I can take pretty much all levels of violence in cinema. Everything but one, pregnant women being brutally murdered by Aliens. If a movie has to stoop so low to push the envelope and get our attention then something else is obviously lacking. For Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem a lot of things are lacking.
I was never a big fan of the Predator. He’s sort of one note. It’s my belief if it hadn’t been for the popular run of comic books released by Dark Horse, Predator would have disappeared after the debacle of Predator 2. But I’m a giant fan of the Alien creature. It’s one of my favorite movie monsters of all time. And the first three and a half films are excellent movies dealing with pure carnal fear. Facing the unknown. The first 7 or 8 minutes of this new incarnation of the combined two franchises gives you hope for an interesting time. The directors, with a spoonful of geek pretension are calling themselves The Brothers Strause, but when they aren’t setting themselves up for a huge fall by making comparisons in name structure to the Brothers Grimm are separately known as Colin and Greg, and they immediately show us that they aren’t afraid to break some rules. They have a handsome visual flair and the special effects up front are pretty slick. The blacks in the film are bold, and the Predator looks pretty cool. Then we’re introduced to Generic Human Charater #1, then Generic Human Character #2 and they have a conversation and you realize that the first 7 or 8 minutes was just a trick to keep you from leaving, hoping that there might be another good 7 or 8 minutes worth sticking around for…and there really isn’t.
Just to give you an idea of who some of these Generic characters are. The first is someone stepping off a bus in Generic Rural Town, North America. His name is Dallas and he’s a felon getting out of prison who likes to spend his time in diners and bars, but isn’t against helping his brother make the right choice and saving the day if necessary (What say you ladies? Huh?) G#2 is the Sheriff, Dallas’s best friend from days gone past. Dallas has a younger brother who has to deliver a pizza to the hot, popular high school girl who has an a-hole boyfriend. Of course Younger Brother and Hot High School girl look like they’re actually 25 or 26, but I guess they’re supposed to be 18. And needless to say it’s obvious this film was written by fanboys for fanboys because he ends up with her at the high school swimming pool late one night kissing her in bra and undies. She’s way hot and we’re momentarily distracted from the badness of the film, but when the a-hole boyfriend and his flunkies make a grand entrance you really start hoping for the next 7 or 8 minutes to start.
I have a feeling in my bones that more good movies can be made with the Aliens, maybe even the Predator (if you work hard enough at it,) but the studios keep grabbing these guys with no sense of storytelling…or character creativity…or dialogue…or action…or pacing…or building suspense…there’s a long list of what the creative team involved in this movie does not know what to do. The one thing they do know how to do is film fights between lone Predator and Aliens in almost complete darkness so we can’t tell how exactly Predator gets knocked through a sewer wall. They also know how to make Predator look like the worst hunter in the Universe; the dude is just an idiot. Sure, he has weapons, and a cool cloaking device, but he certainly can’t think on his feet, and has the worst aim of any action star out there. The directors also know how to show graphic violence that matches the grotesqueness of horror films now days, i.e. Saw and Hostel. The thing though with Saw and Hostel is that the characters are put through semi-interesting situations before they’re torn apart. Here nothing of consequence or importance really happens to any of the human characters, except for dying. And when they do that it’s done so quickly that there’s no waiting to see what’s around the corner, because there is no corner.
Studios, get some filmmakers that show an ounce of vision…please…I beg you. That’s what monsters like Alien need. Some tone…some atmosphere…a special touch. They even have the opportunity to cleverly connect this with the Alien franchise by introducing the beginnings of The Corporation’s desire to retrieve the Alien species. Instead we witness as a tag to the action of the film a stiff government employee meeting a bizarre woman in her office. He shows her the Predator’s gun. The world isn’t ready for this type of technology, she says. But this isn’t meant for our world, is it? He replies. What? Is this how they set up a sequel, by showing us that there are going to be more characters that talk with moronic abstractness. Is this really how they’re hoping to get us in the seats again? It tries so hard to make it mean “something” that it means nothing whatsoever!
Here’s another choice piece of dialogue that Dallas spouts at a-hole boyfriend, You’re too stupid to talk. Shut up! They’re all too stupid to talk. Is it too much to ask that characters in a movie don’t talk like they haven’t made it beyond the 2nd grade. Or for a writer to not write like he’s still in the 2nd grade. Or let me give him the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the directors who let the actors say these foolish lines, or maybe the studios who have let the Alien franchise go the way of the dog since they forced the end of Alien Resurrection on writer Joss Whedon and director Jeanne Pierre Jeunet. (Here we’re shown another retarded looking incarnation of the Alien species. An Alien that has taken on the traits of the Predator, and there’s nothing sillier looking then an Alien with dreadlocks.) I feel sorry for the actors in this film who have to say this dialogue and react to these situations like they care. Who I’m sure could be good under the proper circumstances, but that might be too untrained to know anything more than the laconic emotional reacting that they do when not directed properly. This has nothing to do with the fact that she’s really hot and you see her in bra and undies, but Kristen Hager who was last seen in the Dillon biopic I’m Not There and will next be seen in this summers silly action movie Wanted, is the only actor that shows some natural emotional range, or at least the only one who can make it look convincing without further direction. The rest seem, even when emoting like a good actor, to not know hot to handle the badness of the script.
Is it too much to ask the directors to take the time to director their actors? Other then where to stand in the special effects sequence and to keep an eye line correct. Sometimes it’s just a word or two and that’s all it takes. But the Strause Brothers probably don’t want to distract from the “versus” in the title. What they don’t seem to get is that, with horror films more than any other kind of film out there, you need Oscar worthy performances, or at least Golden Globe worthy, or no one is going to care who lives or dies.
A few images have been ingrained into my head:
The hunter arising from the waters.
A son watching his father lend an arm.
A “rat” in the sewers.
A “monster” outside the window.
A beautiful butterfly getting pinned to the wall – which inspires one of the only believable reactions in the film to what’s going on. From the audience and the characters.
If only the rest of the film could have inspired our imaginations to fear what could be out there beyond the reaches of our solar system like these brief moments did, and which the best science fiction has the capability of doing. It’s difficult to tell if anyone in this film has any real talent or not because it’s such a mess. If only the versus between the Alien and Predator meant something more than just a query put forth by two comic book geeks on a boring weekend at the comic book store to insight impassioned arguments (“Who would win in a fight, the Punisher or Moon Knight?” “Nu-uh! No he wouldn’t, no he wouldn’t!” – And yes, I’ve been known to geek out as well.) It seems like the emotional core of this should be in the fact that there’s collateral damage and how it affects the character, and while there’s a lot of collateral, none of it seems important enough for the characters to step in and make a difference. The “versus” itself is never even properly fulfilled. So, while the Alien and Predator in this film are good at killing, and they do a lot of it, they certainly don’t care whether you enjoy it or not.