Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Alien vs. Predator

Michael Osadciw

Screenwriter
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Jun 24, 2003
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Michael Osadciw
Blu-ray Disc REVIEW





ALIEN
vs.
PREDATOR


Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 2004
Film Length: 109 minutes (unrated)
Film Length: 101 minutes (rated)
Genre: Science fiction

Aspect Ratio:
2.35:1 Theatrical Ratio

Resolution: 1080p
Video Codec: MPEG 2 @ 18MBPS
Disc Size: 50GB
Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio:
English DTS-HD MASTER LOSSLESS AUDIO 5.1 Surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Subtitles: English, Spanish
Film Rating: PG-13






Release Date: January 23, 2007


Film Rating:
/


Starring: Sanaa Lathan (Alexa Woods), Raoul Bova (Sebastian de Rosa), Lance Henriksen (Charles Bishop Weyland), Ewen Bremner (Graeme Miller), Colin Salmon (Maxwell Stafford)

Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson



Whoever wins... We loose.


I don’t mind revisiting titles previously released on DVD on Blu-ray. Having reviewed many discs on Home Theater Forum, it’s interesting to see what the studio does with the same title on Blu-ray. Alien vs. Predator is one of those HD releases that raises an eyebrow. Fox delivers this film on their second BD-50 dual layer Blu-ray disc. At first glance I’d think it would be crammed with features, but upon closer look it isn’t. While some people may raise their arms in disappointment, I’m not.

I’ve never been a fan of sifting through hours of special features, especially if it’s at the expense picture and sound quality – something we’ve seen much too often on DVD. It appears Fox has utilized the BD-50 disc space for picture quality. Despite being advertised on the package of having an average bitrate of 18Mbps, the reality is this MPEG-2 video encode averages at 25Mbps and peaks many times well above 30Mbps. Add the DTS-HDMA soundtrack, seamless branching between two cuts of the film (a first for the HD format), then the possibility of needing the extra space is probably necessary. I’m not a math wiz so I’m not going to calculate this out; I have faith Fox knows what they are doing. So do I care that this disc isn’t jammed packed with features? Absolutely not! There are features on this disc and you can read about them in the special features portion of this review. Now on to the film…

After more than 10 years of discussing the idea of an AvP film to the point of giving it a green light, 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-issue comic, in my mind, was modeled like a Hollywood film and was a hit among fans. I’d sit and read them and wonder 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 spinning with the idea 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 directorial 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 if those scriptwriters were even fans of these films?

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 Weyland Corporation, who rushes a present-day investigation of heat on one of the little islands off of Antarctica. Fans will notice that Weyland Corporation is the same company that played a huge role in the Aliens films. Speaking of Weyland, not only has their logo not changed in the 200 years this series encompasses, but it seems they can’t get enough of being around these damn 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.

As it turns out, 2000 feet under an 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 them too. As the story claims, 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 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 and be found elsewhere), but this story that takes place in 2004. In theory, it disrupts the whole Alien series because now present day Earth would know about the aliens whereas they didn’t seem to know much about it in Ridley Scott’s 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 than Predators. 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. As this film strongly points out, our technology is always inferior and exposes us as the perfect prey for anything stronger than us.

I’ll also lament again about the rating of this film. Even though this Blu-ray disc does have the unrated cut, it’s not an unrated cut we’d wish for (more violence?)…but even with more violence, it wouldn’t save this movie from its unoriginal script, empty characters, and its basic cinematography and obvious set designs. Sorry Fox, but this film looks staged and cheap. Nothing looks real and believable. 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 4/5


I gave the DVD four out of five stars and I must award the Blu-ray disc with the same. I’m sure the source for both discs are the same since there doesn’t seem to be a change in the video. That’s a shame because I was sort of hoping an improvement could have been made with the problematic black levels. This is a dark movie; in fact you can tell it was shot in very low light and after filming, when the film was ready for the final edit (or the film-to-tape transfer), some people must have been very unsatisfied with the results. You can tell…

Major tinkering with the black levels has been done in order to “see into” the dark parts of the picture. This seems to be in almost every scene in the film and changes on a shot by shot basis so few scenes seem to look consistent in black level stability. For those who are a bit foggy on what I’m talking about, the effect is like turning the brightness control up on your television. It can be applied to the whole part of the picture or just parts of the picture by those working in the telecine. It’s not a clean job either; 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 and is applied to the full frame or smaller ovals. Sorry Fox, I noticed this on the DVD and it’s even more apparent on this Blu-ray disc. A nasty side effect of this tinkering is the grain that is amplified and how colours appear washed out (since there is little colour in dim lighting). It’s much more noticeable in HD.

