Aliens vs. Predator DVD Review

Both the "Alien" and "Predator" franchises were run into the ground, the Predator meeting an earlier fate. It's been 8 years since we last had a run in with the Aliens and 15 since the Predator tried to tear apart Danny Glover. Both come back together in the long time coming "Aliens vs. Predator," a meeting between two of Hollywood's most vicious.

A sudden rise in heat alerts people monitoring Antarctica that something is buried deep within the ice. The Weyland Corporation headed by of course Charles Weyland (Lance Henriksen), gets together a team to investigate what has shown to be a giant pyramid structure. It turns out that it's a source for a Predator ritual in which the young are sent to prove themselves worthy of manhood. The enemy is of course the Aliens, primed and ready to go after being birthed by the captured Queen.

Killing "Alien vs. Predator" from the start is its complete lack of acknowledgement for the films that came before it. Director and writer Paul W. Anderson claims to be a huge fan of both franchises, so why would he ignore them? The timeline is completely messed up, the Predator befriends a human (in what has to be the films most ridiculous idea), and it doesn't even follow it's own history. It's a mess.

That's still not the biggest complaint. The worst change you could do to this film is take away what made the originals such a treat for horror and sci-fi fans: the gore. No, it's not the director's fault, but the studios. Aiming for the PG-13 rating takes all the fun out of the deaths, not to mention the horrible cuts to get away from any scene that would be even mildly brutal. The rumored directors cut has yet to surface.

There is minimal time spent on developing characters, not that it really matters anyway. Many of them drop pretty quickly, most of the time before you even know why they are actually a part of this team. Going with another unknown female lead was nice touch. Unfortunately, she is the only character you'll ever really know anything about. If you haven't actually seen a previous movie in the Alien series, good luck trying to figure exactly what it is the Weyland Corporation does.

The eventual "meeting of the minds" is the only thing that goes right. There are two major battles stuck in between countless smaller ones. Those two are spectacular on a visual level and a real treat for those special effects fans. The combination of great puppetry, men in suits, and CGI is handled surprisingly well. Anderson went almost entirely for standard effects, using CG only when absolutely necessary. He deserves major credit for that, though it hardly makes up for the rest of the film.

Eventually, you just sort of realize the movie is nothing more than a 90-minute trailer. Every shot of the monsters squaring off seems primed to show up somewhere during the ad campaign (how many times do we need a close up of the Aliens lip curl?) That's certainly fine if the rest of the film held up. If you've read all of this, it's not hard to figure out that it doesn't. There had to be a better script out there. This is just too far from the other films. (** out of *****)

Available in both a 2.35:1 widescreen and what has to be an almost unwatchable pan & scan version, "AVP" looks sharp on DVD. It follows the three C's: Clean, crisp, and clear. Color is rare, settling mostly for claustrophobic corridors and little light. Flares, giving off bright red hues, showcase no compression artifacts. The sheen coming from the greasy heads of the Aliens is flawlessly captured. Black levels are solid enough to finish everything off. (*****)

As a typical summer blockbuster, "AvP" is loud enough to cause deafness in either 5.1 or DTS 5.1. A brief moment in which the Predator's ship fires a beam at Earth is easily the most incredible shot of bass you'll ever. The Aliens creep around the sound field in their quest to munch on the actors with amazing separation, enough to make anyone's skin crawl. There's great subtlety too like whipping winds and the creaking of the ancient structure. (*****)

Expect a special edition soon. There's very little of any major interest on this disc, at least not enough to really get the feel for what went on behind the scenes. On an early side note, Fox pulled off a nice looking front end, featuring some related graphics that tie in nicely with the film.

Two commentaries lead the way, one features Anderson and his two leads, Sanaa Lathan and Henriksen. The second is of a technical nature with the special effects crew explaining how they pulled off each shot. These are only available for the theatrical cut, not the much advertised "extended edition." No, it's not the gorier R-rated cut. It's nothing more than an added shot to the beginning of the film making it all of two minutes longer. Wow. That was worth an extra $3 million out of the marketing budget.

Three deleted scenes, all in the incorrect aspect ratio, have been tossed on. Only one was a keeper, a bit of Predator humor if you will. "The Making of AvP" is a very good 23-minute feature with an outstanding look at the miniature and suit work. There's a great shot of a full dressed actor in an Alien suit leaning on a table, sitting on a chair, like he's asleep while the crew works around him. Elsewhere, you'll see the inner workings of the animatronics and absolutely nothing on the CG work, a refreshing change of pace. The final notable content are the covers for the various "AvP' comic books from Dark Horse.

Finally, Fox has been flat out stupid with this one. Beyond the now typical "first look" for the already released "Elektra" and terrible looking "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," they found is necessary to throw on a totally useless 30-second promo for Fox sports. They even claim it has something to do with the Super Bowl when it covers all the sports they carry. Adding in more uselessness is a "Family Dad" promo, roughly the same length. It's the same one they have shown on their network for months. Some actual related content would have been nice. (***)

Only time will tell if "AvP" goes down as hard as "Alien Resurrection" did. There's a strong, very dedicated, and very vocal fan base out there. There are plenty of "those" moments in this film, just nothing to support them. Everything is set up for a sequel (surprise, surprise) so maybe we can finally see the Aliens rampage in a major metropolis. Please?

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