/20th Century Fox .
R4 . COLOR . 96 mins .
M15+ . PAL
When the DVD.net editor approached me saying he had been sent Alien vs Predator and asked if I was worthy to review it. “Worthy” I said, “have you not seen my full collection of first edition Dark Horse AvP comics? Have you not seen my AvP novel collection or action figures or Aliens Role Playing game or my scale model of the dropship from Aliens (still in the box)? You clearly have not seen the 1:1 scale latex facehugger hanging from the shelf in my media room?”
Little did I know that I had walked right into a trap. Having not seen Alien vs Predator at the theatre my only knowledge of the horror that lay before me was the few bad reviews I had read. Horror that is, not the scary kind of horror but the horror you feel when someone takes your favourite franchise and turns it into french-fries, the same horror you felt when you first saw Sigourney without hair.
This is certainly not Disney on Ice.
This may be a little unfair since I am what could be called a hardcore fan of the Aliens and Predator world. I think Paul W.S. Anderson (Director and Writer) had it right when he was quoted as saying:
“If you work with a subject matter beloved by a hardcore fan base, then there's going to be a huge amount of discussion of what you've got wrong or right. In some ways you can never please overly obsessive fans, it's just impossible.”
So I’m willing to cut the movie a break and rather than rip it apart and list the all too numerous and convenient plot holes and devices and events that totally break the whole Aliens or Predator timeline and mythos, I’m going to list the good stuff.
Let’s start by stating the obvious, on its own Alien vs Predator is a pretty decent action sci-fi movie. The effects are top notch and the action is pretty good, nothing puts a smile on my face more than seeing a Predator tear an Alien to pieces with a wrist blade and then watch it skin the Alien and turn its head into a shield, awesome.
The whole premise of the coming of age hunt for predators being set in an old hunting ground with an automated Alien Queen birthing conveyer belt was a pretty decent idea and illustrated the dominance that Predators (usually) have over the Alien species, keeping well within the bounds of the storyline established with previous movies and other media.
Ice to see you.
One of the highlights of the movie is the flashback scene near the end showing three Predators fighting off thousands of Aliens atop a pyramid seconds before letting off one of their self destruct devices to ensure the Aliens don’t win, great effects and a great addition to the franchise storyline.
Finally, kudos to Paul W.S. Anderson for ending Colin Salmon’s character in a fine tribute to the demise of his character in Resident Evil, although it just wasn’t exploited enough in my opinion. There are a number of homeages to various other movies in there too so keep your eyes open.
"They're not hunting us. We're in the middle of a war."
Alien vs Predator is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for widescreen displays.
The menu system on the disc begins with a 3D rendered action sequence similar to the menu systems on the Stargate TV series box sets and curiously the menu system is completely different when loaded via a PC (even though the options are exactly the same), an interesting and unique addition.
As you would expect from a DVD release of a movie like Alien vs Predator the video presentation of on this disc is excellent. The high bitrate through most of the movie means that compression artefacts are almost non existent and only noticeable on one or two places if you watch like a critic.
Oh, that's nice and warm!!!
Given that most of the movie is set in a very dark environment, the black levels are excellent and very dark while the shadows retain their depth and detail quite well. Colour saturation isn’t really an issue since the colour palette used is limited to mostly shades of grey, in fact this movie could have been black and white and it wouldn’t have looked radically different, not a criticism just an observation.
We are given a choice a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS track on this disc and both are excellent examples of what each format is capable of.
As is usually the case the DTS track has a little more clarity in all the channels but not to the point where those with 5.1 only equipment will feel disappointed because the 5.1 track is equally impressive.
All the channels perform admirably and to their best. The centre channel presents the dialogue loud and clear; the subwoofer carries the explosions and of particular note is the big audible boom caused by the footsteps of the Queen Alien. The surround channels are equally used to great effect for the usual suspects including gunshots, environment and directional sounds.
So many predators, so little time.
The only real criticism I can level at the audio component of this disc is the complete absence of subtitles but given that you could probably figure out most of what is going on without the dialogue it may actually be a bonus being able to watch this movie without hearing the spoken parts.
One of the ‘extras’ that come with this movie is the “extended version” which is included on the same disc as the theatrical version. Unfortunately anyone expecting a version of the movie that is less confusing or has more action or better action scenes will be sorely disappointed because the “extended” version is only extended by about 1 minute with a scene at the very beginning of a Norwegian whaler being chased and killed by a Predator in the year 1904.
Despite the disappointment over the not-so-extended edition there are a few extras on this disc that are worth watching.
Commentary with Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henrikson, Sanaa Lathan
This commentary is an informative and interesting insight into some of the more confusing parts of the story. The interaction between the actors and director provides a good platform for discovering some of the behind the plot elements. The usual discussion of plot, locations and actors is included with some more information about the inspirations that Paul W.S. drew from to write the story. Also of great interest is the description of some of the tributes paid to other movies in the series (like the bobbing bird). Well worth a listen.
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
Commentary with Alec Gillis (Alien Effects), Tom Woodruff Jr. (Alien Effects) and John Bruno (Visual Effects Supervisor)
Given that the participants in this commentary are concerned only with special effects used within the movie there are quite a few sections of silence in this commentary, obviously when there were no effects to discuss. When these three do make comments it is mostly about technical aspects of location and effects used in certain scenes, not the most boring commentary I’ve ever heard but it certainly comes close.
Deleted Scenes (1:58)
Surely there are more than 3 scenes totalling less than 2 minutes on the cutting room floor? Even one of the deleted scenes shown here actually appears in the theatrical version.
Alien vs Predator – Making of (23:12)
This is a short documentary with much the same format as all the other “making of” extras from every other DVD on the planet. The most interesting aspect of this feature is the explanation of how the Alien vs Predator story fits in with the story behind the other movies in the series.
Alien v Predator is the sort of movie that if given the chance will grow on you the more you see it. It is obvious that Paul W.S. Anderson is a real fan of the Alien and Predator series and there are many subtle details that are likely missed on the first run through which are worth picking up on. It's usually the case that a DVD release of a said 'crap' movie does better than the box office numbers predict and this will be the case here.
The video and audio presentation of this disc is close to reference quality but it would have been nice to see a few more extras than are presented on here, perhaps when they do a 'real' extended edition?