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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast:
Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe De La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard, Sam Troughton
Writing Credits:
Dan O'Bannon ("Alien" characters), Ronald Shusett ("Alien" characters), Jim Thomas ("Predator" characters), John Thomas ("Predator" characters), Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett

Tagline:
Whoever wins ... We lose.

Synopsis:
"It may be our planet, but it’s their war!" The deadliest creatures from the scariest sci-fi movies ever made face off for the first time on film. The incredible adventure begins when the discovery of an ancient pyramid buried in Antarctica sends a team of scientists and adventurers to the frozen continent. There, they make an even more terrifying discovery: two alien races engaged in the ultimate battle. Whoever wins ... we lose.

Box Office:
Budget
$65 million.
Opening Weekend
$38.291 million on 3395 screens.
Domestic Gross
$80.281 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 1/25/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Paul WS Anderson and Actors Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen
• Audio Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno and Creature Effects Designers/Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.
• Deleted Scenes
• “Making-Of” Featurette
• Dark Horse AvP Comic Covers
• Promos
• Inside Look
• DVD-ROM Materials


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Alien Vs Predator (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2004)

Ever since Predator became a hit in 1987, it seemed logical that Fox’s two big science-fiction monster franchises would combine. By that point, the Alien series was established as a success, and the two characters felt like a pretty natural match.

The concept first came to life on the comic book pages when Dark Horse started their Aliens Vs. Predator series. That proved quite successful and launched thoughts that we’d eventually get a big screen battle between the aliens and the predators.

It took 15 years for this to happen. The comics started in 1989 but we didn’t get a film of Alien Vs. Predator until the summer of 2004. Was it worth the wait? No, as AvP only fitfully lives up to its potential.

As the film opens, robotic pioneer and corporate honcho Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) rounds up chemical engineer Graeme Miller (Ewen Bremner), environmental technician and guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), archaeologist Sebastian De Rosa (Raoul Bova) and others. We learn that Weyland’s satellite located a mysterious underground pyramid in Antarctica. Weyland takes the group on a dangerous expedition to find the pyramid, and they race the clock since others will also seek it.

In the meantime, a predator ship comes to life and sends some of its inhabitants to Earth. The explorers find a mysterious tunnel already dug there so they follow it. They explore the pyramid while the predators monitor them. Eventually this leads to the defrosting of a frozen alien queen and the creation of her eggs. We then see them do their thing along with a hunt by the predators. All three sides - alien, predator and human - get involved in a major conflagration that fills much of the movie as our protagonists try to figure out how to survive. We also discover the secrets of the pyramid and that backstory.

I truly loved the Alien series and also enjoyed the two Predator flicks. As such, I really wanted to get something special from AvP and hoped that director Paul WS Anderson would capitalize on the subjects’ potential. A lot of fans frowned on his hiring, as his prior efforts didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. I can’t say I disagreed, but I thought Resident Evil was a decent action flick and crossed my fingers Anderson might be able to work wonders with this franchise.

I hoped in vain. Yeah, the movie does come to life fitfully when it actually lives up to its title. Some of the battle sequences provide moderate thrills and excitement; they don’t compare with the best parts of the prior Alien movies, but they give us some fun.

Unfortunately, Anderson spends way too much time with the humans. He clearly takes Alien and Aliens as his models. Both of those movies use extended introductions to the human characters before we see much action. While Anderson doesn’t get quite as much time with which to work, he does set things up in a fairly slow manner.

That worked for Ridley Scott and James Cameron but flops badly here. The problem largely stems from the boring characters and dull cast. Both of the first two Alien flicks enjoyed strong actors and lively roles, but neither of those circumstances converges here. I almost feel bad for Lathan, as Sigourney Weaver leaves big shoes to fill. She does nothing to create a vivid personality, and Alexa comes across like little more than a generic budding heroine.

None of the other participants does any better. Even familiar face Henriksen can’t bring out any life in Weyland, and it feels like Anderson brings him into the story as a gimmick more than anything else. Other Alien flicks featured thin characters, but at least they were interesting. These are one-dimensional and boring.

By the way, it’s not a mistake that I’ve referred almost exclusively to the Alien flicks as inspiration for AvP. The film feels much more like a part of that series and the predators almost come across as incidental. If you check out the DVD’s extras, we hear much of Anderson’s affection for the Alien movies and very little about Predator, so this slant toward the former should come as no surprise.

Oddly, AvP appears to use another series as a bigger influence than the Predator movies. In many ways, AvP reflects the tone of Jurassic Park. The introduction in which Weyland’s lackey rounds up the various experts and they head to Antarctica strongly resembles the opening of Park, and other sequences reflect the Spielberg offering as well. Heck, Anderson makes the queen alien act like a T-rex at times!

The biggest problem with Alien Vs. Predator isn’t that it steals from other movies. My main issue stems from the film’s general dullness. AvP simply lacks much personality. It fails to capitalize on the potential inherent in its subject matter and comes across like little more than just another action flick.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Alien Vs. Predator appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The visuals usually seemed fine, but a few concerns knocked my grade down to “B”-territory.

