ALIEN vs PREDATOR UNRATED Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2004 Film Length: 109 minutes (Unrated) Film Length: 101 minutes (Theatrical) Genre: Science Fiction Aspect Ratio:[*] 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround [*] English 5.1 Surround [*]Spanish & French 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: PG-13 & Unrated Release Date: November 22, 2005. Film Rating: / Entertainment Rating: / Starring: Sanaa Lathan (Alexa Woods), Raoul Bova (Sebastian de Rosa), Lance Henriksen (Charles Bishop Weyland), Ewen Bremner (Graeme Miller), Colin Salmon (Maxwell Stafford) Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson Whoever wins... We lose.[/i] After over 10 years of discussing the idea of this film and trying to get it cleared for reasons of so many levels, Fox delivered Alien vs. Predator to thirsty fans with an alien appetite. Unfortunately, the response for this film wasn’t good at all. Compared to the first two films in the Alien series as well as the first Predator film, Aliens vs. Predator falls well behind in terms of story and character development. …and what a disappointment the movie is. When I was just a young kid in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s I was scooping up the Dark Horse Comics of both Aliens and Predator. I never knew how popular these actually were because as an 11-year old I was just enjoying them for what they were. Then Dark Horse came up with the terrific idea of merging both of the franchises into Aliens vs. Predator. The four issues modeled like a Hollywood film was a hit among fans as well as for me. I’d sit and read them and my mind would be wondering what it would be like to have this as an awesome kick alien-ass Hollywood film. It was a great idea. Then I waited. …and waited. …and waited. There were a few rumours kicking around in the early ‘90s that we could expect it as a film, as read in some cinema magazines like Fangoria. But dammit, the movie never came. Well it appears the director Paul W.S. Anderson was also kicking the idea around in his head and writing a script for it. He believes he’s the biggest fan of both series but I really don’t know that…if that was the case I think he could have crafted a better film. Heck, I could have done better – but then, his record is full of mediocre films regardless of his passion for them. Apparently Anderson’s script was the best even after teams of professional scriptwriters were hired. I wonder where those scriptwriters graduated from or were they even fans of either film? Anderson’s script contains story elements of the original comic series as well as new material, so this isn’t a movie about the first series of AvP comics. The movie centers around a rushed present-day investigation of heat on one of the little islands off of Antarctica by Weyland Corporation, the same company that played a huge role into wanting to bring Aliens to Earth in the Aliens films. Speaking of Weyland, not only has their logo not changed over 200 years, but it seems they can’t get enough of being around these Aliens. Even the top man at the company hasn’t changed much – Charles Bishop Weyland, played by an aged Lance Henriksen and long before androids were being made, still looks the same. As it turns out, 2000 feet under this abandoned whaling post the Aliens are awakened. The teenage Predators from space have “turned on” their pyramid to come to hunt these creatures as their right of passage and the people of Weyland and their team of drillers, scientists, and archaeologists are caught in a maze in the middle of the battle. As it turns out, what these people thought was the first civilization on Earth was actually built by Predators. They also discover that all of man’s ancient civilizations’ architecture was influenced by these Predators. Long ago, Predators brought Aliens to Earth to destroy. When things didn’t go quite right they were destroyed. That is this film’s explanation to why ancient civilizations disappeared overnight. I know that this is somewhat the story of the comic, but really much of this idea doesn’t translate very well to film. Not only are there logistical errors (like why some Aliens long ago didn’t wander off from the pyramids on earth), but this story that takes place in 2004, in theory, disrupts the whole Alien series because now present day Earth knows about the aliens whereas they didn’t seem to know much about it in Alien. But I couldn’t help to think about how the Predator is more like man, but just far more stronger and advanced. Predators survive because of cultural adaptations; they use technology to fight and to survive in foreign environments against their enemies. The Aliens are a lot like carnivorous animals on Earth. Their structural adaptations such as brute strength, a second set of extendable teeth, and acid for blood make them fierce predators as well. Their naked bodies are armoured and agile. In this film we see both species battle, but not on a large scale as one would think it would be. There are far more aliens in Aliens. Contrast these two creatures with the lowly human being whose body is frail, weak, and defenceless in a world of man against nature. Our bodies cannot take the same beating as the Predator’s, but like him we need technology to survive. In this case, our technology is always inferior and exposes us as the perfect prey for anything stronger than us. So what is the purpose of this new DVD anyway? This is the first time the unrated version is seen on this side of the world. The