After the first Alien vs. Predator (AVP) movie came out, the seventh film overall to include an "Alien" or a "Predator," I had one very strong opinion — they should have stopped at three. Alien and Aliens were both great films – one a masterpiece of sci-fi horror and the other a strong work of sci-fi action. But the franchise went downhill quickly after those two. And while the original Predator provided some good, old-fashioned, shoot-em-up, action-oriented entertainment, the first meeting of the two franchises didn't deliver on its promise.
While a smack-down grudge match between the aliens from Alien and the aliens from Predator looks good on paper, the story, acting, and filmmaking behind the first movie never captured the excitement and bone-chilling dread of those earliest movies in each respective franchise. So when Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem came to theaters, my expectations were so low I didn't bother to go see it. And perhaps that was best because now, seeing the film for the first time on Blu-ray disc in its unrated extended director's cut, the second AVP film is actually fairly enjoyable.
The AVP series is based on a simple premise: put an Alien and a Predator in a room — who survives? That is the question. The answer is, inevitably, definitely not the humans caught in the middle. As in the first Alien vs. Predator film, (and the individual Alien and Predator films), homo sapiens are ill-equipped for hand to hand combat against these creatues, and our weapons technology doesn't hold up well either. Although the human characters in Requiem are not much better developed than the alien ones, the latest AVP film includes enough cool ideas, well-developed technology, and back-story, over-the-top blood and guts, excellent makeup and special effects and exciting action sequences to provide a good solid thrill ride and give us some hope that there may be some life left in these sagging franchises.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 in full 1080p resolution with AVC encoding. I would expect the AVC encoding and average bitrate of 29 MBPS on this dual layer 50 GB disc to be up to the task of encoding the film, and well-lit daylight scenes are represented well with crisp detail and natural colors. But there are a few places, particularly the dark night-time forest and sewer scenes, where details are impossible to make out, even on a well-calibrated projector in a darkened home theater environment. But perhaps this is the intent? AVP is a dark film and, as such, difficult to reproduce in a home theater environment. The Blu-ray disc does a better job of this than the DVD (or the standard def digital copy of the film, included on disc two) but it isn't perfect. I will say the computer generated effects and make-up hold up well in the transfer, something that can't be said for some other recent CGI-heavy films.
Presented in lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, the soundtrack on AVP: Requiem is top-notch. Yes, it's aggressive with an eerie, punchy, neo-classical score, a generous bottom end (hey, I'm talking about the low bass here), and liberal use of surround effects to put the audience in the center of the action, but the sound is clean and free from digital artifacts. AVP:R is not a dialog-driven film (unless you consider the clicks and whirs of the Predator language and the death screams of the Aliens to be "dialog") but the human dialog that is in the film (such as it is) comes through clearly and intelligibly in the lossless DTS-HD soundtrack. And the alien sounds, many of which are sourced directly from the original Alien, Aliens and Predator films, also come through loud and clear, bringing a level of auditory authenticity to the film that will enhance the enjoyment for those who remember the original films fondly.
The pop-up menu on the disc is well-done visually, floating on the screen with appropriately techno-metallic sound effects. Unfortunately it's a bit kludgey to navigate, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find some interesting extras and special features. The disc comes with both the original R-rated theatrical cut and an extended unrated cut. These are presented using Blu-ray's seamless branching feature to save storage space and prevent the need for an additional Blu-ray disc. You can enable or disable an on-screen "extended footage marker" which illuminates during the added or extended scenes. I found the marker distracting so I left it off.
Whether you watch the original or the extended cut, you can choose to listen to the original soundtrack or one of two commentary tracks – one from the producer and directors, talking about the trials and tribulations of making the film, the other from the film's lead creature effects team, getting into the nitty gritty details of what it takes to make believable aliens and predators for film.
Also included are the requisite featurettes detailing the various challenges faced when making the film, from envisioning the Predator home world, to creating the hybrid PredAlien itself (lovingly referred to as "Chet"). When discussing the evolution of the Alien and Predator beings over the course of the various films, footage and stills from earlier films are included for reference, which brings us to what I think is the coolest of the extras, the "Weyland-Yutani archive."
The archive is a sort of BD-Java-based multi-media encyclopedia – a catalog of entries on what the fictional Wayland-Yutani Corporation knows about each alien species, the Xenomorph (Alien) and Yautja (Predator). It covers bits about their culture, weaponry and biology with text entries, some 3D models and snippets of video footage culled from previous films (e.g., eggs and chest-burster scenes from "Alien"). This archive is well-designed and will provide some additional insight into the aliens for series newbies and die-hard fans alike.
There are theatrical trailers for AVP:R and other Fox titles as well as behind-the-scenes photo galleries. The second disc in the set is a standard DVD data disc with the film's portable "digital copy" on it, for use on your computer or on your portable media player. I like to see this trend – if I buy a movie, I'd like to think I can watch it wherever and whenever I like, and the digital copy of the film allows me to do just that.
Final Thoughts/Overall Score
Although Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is not high art, it isn't meant to be. And character development of the humans in the film leaves a bit to be desired with trite dialog and stilted interpersonal interactions. In fact, the wrath and anger of the Predator who finds his fellow Predators' discarded remains after an Alien attack is one of the more powerful emotional moments in the film. But the filmmakers spent considerable effort and attention on getting the Alien and Predator characters right, and creating a reasonably compelling story to frame the Alien/human/Predator showdown.
With some excellent effects work and remarkable technological achievements, as well as great action and epic battle sequences, AVP: Requiem leaves its immediate predecessor in the dust and gives us something to look forward to in the inevitable AVP:3 (c'mon, you know you want it). The Blu-ray version makes good use of the format, with a detailed (if somewhat shadow-challenged) video transfer, excellent audio, and a nice selection of extras. Fans will certainly find something here to like.
- Actors: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis, Ariel Gade
- Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
- Audio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
- Subtitles: English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean
- Region: A
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Number of discs: 2 (one Blu-ray Disc, one DVD data disc)
- Ratings: R (theatrical cut), Unrated (extended cut)
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Disc Release Date: April 15, 2008
- Run Time: 94 minutes (theatrical cut), 101 minutes (extended cut)
- List Price: $39.98
- Extras/Special Features:
- Theatrical Cut and Unrated Extended Cut (with optional "Added Footage" marker)
- Audio Commentary by Directors Colin and Greg Strause, and Producer John Davis
- Audio Commentary by Creature Effects Designers/Creators Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis
- Wayland Yutani Archives
- Featurettes on the making of AVP:R
- Photo Galleries
- Theatrical Trailers
- D-Box Enhanced
- Digital Copy