Sharpness didn’t present any significant issues. Most of the movie came across as nicely detailed and distinctive. However, some shots looked just a little soft, largely due to a bit of light edge enhancement. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and the movie lacked any form of source defects.

With its preponderance of snow and ice, AvP didn’t offer a very broad color scheme. Nonetheless, its hues came across smoothly. The film displayed its chilly bluish tint well, and the occasional brighter tones looked concise and vivid. The most challenging elements stemmed from some colored lighting, and those shots seemed clearly rendered. Blacks were adequate but unexceptional. They didn’t seem muddy, but they also failed to demonstrate expected depth. In addition, low-light shots tended to appear slightly thick and foggy. Some of that came from the photographic elements, but I still thought shadows looked a bit too murky. Ultimately, AvP managed a good but unexceptional transfer.

Greater pleasures came from the audio of Alien Vs. Predator. The DVD featured Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. To these ears, the pair sounded identical, as I detected no substantial differences between the mixes.

The soundfields appeared very broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us. Segments like the chases and fights stood out as particularly dynamic, but a mix of action sequences kicked things into high gear. All these elements created excellent feelings of place and brought the material to life well.

Sound quality also appeared very good. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility. Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, blast, and various elements, the track stayed clean. Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mixes featured some pretty solid bass at times, and the entire affair seemed nicely deep. Overall, the audio provided the expected levels of involvement and activity.

Though only a single-disc release, this DVD of Alien Vs. Predator comes with a mix of supplements. Of most significance are the two audio commentaries. The first one presents director Paul WS Anderson and actors Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. As one might expect, they cover a pretty wide variety of subjects. We learn a little about the cast and how they got the roles, and we also get notes connected to the story and influences from the prior flicks. The discussion includes information about locations and sets as well as the film’s visual design, character development, and general shooting anecdotes.

This is the very definition of a listenable but unexceptional commentary. On one hand, it maintains a decent energy and offers a fair number of nice details. In the other hand, it suffers from too much happy talk and general praise. It’s one of the many tracks that’s good enough to screen but not terribly memorable.

For the second commentary, we hear from visual effects supervisor John Bruno and creature effects designers/Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.. All three chat together in this running, screen-specific track. As one might expect, effects elements dominate this discussion. We learn about the practical and computer elements as well as the flick’s overall look. At times, the commentary gets a little dry, and a few dead spots occasionally occur. In general, though, the guys keep the tone nicely light and jocular, and they help make this a reasonably informative and likable piece.

We can watch either the theatrical rendition of AvP or an extended version. Don’t expect much material, as the longer cut only runs an additional 89 seconds. The added material comes from a prologue set in 1904. It’s not a great scene, but it allows some parts of the movie to make more sense.

Next we get a collection of three Deleted Scenes. Taken together, they run two minutes, 17 seconds. The sequences include “The Other Mexico”, “Connors’ Death”, and “Predator Humor”. The last one’s mildly interesting, but otherwise there’s not much worth watching here.

In addition, we find a Making-Of featurette. It runs 23 minutes and 13 seconds as it presents the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from Anderson, Woodruff, Henriksen, Lathan, Bruno, Dark Horse Comics’ Mike Richardson, producer John Davis, production designer Richard Bridgland, snow effects Lucien Stephenson, and actor Raoul Bova. They go over the origins of the comics and their path to the screen, various story concepts, sets and the film’s visual look, creature design, casting, and visual effects.

Since this program comes with the title “AvP Promo”, I worried it’d offer nothing more than advertising and fluff. I was wrong, as it actually gets into quite a lot of meaty subjects. Very little promotion occurs, and it keeps movie clips to a minimum as well. Instead, it focuses on the relevant elements connected to the film’s creation. It moves briskly and covers the subjects in a tight and informative manner. The parts about the cast slightly degenerate into basic story reiteration, but otherwise we get a lot of good detail here.

A stillframe collection of Dark Horse Comic Covers pops up next. It includes shots of 34 covers along with some information about the various issues. It’s a nice little compilation.

An unrelated ad appears via a Superbowl XXXIX Spot. There’s also a promo for the TV series American Dad. Inside Look offers a trailer for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Also, we get a look at Elektra with remarks from actor Jennifer Garner.

Folks with DVD-ROM drives will get a few additional components. That department presents a complete version of the first Aliens Vs. Predator comic. It’s definitely a fun read, and we also learn a little about the creation of the comics. We also get a “sneak peek” at the next AvP graphic novel and links to the Dark Horse and AvP websites.

Fans waited many years for Alien Vs. Predator. Fans got a major disappointment from this unfocused and bland flick. It occasionally mustered some good action but usually kept things dull and without much excitement. The DVD presents fairly good picture with excellent audio and a reasonably interesting set of extras. Fans of either the Alien or Predator franchises probably will want to give this movie a look, but don’t expect it to live up to any of its predecessors.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5652 Stars Number of Votes: 46
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