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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 NR

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: 108 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 11/22/2005

Bonus:
Disc One
• 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.
Disc Two
AvP: The Beginning with Branching Video
• ADI Workshop
• Storyboard Gallery
• Concept Art
AvP: Production With Branching Video
• Miniature Whaling Station
• Facehuggers and Eggs
• Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel
• Visual Effects Breakdown
• Deleted Scenes
Aliens Vs. Predator The Comic Book
• “Monsters In Miniature” by Todd McFarlane
• HBO Special
• Trailers


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: Unrated Director's Cut (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 18, 2005)

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 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. That meant 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 not so much 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.

Note that this DVD includes both the original theatrical cut along with a longer unrated version of the film. Does the longer one improve on its predecessor? Not really. It adds 12 segments of varying lengths, none of which do much to create a more exciting or involving movie. Actually, the prologue in 1904 – which also appeared on the prior DVD release – is pretty good, but nothing else stands out as particularly memorable. In either iteration, AvP remains a lackluster film.


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

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.

Should you expect the picture and audio of this AvP DVD to differ from the prior release? Nope. I detected no differences in visual or sound quality, as both discs seemed identical to me.

This new 2-disc release of Alien Vs. Predator comes with a mix of supplements. I already mentioned one in the body of my review: the unrated edition of the film. This lasts an additional eight minutes and includes 12 snippets not found in the theatrical edition:

0:24-1:48: 1904 prologue;

3:14-3:48: More of the discovery of the Antarctic find;

8:50-10:04: Interactions between the scientists before Weyland first speaks;

34:13-34:16: More graphic killing;

34:24-34:35: More graphic killing;

37:12-38:56: More in the tomb, including the discovery of a dead facehugger;

53:52-54:44: Weyland’s legacy;

58:55-59:08: More gore;

1:00:07-1:00:08: Insanely quick shot of Sebastian;

1:04:39-1:05:21: Weyland’s death;

1:07:57-1:08:41: Theorizing about predators;

1:19:53-1:20:17: Predator cuts up an alien.

For my qualitative remarks about the added footage, refer back to the body of my review. I added this listing to give the extra material a quantitative summary.

Note that if you select the theatrical cut of the film, you can find much of this material on its own in a section called “Added Unrated Footage”. Taken together, these clips run a total of 10 minutes and 53 seconds. Since the unrated cut lasts only about an extra eight minutes, this makes little sense on the surface. I gather that the individual segments also include some bits found in the theatrical version, so not all of that 10:53 is new.

On DVD One, we get two audio commentaries. Both also appear on the prior release, and they only accompany the theatrical cut of the film. 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 occur. In general, though, the guys keep the tone light and jocular, and they help make this a reasonably informative and likable piece.

That ends the material on the first platter. Over on DVD Two, we start in the Pre-Production domain with a program called AvP: The Beginning. This 25-minute and 52-second piece can be viewed with or without “branching video” components. I’ll discuss it on its own before I get into the “branching” segments.

“The Beginning” includes a mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Anderson, Woodruff, producer John Davis, and production designer Richard Bridgland. “The Beginning” covers problems bringing an Alien and Predator film to the screen as well as Anderson’s interest in the project and his story pitch. Anderson then goes into issues connected to his plot and we get a glimpse of the movie’s set, costume and prop design. From there we look at creature creations

Though not a promotional piece, “Beginning” sometimes feels that way. We get a lot of information about how amazing the project is, and that tone gets old. I suppose this results from the fact that the participants were shot prior to and during production, so there’s no sense of retrospection.

Nonetheless, we do get some nice basics about the pre-production topics here. Inevitably, some of these repeat from the commentaries, but “Beginning” sums them up well. I just wish it came without all the hype.

Only one “branching” segment pops up here: the six-minute and 59-second ADI Workshop. This offers a more in-depth look at how they brought the predators and aliens to life. We get raw video footage from the tests at Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. in this fun behind-the-scenes clip.

Two stillframe collections finish off “Pre-Production”. Storyboard Gallery splits into three areas, each of which spotlights the work of a different artist. We find drawings by Brent Boates (217 frames), Phill Norwood (105) and Richard Bennett (140). These range from crude sketches to detailed art. The format can be awkward, as some screens feature so many drawings that they’re hard to discern, but I like the content.

Lastly, Concept Art gives us more work from Richard Bennett. This area encompasses 29 screens. Bennett’s storyboards are the best of that bunch, so it’s good to see additional art from him.

As we head into Production, we get another documentary with “branching video” elements. AvP: Production goes for 59 minutes and eight seconds and works the same as its predecessor. It includes remarks from Anderson, Bridgland, Bruno, Henriksen, Lathan, Davis, Gillis, Woodruff, miniatures supervisor Richard van den Bergh, co-producer Chris Symes, Snow Business’ Lucien Stephenson, cinematographer David Johnson, and actors Colin Salmon, Raoul Bova, Carsten Norgaard, and Agathe de la Boulaye.

