AVPR: Aliens vs Predator –Requiem (The Brothers Strausse, 2007)
Following directly from the events of the first Aliens vs Predator film, the alien bursting out of the dead predator in the closing image of that film quickly grows full form to reveal itself as an alien-predator hybrid (well, more accurately, mostly alien, with a tad of predator in the wicked mandibles-in-the-face department) and kills the entire predator crew, leading to the space ship falling back to Earth and the escape of lots of little captive Alien hand creatures to follow their natural imperative – namely, finding human hosts to incubate with new chest-bursters. A sort of fixer-style predator takes off from Planet Predator (or whatever it’s called) with the goal of coming to clean up the mess on Earth by destroying the quickly multiplying aliens and the King Alien Hybrid.
Having been disheartened and annoyed by the soul-sucking, slick and vapid consumer mediocrity that was the previous entry, I was decidedly hesitant about engaging with this one. However, my OCD completest nature could envision no way of getting around it in my goal of seeing all things Alien before getting to the latest entry (the somewhat pretentiously titled Covenant) and… what do you know, it’s not a half bad effort.
The very fact that it went with the more intense R rating rather than a PG-13 (the bogus moral rating that pretends at family-friendly, when it’s real goal is nothing more than to allow a larger model of consumption) should have been my first clue that this second go-around would be better (and have decidedly nastier thoughts on its mind, which it does –lots of satisfying gore and gut busting abound– with a good amount thankfully done practically, rather than with lazy CGI), with the second being that the anti-human corporatist disguised as a filmmaker, Paul WS Anderson wasn’t involved this time. I have no idea who these Brothers Strausse are (and why they insist on presenting their sibling status first, rather than just ‘The Strausse Brothers’ like most of us would), but they certainly proved far more adept at creating exciting alien/predator skirmish set-pieces than Anderson was capable of.
That the monster battles are genuinely engaging this time out (if still cut way too fast, continuing that Michael Bay style started in the 90’s of enabling an ADD audience — and society – with an inundation of mindless stimulation in place of even a second of – God forbid! – thought or contemplation) likely has a lot to do with the fact that this film (unlike Anderson’s effort and the equally as weak Predators) finally understands that the audience is familiar with these creatures and doesn’t need a long lead-up before bringing them in. Requiem brings us our favorite monsters right away in the narrative, which allows for a building of interest in the creatures. The idea of a ‘cleaner’ Predator is even kind of a fun idea (if nonsensical – I mean, why would these Predators give a shit if people know of them? Are they afraid the cops will come knocking on their doors looking for information? Sounds like something they’d love to have happen anyway). And the predator/alien hybrid creature, while perhaps not really being necessary narratively (at least that I could figure), is a cool looking evolution. Allowing us to follow the creatures first also helps obfuscate – partially anyway — the shallowness and lack of anything interesting in the human characters (unlike the original “AVP” in which we had to spend what felt like an interminable endurance test of 45 minutes before a monster even peaks around the corner).
Similar to X-Files creator Chris Carter with that show, the Brothers Strausse (do I really have to call them that?) occasionally bring an admirably destructive attitude towards the nuclear family (everyone from a happy-go-luck suburban kid out on a hunting trip with dad to a fully pregnant mother get the incubation-chest bursting treatment). However, as with “AVP” (and so much of cinema today, especially the weapons fetishizing Marvel superhero shite), it entirely moves away from the darker, more mature sensibility of the original “Alien” films (and the 70’s in general) and instead reveals an underlying beholden worship of all things corporate, military and status quo. Not only do all of the main characters look like they were picked out of a casting call lineup for Beverly Hills, 902010 (even more absurd in that they’re supposed to be small town mid-Westerners) but we get to see our main young heroine arriving home from war duty into the grateful arms of her husband and young daughter, a scene that plays out like one of those military “weepy eyed, hero’s return” promotional ads found all over youtube (speaking of which… as an aside, I wonder… do National Football League fans who claim they don’t want politics in sports understand that the military dumps massive amounts of money into the pigskin sport in exchange for the promotion of war agendas and hero worship, such as pre-game fighter jets flying overhead and even television announcers using phrases designed to merge the image of the game and its players with that of war and military heroes? No politics, my ass. The military has been pushing politics through the NFL for years.) and our young male protagonist suffers the embarrassment of being caught — by the hot chick who likes him and her dickhead jock friends — delivering pizza (nothing more shameful then being a part of the service industry, apparently). While the shadowy puppet master figure of Ms. Yutani of the nefarious Weyland-Yutani Corporation, so central to the Alien mythos (pre-“AVP” films anyway) does make an appearance at the end, in which she acquires a Predator weapon for possible corporate military development, it doesn’t really make any sense with what we know followed in the mythos; with this film taking place in the ‘present’, from what we know of the ‘future’ set films, there wasn’t any kind of Predator weapon(s) developed, so her sudden presence ends up being just a failed attempt at a tie-in with the combined series’ mythos.
As with “AVP”, amongst all the action scenes and space ship imagery, there is a lack of understanding or regard for creating any genuine sense of ‘awe’ with any of it. For example, instead of perhaps showing the Alien swimming underwater in the pool with impressive silence, they add a completely illogical monster shriek, which itself is practically drowned out by the generically bombastic action movie music blaring on the soundtrack. And the attempted virtuosity of sequences such as the camera being placed POV style onto a rapidly moving gurney of an arriving alien casualty, presented with no real character perspective (or reason for us narratively for us to be experiencing it this way), reveals filmmakers merely working to replicate video games thrills, with little understanding of context or personal perspective.
In the spirit of continuing to pit aliens versus predators, I’d say that while Requiem fares pretty poorly against the much more complex and worthwhile ambitions of the “Alien” film franchise, when looking at it as part of the “Predator” output, I’d put it just behind the colorfully uber-violent and satisfyingly gritty urban ne-noir mashup of Predator 2 as my second favorite of the lobster-faced bunch.