unrated version is not an R-rated equivalent nor does it have much extra violence, action, or gore. Most of these scenes are discussions between people and only one of them is a death scene. It also results in having the same camera pan (of the skulls in the chamber) appear twice. Disappointed? I can’t say that these scenes make the film better. I’ve never seen the theatrical cut so I walked right into this film hoping for a cool unrated flick as I’m led to believe. We are able to view these scenes separately but I’ll talk about that later. I don’t understand it anyways; why was a PG-13 rating given to this film to begin with? Why would anyone follow up 6 R-rated films with PG-13? I’m not saying an R rating would make this film better, but maybe as ideas flew around in pre-production they were limited to what can be done within PG-13 guidelines. VIDEO QUALITY / The video quality is generally well defined but the biggest problem is black level detail. This movie was shot in dark environments and it seems that those in charge behind the camera weren’t satisfied with the resulting darkness of the movie. Tinkering with the black levels is obvious because it has higher black levels in almost every scene in the attempt to “see into” the dark parts of the picture. Just imagine turning the brightness control up on your television – it’s the same effect and it’s on both the theatrical and unrated cut of the film. Check out the sloppy tinkering that is obvious at 20.33-20.36 in the film. See the green spot over the person’s face in order to show his face a little more? Bad…bad…bad. There are many instances of this such as in hallway shots, etc. Colour looks good throughout and grain is kept low but is not absent. A slight amount of compression artefacts can be seen around letters and some edges. The aspect ratio is 2.35:1. AUDIO QUALITY / This is a very good 5.1 soundtrack that has an aggressive front soundstage. Surrounds channels, surprisingly, are used sparingly. But when they are engaged they really rumble. The LFE channel has some great kick and there is some bass up in the front soundstage too. The music and sound effects all come across as neutral sounding. The Dolby Digital encoding seems to emphasise the “core” sounds a little more than the DTS option – which seems to deliver these sounds more recessed into the mix. Both soundtrack options are available on both cuts of the film. SPECIAL FEATURES / First of all, the ability to select both the unrated and the theatrical version of this film is great just in case you hate the added scenes. These scenes are also available to be viewed on their own. Depending on which version of the film you choose you’ll be taken to a different animated menu. The theatrical cut’s special features have the same two audio commentaries that were on the previous release. One is from director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Lance Henrikson and Sanaa Lathan. Theirs is more “fun” compared to the second commentary; it’s more technical and features Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and John Bruno. Disc 2 is where all of the new features are loaded onto: [*] Pre-production: - AVP the Beginning - this 26-minute feature has branching video to the ADI Workshop (7m) and four storyboard galleries from Brent Boates, Phil Norwood, and Richard Bennett. The main feature is with Anderson and Producer John Davis. They discuss how this film came to be… [*] Production – AVP Production also includes branching video on this 59-minute feature. You can dig in deeper to see how the miniature whaling station (7m), facehugger and eggs (14.51) and another scene was done (3.45). It’s fairly extensive and you won’t want to miss it. Compression artefacts are quite apparent on this feature. [*] Post Production – Visual Effects Breakdown (33.10) discusses about the use of CG vs. real physical objects of any form. You’d be surprised about how much was NOT CG in this movie. That’s a good thing. Deleted Scenes are also in this section. They are enhanced for widescreen sets and are also in 5.1. They include The Sister, Miller gets Caught (alternate death scene), and Love Scene. It seems that the deleted scenes that were included on the previous release aren’t anywhere on this disc nor do they seem like they are in the film (based on their titles and running length). All of these scenes together only equal another 2 minutes to the cut. Optional commentary is also available here. [*] Licensing the Franchise features two selections; Aliens vs. Predator the Comic Book (12m) has the guys from Dark Horse Comics discuss the film and Monsters of Miniature by Todd McFarlane (14m) has Todd himself talking about his company and the details going into each toy. He seems like a different fellow…and certainly likes his work. [*] Marketing is the last submenu that takes you to an HBO Special (13m), a theatrical teaser and two theatrical trailers (all widescreen but not enhanced for widescreen displays). The ad for the Alien Quadrilogy set as well as Planet of the Apes 35th Anniversary is also here. IN THE END… While this didn’t become the smash hit I wished it was, Alien vs. Predator can still be an exciting film to watch – logistics aside. I’m happy that the creatures of the two films finally have some screen time together even though Sigourney Weaver thought it was a stupid idea. She obviously isn’t a Predator fan. Despite your take on this film, this is a feature-packed release that is worthy of a first purchase. Michael Osadciw November 16, 2005.