Aliens Versus Predator: Requiem (film, 2008)


Oh dear, deary, deary me. Oh… Just read this review, from Death Ray 11.

TWO STARS

2007/83 mins /15

Director: The Brothers Strause

Writer: Shane Salermo

Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade, Kristen Hager

Painting by numbers Alien film rendered in rainslick black, acid yellow, and flourescent blood green.

The second in what will hopefully be a short franchise presents a story with themes so dilute it’s as powerful as a weak glass of Kiora.

The plot: The Alien chestburster born from a Predator at the end of the last film goes on the rampage on the Predator ship, causing it to crash in small town America. Facehuggers escape, and run amok. Meanwhile (it’s the kind of film with a lot of “meanwhile”), on the Predator homeworld, an alarm alerts a veteran Predator, and he nips off super-quick like to clean it all up, before anyone on Earth notices. There’s a lot of fighting, then the military blow up the town to stop the spread of the aliens, so you could say our Predator buddy is unsuccessful. Fin.

Earlier Alien films have made a variety of points:  the power of the mothering instinct, the greed of corporations, what it means to be human. Unfortunately, this movie takes its cues from the Predator franchise alone. It’s nothing but a welter of rubber-suit action, only without the novelty of either original Predator film. It is “horror SF” in its most debased form, SF because the monsters are aliens, horror because we get to see a load of teenagers being slain.

This co-mingling of low-grade DNA shapes the film. We have a traditional suburban set-up, with a number of bland characters. These are just enough this side of the superficial to make us be bothered to guess what order they are going to die in. There’s a troubled brother, a nerdy brother, a sheriff with a dodgy past, a hot blonde… blah blah blah. So far, so straight-to-video, but what really irks is the egregious deployment of a sub-Ripley Gulf War vet mother and her Newt-esque child. This only shows the film up for what it’s not. Actually scratch that, we don’t know she’s a Gulf War vet, only that she shows up at home in a US Army uniform and can drive a tank and fly a helicopter. These really are thumbnail character sketches – of characters from other films, movie shorthand so that we don’t need a real story. The rest of it, cool Predator weapons, swimming Aliens, the inclusion of a certain Ms Yutani, is pure fan service. It’s only missing a gratuitous tit shot.

This reduction of idea goes on: selectively ignoring the Alien’s acid blood so we get a better fight with the Predator, having the super-secretive clean-up Predator skin a man alive and leave him in plain view, just for the gore, while the franchises haemorraging of sophistication sees the Predalien invade a maternity ward, causing clutches of aliens to burst out of pregnant mothers’ bellies. This kind of thing makes you wonder, do the Brothers Strause understand what these films are about, or are they just turned on by the action? Probably the latter, because as in the first AVP, the life cycle of the Aliens is sped up, so we don’t have to sit through any boring suspense before the silver-toothed xenomorphs start chowing down on our pack of McStereotypes. It’s short attention span SF by MTV directors for people who know these properties only as trademarked action figures. In the end we’re left watching two big guys in unwieldy costumes hit each other in the rain. And that is really is it.

However, this is a leaner, more gripping film than the first AVP. It’s pacily directed, and though fashioned from lumps of cinematic Lego, they are neatly stuck together. If you can put your brain in neutral and forget the films that came before, you might enjoy it. But it is so bereft of any kind of genuine thought – AVP 1‘s concepts might have been rubbish, but at least it had some – that it’s hard to keep mental disengagement up.

There’s a reason why films like this are the way they are, and modestly budgeted too. The twin franchise has reached that Freddy 4 stage, where it’s enough to wheel out the titular bad guys to get the fans cheering. Folks who can chew and walk at the same time are going to be perpetually disappointed by such offerings. This could be Aliens Versus Jason, or Aliens Versus Mickey Mouse. Both creatures have become so embedded in US contemporary pop culture that they have ceased to be interesting. It’s the purest form of film-as-business, an exercise in spreadsheets, there’s simply no need for anything but the simplest ingredients to make cash. This is fine, Brothers Strause, we all need to turn a buck, but don’t expect critical acclaim for it. And why is it called Requiem? If it’s a requiem for anything it is one for imaginative filmmaking. Very nearly, but not quite, shit.

Did you know?

The Predator was named Wolf by the filmmakers, after Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction who was also a “Cleaner”.

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