Shiny Shelf

AVP: Requiem

By Stephen Lavington on 30 January 2008

So let’s just say there’s this friend of mine yeah? Say he’s a bit – how to put this – ‘culturally retarded’. Let’s say he abhors the theatre, is currently on his second read-through of ‘Stalingrad’ and thinks that the new series of ‘Primeval’ is ‘quite fun’. Now, imagine that this friend’s last visit to the cinema was for ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’. Would you still take seriously his assessment that ‘Alien Versus Predator: Requiem’ is a halfway-enjoyable bit of shlocky fun which hugely benefits from its relative detachment from the pompous musings of its predecessor in favour of a more honest attempt to meld the basic concepts of the two parent franchises? Well tough, because that’s what I… sorry, HE thinks.

Paul Anderson’s initial take on something widely anticipated since the Alien skull first cropped up in ‘Predator 2′ was a massively underwhelming experience. The emphasis is on some sort of superfluous, exposition-tastic backstory to human civilization, in the process reducing the two main characters (A and P respectively) to background forces, one black-hat bad the other white-hat good, while a bunch of quasi-famous B-list actors run around a set ripped off of ‘Cube’.

The sequel succeeds by inverting all of this. Instead of isolated Antarctica we get small-town Colorado. Instead of mystical pyramids we get woodland, main street and a hospital. Instead of ‘Chariots of the Gods’ we get carnage and mayhem. And instead of Ewan Bremner, Lance Henriksen and Colin Salmon we get Billy No-Career and his kind. The true stars here, the only recognisable stars here, are the Aliens and the Predator – which is how it should be.

What’s more, this isn’t the milquetoast human-loving hippy predator from the last film, but a full-on extraterrestrial bastard. That’s the underlying high-concept of the franchise: that humanity is, basically, buggered whenever these two meet up. Yes, the audience identifies with the Predator, but that doesn’t mean they want to see him team up with the humans. What is more satisfying is to see the Predator’s storyline woven in with but separate from, that of the human protagonists whom the film still requires as monster-bait. This is also a tricky balance (as ‘AVP’ demonstrated) and ‘AVP:R’ is, surprisingly, a pretty well-balanced narrative which avoids the irrelevance that a Predator-only storyline would have had while keeping the human concerns to a minimum.

However, the plotting is rather let down by scripting which is, at its best, abysmal. ‘People are dying… we need guns’ is perhaps the pinnacle of the writing on display here. Also sub-par is the special effects budget, which makes up for its shortfall by poor editing and pitch-black lighting. This does create some problems, though a few of the scenes are brilliantly handled. This film has a sense of utter ruthlessness that is rare in cinema today, a bleak transcendence of story convention that – on one and possibly two occasions – is genuinely shocking. I’ll just say the words ‘aliens’ and ‘maternity ward’. This gives this sequel an edge which its predecessor lacked.

Overall ‘Requiem’ works, though this is largely because of the expectations lowered by ‘AVP’. However, it comes close to making a case for consideration alongside the lesser of its progenitors – choosing the best between this movie, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ and ‘Predator 2′ would be a tough job, and not just if you’re a cultural moron – like my friend.

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By Stephen Lavington

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