This program picks up with the Antarctic setting and building it on set. It deals with visual effects used to recreate that atmosphere as well; these include miniatures, CG, and fake snow. From there we hear about casting, characters, and story, shooting various sequences, lighting and photography, working with actors in creature suits, specifics of the costumes, and related challenges, and other methods to bring the creatures to life.

All my complaints about “The Beginning” also par “Production”. It lacks perspective and includes an awful lot of praise about various elements. The notes about the actors and characters are awfully dull due to that factor. “Production” picks up when we look at the alien and predator elements, though, and we find some nice footage from the set. Because of those segments, “Production” ends up as erratic but ultimately worthwhile.

Three “branching video” segments accompany this program. The six-minute and 52-second Miniature Whaling Station includes comments from Bruno, Anderson, and van den Bergh. They discuss the set element and we see many aspects of it in this interesting little piece. In particular, van den Bergh gives us a good glimpse of specific techniques.

Next comes the 14-minute and 51-second Facehuggers and Eggs. Like “ADI Workshop”, this one includes no interviews. Instead we go to the set to watch them film the scenes with facehuggers and eggs. I like this kind of “fly on the wall” piece and find this one to be enjoyable.

The branching videos conclude with Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel. It goes for three minutes and 45 seconds and presents notes from Johnson. The program shows the methods used to film the “flying sled” shot and offers a decent amount of insight in problems that resulted from that scene, especially when we see the effects of a fire.

Two components appear in the Post-Production section. Visual Effects Breakdown runs 30 minute and 10 seconds. We find remarks from Anderson, Bruno, The Motion Picture Company visual effects supervisors Ben Shepherd and Adam Valdez, Cinesite CG supervisor Ivor Middleton, Cinesite facehugger lighting lead Michael Grobe,

“Breakdown” discusses Bruno’s philosophy about effects and then looks at the various techniques with a strong emphasis on CG. We see how they executed facehuggers, shooting on the set for visual effects, filming the alien and predator fight, the Piper Maru, predator technology, the “flashback” to ancient times, the alien queen, and the film’s climax.

I like this program’s combination of demonstration material and narration. Sometime “effects breakdowns” simply show us various stages of the work. That happens here but we also get to hear about the work put into those elements. These mean that we learn quite a lot in this informative and interesting show.

We also find three short Deleted Scenes. Taken together, these last a mere one minute and 55 seconds. These include “The Sister”, “Miller Gets Caught” and “Love Scene”. Only “Sister” acts as exposition; the other two provide some action. We can watch these with or without commentary from Anderson and Henriksen. Anderson offers the information as he tells us why the clips got the boot.

Licensing the Franchise includes two more pieces. Aliens Vs. Predator The Comic Book runs 11 minutes and 54 seconds. This looks at the graphic novel series with notes from Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson, and Dark Horse editors/writers Randy Stradley and Chris Warner. The show gets into the origins of the comics, initial stories, characters, and later developments. Short and sweet, “Book” offers a tight view of the issues related to the comics. We can see how they influenced the movie and learn how they moved along in this solid featurette.

”Monsters In Miniature” by Todd McFarlane goes for 14 minutes and six seconds. Comics/toy mogul McFarlane discusses his toys as he tells us why you can’t play with them, the ways the figures get designed, his involvement and philosophies, and marketing the items. “Monsters” offers some decent information, but it feels a little like an ad for McFarlane Toys. I like learning about McFarlane’s work but would like more about the specific toys; we barely get a look at them.

Under Marketing, we get a few more bits. A 13-minute HBO Special features comments from Anderson, Henriksen, Lathan, Bova, Davis, Woodruff, Bridgland, Bruno, van den Bergh, Middleton and Symes. The show rips through story, characters, the creatures, production design, casting and visual effects. It offers a teaser for these subjects but not much substance. To be sure, we learn a lot more about them elsewhere on this disc, which makes this program superfluous.

Lastly, we find three Trailers along with promos for the Alien Quadrilogy and the 35th Anniversary DVD for Planet of the Apes.

What does this set lose that appeared on the original DVD? It axes a 23-minute “Making Of” featurette that was actually pretty useful, though I expect virtually all of its information pops up in this disc’s components. We also lose some ads for unrelated properties as well as a stillframe collection of Dark Horse comic covers. Finally, some DVD-ROM components such as the complete first Aliens Vs. Predator comic get the boot.

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 strong set of extras.

I didn’t recommend the prior DVD, so it should come as little surprise that I don’t change my tune for the new one. Which one should fans get? If you don’t own the original disc, I’d definitely advise that you buy this one. Both present similar picture and audio, but the new DVD includes superior extras. However, those elements aren’t so terrific that I would push owners of the old disc to “upgrade” to this one. The new supplements are nice but unless you really love this flick, they’re not enough to warrant a second purchase.

To rate this film visit the original review of ALIEN VS PREDATOR