- it seems to want to contain the alien threat (it has some kind of goop that conveniently dissolves bodies instantly, leaving no trace), but it also randomly kills a few humans along the way. The alien that burst out of a predator's chest at the end of the last movie is a sort of alien/predator hybrid (which actually has a bit of established precedent, as the aliens are meant to take some characteristics from the beings they gestate in), and it also apparently has the ability to plant its embryos directly into humans without the need for eggs or facehuggers.

The hybrid was a cool visual for a second at the end of AVP, but it mostly looks goofy at full size -- not that you can see much of it, given how murky all the images are. Nearly every fight scene takes place in the dark and/or in the rain, and while Anderson at least offered up exciting battles, the Strauses can't even manage that. The human characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue is idiotic, and the plot makes the universe-threatening menaces of previous Alien movies into the equivalent of Critters or Ghoulies. AVP could still fit into the series as a minor entry, but Requiem is best forgotten altogether.

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