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ALIEN VS. PREDATOR

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremmer, Tommy Flanagan, Lance Henriksen
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2005

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Film *1/2

Alien vs. Predator represents perhaps the biggest missed opportunity made by any movie in a good long while. Next to Freddy Kruger taking on Jason Voorhees, this was one of the most highly anticipated movie concepts ever to come along. Ever since the AVP comic book was created some years back, fans couldn't wait to see this confrontation reach the big screen.

And the end result is a movie that had the potential to be so much more enthralling, but doesn't even want to try. It takes the formula established by both the Alien and Predator movies. Take a group of characters, place them in dark, claustrophobic setting, and watch them get picked off one by one. But what really sinks this movie is a so-called surprise turn near the end of the movie that is laughable and just about unacceptable.

The movie's plot concerns a group of scientists/archeologists who journey to Antarctica, where a unique form of a pyramid has been detected. The expedition is being led by businessman Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, whose role somehow relates to his robotic character in Aliens and Alien 3). There's a female team leader named Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), language decoder Sebastian (Raoul Bova) and documenter Graeme (Ewen Bremmer).

The catch to finding this special artifact is that they will have to dig thousands of feet beneath the surface to retrieve it. It isn't too long before they find themselves as prey by two species of creatures. As it turns out, the group has stumbled into the middle of a pivotal war between the Predators and the Aliens.

I will give Alien vs. Predator credit for a couple of nicely staged action scenes. When the Predator first spots the human prey, the attack is nicely executed. The same can be said for the Alien face-hugger's first assault. Plus, about midpoint in the movie, there is an awesome physical fight between a Predator and an Alien. There's an exciting slow motion shot of Predator slinging the Alien into the air like a frisbee.

But at the same time, those sequences are too short, and it takes about 30-40 minutes to get to them due to a little too much plot exhibition. Mind you, the plot is one that has been done before in countless other movies, some of which are clones of both the Alien and Predator movies.

There's another crucial problem with this movie, and that is the fact that it's rated PG-13. While the rating limits the level of blood and gore that can be allowed, Alien vs. Predator does happen to contain about as much gore and violence as I've ever seen in a movie with this rating, but I must pose a question. Would it have hurt the movie any worse if it been given an R rating, thus allowing more of what the audience comes to expect in a movie where both Predator and Alien are the big stars? These were two franchises that were popular for the R rated ways in which both characters offed their human victims, so to give it this rating is somewhat absurd.

What saves this from being a much worse movie are the nicely staged attack sequences that I mentioned. At least I can say that Alien vs. Predator isn't as worse as the horrid Alien Resurrection, which I thought buried the franchise back in 1997. Since the last shot of the movie hints at the possibility of a sequel, my only hope is that it will be a much stronger and engaging movie.

Video ****

No complaints in this area. Fox has done a most commanding job with this astounding anamorphic presentation. Picture quality is 100% strong and clear, making the most out of every single shot, which is saying a lot since there very little daytime of light-heavy shots in the entire movie. Darkness is at a high, but the amazing picture quality demonstrates that it's possible to make a grand presentation despite any dark settings. A full screen version is available separately.

Audio ****

Nothing but high comments in this department. The 5.1 mix supplied, if anything, made this presentation better since the movie itself was more than disappointing. Dynamic range is in full effect for the entire movie. Once the characters are placed in beneath the surface, it's a show-stopping array of digital sounding brilliance. The action amongst the channels will rock you senseless! Congrats to Fox for delivering one of the first great sound performances of the year.

Features ***

Two versions of the movie are included on the disc; the theatrical version and an extended edition which includes an alternate opening. Two commentary tracks are featured; one with director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen, and the second with visual effects artists Alec Gills, Tom Woodruff Jr., and John Bruno. Also featured are three deleted scenes, a making of featurette, a comic book cover gallery, an Inside Look at several upcoming Fox releases, and bonus promos.

Summary:

What should've added up to the movie event of the year resulted in something much more lackluster. Even if you're a die hard fan of both the Alien and Predator flicks, its doubtful that Alien vs. Predator will deliver the goods as you expect, other than a most fantastic DVD presentation.

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