On the positive, everything SD-DVD can’t do Blu-ray can! All traces of compression artefacts around edges, letters, etc. on the DVD are absent here. There is no edge enhancement and depth perception is excellent in a scene with the appropriate amount of image contrast. Fox has been generous to give this dark film with highly contrasted images a high video bitrate so that helps out a lot in the end. Skin tones are nice and appear a bit cool because of the Antarctic landscape, and the only vibrant colours seem to be the florescent green of Predator blood and the not-too-often site of human blood. The aspect ratio is 2.35:1.

AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5


The 1.5Mbps core of the DTS-HDMA soundtrack sounds better than both English options on the DVD. The sound design hasn’t changed so the effect of the soundtrack is relatively similar. The big advantage with this disc is that we’ll be able to listen to it in lossless audio very soon as the audio equipment manufactures begin announcing new products and upgrades for 2007.

This 5.1 soundtrack has an aggressive front soundstage with a surround channels used sparingly. I didn’t find the movie too exciting so it doesn’t surprise me that the soundtrack is the equal. It’s during the film’s climax when they make themselves noticed - that computer-animated alien queen sprints around knocking over anything in site can make a lot of noise. The LFE channel isn’t used as much as you’d think. Most of the bass is up in the front channels so if you use a tactile transducer you might be a bit disappointed. I didn’t find it added much fun. What this film does have is D-BOX motion control and it advertises it. I’ve experienced it a few years back in Widescreen Review’s reference theatre and I must admit it was sort of fun. I’d have to try it more often to see how much it could really add to the movie experience so its addition to these Blu-ray discs could be beneficial in the end.

TACTILE FUN!!
/

TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON


SPECIAL FEATURES
/


As I mentioned earlier in the review, this Blu-ray disc doesn’t have all of the features of the DVD. What's included are the two versions via seamless branching, with a difference of about 7 minutes in runtime (but you already know that). Two audio commentaries are playable on the theatrical release only. The fun one is from director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Lance Henrikson and Sanaa Lathan. The second commentary is more technical and features Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr. and John Bruno.

This release also lets you view deleted unrated scenes separately from the theatrical and unrated editions of the film. There is also a feature that notifies you when a deleted scene is taking place since the branching is seamless. Also included is some fictional pop-up trivia of the Alien and Predator worlds. This is for the fans who want to know more of the story of the alien worlds so casual viewers may want to pass on it. I’m a fan so I’ll admit I liked this feature.

Lost are all of those featurettes found on disc 2 of the recent DVD; from preproduction to marketing. The disc does include an HD theatrical trailer for the film as well as other past and upcoming releases from Fox.


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 if you keep your brain out of coming to logical conclusions. Hopefully the sequel to this film is much better (different director & writers too). The Blu-ray disc looks excellent and it proves that all is revealed in HD so studios must make sure any sloppy jobs on the image are cleaned up. They are under a microscope now!

Michael Osadciw
January 04, 2007.
 

Dave_P.

Supporting Actor
Joined
May 20, 1999
Messages
983
Thanks for the great review. I may have to give this a shot just to get a preview of what the real Predator and Alien movies will look like! One tech note: Kingdom Of Heaven was Fox's first BD50.
 

Grant H

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Grant H
You do know the writers of the original Alien helped write this film, right?
 

Michael Osadciw

Screenwriter
Joined
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Messages
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Michael Osadciw
Grant

From what I gather, it seems these original writers had very little to do with the overall story. Anderson seems to have written the bulk of it while the other two probably played a minor role in fine-tuning it, and is why they are credited. I think it would have been very different if Anderson had not written any of it.
 

Vincent_P

Senior HTF Member
Joined
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Messages
2,062

Actually as I understand it, they were given credit due to the threat of legal action, because the Alien temple/pyramid stuff was taken from their original ideas for ALIEN.

Vincent
 

Michael Osadciw

Screenwriter
Joined
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Messages
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Michael Osadciw

...cool.
Mine was a guess...just going off what I remembered from viewing the supplements a year ago and in other readings...but yeah, if they had no involvement and were threatening to sue...that's hilarious...
 

Neil Joseph

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Jan 16, 1998
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Neil Joseph
Thanks for the review Michael. Yes, I will be adding this to my collection soon.
 

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