Saturday, March 26, 2011

There Are Better Ways To Avoid Family On Christmas Than Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem!

The Good: Moments of effects (and only moments!)
The Bad: Mindless "action," Predictable reversals, Lack of genuine character, Acting, Overwhelming violence.
The Basics: When a Predator comes to a small Colorado town to hunt down the new badder Alien, carnage, predictable violence and some boredom ensue!

[This was originally written on Christmas Day of 2007, but I liked the opening, so I maintained it! Enjoy!]

If you are anything like me, and I believe I have license to believe we might have something in common given that you are sitting here on Christmas Day reading reviews as opposed to doing other things, you might well be using the wonderful selection of films that are out today as an excuse to avoid spending time with your family. Yes, it's an old play, but it works! I'm going to begin my review of Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, then, with the bottom line. If you have to avoid your family by escaping to the movies, there are vastly better films that you should be fleeing them to see. I highly recommend Charlie Wilson's War (reviewed here!) and think if you're predisposed to Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (reviewed here!) is likely to suit you just fine and is a vastly better option than this piece of garbage. Here's why for you family-avoiding folk: either of those other films will give you more to talk about and describe which will allow you to dominate whatever conversation you are compelled to have. With Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem, you're likely to be done within three sentences, leave your family members confused and probably more than a little peeved that you chose such a piece of crap over spending time with them. The other two films, they might be bothered, but you're just as likely to either get them talking amongst themselves or get them to leave the house to go see them!

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is somewhat dependent upon seeing Alien Vs. Predator (reviewed here!) as the film follows the "surprise" conclusion of that film rather closely. Indeed, it is absolutely impossible for me to write about this film while maintaining the alleged surprise of the last scene of the first Alien Vs. Predator film. Thus, if you are predisposed toward being surprised, you'll need to stop now. Honestly, though, the film is remarkably simple and very much a self-explanatory piece, so for those who did not sit through the first cinematic atrocity, you will not feel lost long. After all, it's not like the first film was a great character study that made us empathize with any of the characters and truly wonder about their fate.

Following the birth of the Alien-Predator hybrid aboard the Predator ship, the Predator that survived the Antarctic hunt hunts the Hybrid and through its own stupidity crashes the ship. As a small miracle to the Alien population, the facehuggers that had been aboard the ship survive and quickly do their thing to build an Alien army. Thus, the Aliens and Hybrid set to slaughtering the inhabitants of Gunnison, Colorado. The Hybrid, eager to increase the Alien population, starts working the hospital to reproduce.

The Predators, monitoring the loss of their ship, send a lone Predator to Colorado to eradicate the Aliens and the Hybrid. After destroying the downed ship with an implosion device, the Predator sets to cleaning up the Aliens, slaughtering humans who get in its way and hunting its way up the chain to the Hybrid. As the Predator kills its way toward the top, the humans of the town, most notably Dallas, Kelly and her daughter Molly, flee as best they can and try to understand what is going on and how to stop both sides. Both tasks are made much more difficult by the fact that both the Hybrid and the Predator kill anything in front of it . . . .

Aliens Vs. Predators: Requiem is not quite like the first installment of the Alien Vs. Predator franchise. Whereas Alien Vs. Predator would have been more properly titled Whiny Humans Vs. Aliens With Some Help From A Predator, Requiem might have more appropriately been titled Predator Vs. Aliens Who Have Killed Many People. Despite the annoying interjections of the humans, this film is very much focused on the Predator. This Predator is on a mission and it is so focused on it that it does not care about the humans who might be predisposed to aid it in its quest to destroy the Hybrid and its minions.

But it does not take long before anyone watching the film will wonder why the franchise bothered yet again with trying to establish the human characters. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is somewhat insulting in the blandness of the characters that it throws at the viewer. We have ex-con Dallas, whose likable despite his criminal nature and that makes us want to empathize with him when Gunnison could suddenly use his skills?! Please! Dallas is so generically characterized by this that one wonders why they bothered, other than to make an allusion to Alien (Dallas - a descendant, presumably - was the captain of the Nostromo).

Similarly, Kelly and Molly seem to be an obvious attempt to cash in on the humanism of Ripley's character from Aliens. Instead of creating a character we have genuine empathy with (Kelly might well be the only one released from her current military service to return home to take care of her daughter), the viewer feels like we are supposed to have empathy for the pair. The result is that the film feels very forced in its human interactions. Kelly has a very generic motherly protective instinct for Molly and the bond feels generic.

In fact, most of the human population feels like it is characterized by single-line phrases. They do not get fleshed out in any meaningful way because that would distract from the carnage that could be shown. The result is a collection of "ex-con," "military mother," "vulnerable daughter," "sheriff guy," "hunter dad," "pregnant woman," "street connection," and "heroic military guy" (eventually). None of the characters come alive, which might be for the better as so few of them stay alive.

Sadly, for the viewer and the resumes of the performers involved, none of the acting shines. Trapped delivering characters who are understated, bland or just archetypes who swear a lot, most of the cast appears in Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem as filler for the scenes between the attacks and battles. Sure, we have the tender moment between Steven Pasquale's Dallas and his character's brother, but Pasquale does not emote and genuine love or concern for his on-screen brother. That lack of chemistry is at least addressed between the estranged Kelly and Molly, but Reiko Aylesworth is no Sigourney Weaver and her performance is, at best, her acting like Weaver playing Ripley.

Molly is played by Ariel Gade, who audiences might recognize from the short-lived show Invasion (reviewed here!). Poor Gade, being stuck in a film with a far less complicated plot than the television show with the similar-concept. Gade's true disappointment ought to come from the fact that she went from playing a generically cute, mildly interesting child to a slightly older, slightly less likable - the friction between Molly and Kelly does not reflect well on Molly's character - slightly more annoying (Gade did not do much screaming on Invasion) kid. Gade might have talent, but it is not reflected well in the character on the page, leaving little for such a young performer to do on screen.

Sadly, the superlative performances are put in by the performers behind the suits, Tom Woodruff Jr. (the Hybrid) and Ian Whyte (the Predator). When they aren't replaced by CG versions for extreme battle shots, the two gentlemen move in an otherworldly way consistent to what we've seen from the franchises the creatures are native to. This is not exceptional acting, but it's the best the movie has!

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is thoroughly absolved of its cinematic responsibility to bring us characters we can empathize with and a plot that is actually engaging because it is so pushing the envelope of violence and gore that it makes the viewer feel ashamed they expected it to conform to any sense of decent storytelling. No, Requiem quickly gives up even the pretense of character development and the presentation of a story in a single-minded killfest leading to the inevitable giant special effects battle between the Predator and the Hybrid. It is gore-filled, it is even more violent than one might imagine and the film gets away with it because it is one special effect creature slaughtering many more CG creatures with only "incidental" human death.

If Smokin' Aces had been a creature feature, this is what it would have looked like!

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem is very different from the first film in the series . . . except in the fact that both share minimal plot and character development and nothing sterling or remotely interesting on the acting front. Requiem takes the tried and true formula of neglecting all of those things that worked for great and entertaining movies and replaced it with as much action-packed carnage as the MPAA would allow. The result is a cinematic experience only one who loves first-person shooter type games might enjoy. The problem, at least for fans of the Alien franchise, is that originally the concepts were a lot more cerebral, layered with themes and scary.

This is just violent and gross.

And that, one hopes, is not worth your time.

For more information on the Alien component that this film alludes to, please check out my review of The Alien Quadrillogy, available here!

For other creature features, please check out my reviews of:
Battle Los Angeles
District 9
Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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