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Not long after Fox confirming AvP2 a few days ago, AICN have posted a lengthy negative review of an AvP2 script. The script was written by Shane Salerno, who also did some work with Paul Anderson’s AvP script and is dated December 2005.
“Final calculation, taking all the decent work into consideration, it’s catastrophic. It’s really that bad a script. If fans don’t already feel like whipped dogs, they will by the end of this, and the sad thing is, they’ll buy just enough tickets to guarantee Fox makes another one of these, if only for DVD, in the future. Because it’s so cold and crass and calculating, so pointless a retread of the work of the genuine talents involved in the franchises previously, this is the one that feels like the stake in the heart of both properties. This is the announcement that they’re not remotely interested in continuing the films in a way that expands the great work that already exists. It’s creatively bankrupt in a way designed to take the least effort for a return. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, having to kiss off both franchises for the time being, and all I can hope is that there’s a genuine rebirth later. This certainly isn’t it.”
I know AICN have posted a lot of false stuff in the past but I personally believe that this a genuine review of one AvP2 script but perhaps not the the final one. It’s certainly sad to see Alien and Predator thrown into such a cheap, tacky sequel like this clearly is. I mean, sure there was always potential with Paul Anderson’s script but there’s none of that in this one. It also should be noted that AICN reviewed AvP’s script back in October 2003 and that was more or less spot on to what the final film was.
Moriarty Versus ALIEN VS. PREDATOR 2!!
Hi, everyone. “Moriarty” here with some Rumblings From The Lab…
I know I don’t post the way I used to. I know Harry and I don’t write the same exact sort of coverage that we used to. A lot of it is that my time and my interests have changed. But even so, there are things that I know you guys think we don’t do enough of these days, and script reviews in particular generate tons and tons of e-mail. People ask me all the time if I could scoop this film or that film, this franchise or that one. And some of them, I’m not interested in remotely. Like the UNDERWORLD series. I don’t dislike it, but I just don’t have any interest in it. But I know from your mail that these films matter to some of you. You enjoy them, and you want to read the same sort of coverage for those projects that we write about the stuff that excites us.
I have to admit, I gave up on the ALIEN VS PREDATOR franchise about thirty minutes into the first film. I just don’t buy the ways they’ve compressed the two franchises into one. It doesn’t pay off in the ways you think it might when you hear the idea for the first time. Aliens. Versus Predators. That sounds impossibly awesome if done right. Admittedly, I’m not sure what specifically you’d do… I just know I didn’t dig the end result of what Paul W.S. Anderson did with it.
So why read the sequel? Because there are still many, many fans who want to know what’s going to happen next to these icons… these amazing monsters that seem to be so much better than the films they’re in. You’re curious, and you want to hope that maybe this one will be better. Maybe they will have learned from the experience of making and releasing the first film.
Or maybe not.
Shane Salerno, who wrote the first drafts of the first film, is back to take pole position on this film as well, and his draft sets some pretty big things in place that I have to assume aren’t going to be changing by the time it makes it to film. This is the draft dated 12.15.05 that I’ve got here on my desk.
The script starts exactly where the last film left off. The body of SCAR, the slain predator from AVP, lies in a place of honor onboard the Predator Starship. The body convulses. Alien chestburster pops out. And then in a matter of seconds, it grows to nine feet tall, and we see the Predalien. “Shiny, elongated alien head. A Predator fang-rimmed mouth. Alien jaws. Predator body. Alien tail.”
Okay. The Predalien goes on a rampage, kills a bunch of Predators in their cryostasis tubes, then faces down three Predators in a fight. During the fight, a hole is blown in the side of the ship, and the Predator Starship falls back into Earth’s atmosphere. The fight continues onboard the ship as it crashes. It hits the Earth deep in the woods in cloak mode, and everything onboard is killed.
Well… sort of. One Predator lives just long enough to send a distress signal, and we see that two face-huggers are missing. As the last living Predator sends his signal successfully, one last Alien appears from somewhere, and it kills the Predator, then steps outside, so that page two ends with the line:
”For the first time ever, an ALIEN FOOTPRINT forms on American soil.” And just like that, continuity dies forever.
Seems that those woods are located outside a small Texas town. And that small Texas town is populated by an incredibly pat cast of characters including Dallas Howard, a tough-guy ex-con who’s just been released from prison. Yes… that’s right… the tough guy has the same name as Ron Howard’s daughter. Ouch. There’s also Ricky Howard, his little brother who is a pizza delivery guy and the type of high school nerd that Fox is hoping will go see this film on opening night. Sheriff Morales used to be buddies with Dallas, but now he’s trying to be effective as a 33-year-old sheriff with a bunch of deputies who are too scared to go roust homeless people if they’re not in a group. You’ve also got Tim O’Brien, his seven-year-old daughter Molly, and his estranged wife Kelly, who is just returning home from a tour in Iraq. Lots of people just returning home in this one day considering how small the town is.
A father and son who are out hunting together stumble across the still-invisible Predator ship, and as they’re investigating it, they get attacked by the face-huggers. Their disappearance starts the plot in motion, but not until somewhere around page 26 or so, which means we’re treated to a lot of blather about these genuinely unengaging characters. Honestly… who cares? Do you think anyone who is buying a ticket for a film called ALIEN VS. PREDATOR 2 gives a flying **** about the problems of a high school kid delivering pizza? Do we really need the ten-zillionth variation on a scene in which a bully picks on a kid because he has less money than the popular kids? Do you think this audience is looking for a tender family drama about a woman who went to war while her husband stayed behind with their daughter? I know you want to find a compelling human story to tell that then gives you a great springboard into the Aliens and the Predators and, you know, the versus, but trust me… this is not that compelling human story. Instead, it’s a chore, a cliché, and setting it in present-day Texas seems like a completely insane choice from the very start. Is it just that you figure it’s cheaper to do a ****** slasher-movie formula with monsters plugged in? Because at that point, you’re spitting in the faces of everyone who has ever loved either ALIEN or PREDATOR in any of their forms. The Alien films were never Earthbound, and that’s part of the appeal. Yes, PREDATOR was set on Earth, but it was set in a remote location, which makes sense. Dropping two monsters as destructive as this into the middle of a familiar modern setting robs them of a lot of their exotic nature.
And what passes as innovation here is just sad. As the father and son struggle in their cocoons, knowing full well they have face-huggers growing inside them…
”WE CREEP toward Buddy’s stomach. Until we are…
INSIDE STOMACH: (EXTREME CLOSE UP)
Like watching fuel go through an engine, the Alien moves through the six feet of Buddy’s large intestine. For the first time we see what an Alien does inside a human being.”
Because I’d like to see the Alien home planet. Or, for that matter, the Predator home planet. I’d like to see if the Aliens have any civilization of their own. I’d like to see what sort of social structure the Predators have. There are a million things about these two franchises that I’d like to see, and I can honestly say that “what an Alien does inside a human being” is not on that list.
And forgive me… I’ve really tried in the last few years not to go after a writer, because I respect how hard it is to turn out anything in the studio system, and I know how often you can have your hands tied by notes that make no sense, and I know that all the pressures of creating a piece of work are ten times worse when you’re dealing with something that is based on an existing property that has devoted fans. But Shane Salerno… please… you’ve got to try harder than this. Kelly (the Iraq mom) gives her daughter Molly a pair of night-vision goggles as a present when she gets home, leading to this exchange:
MOLLY: If any monsters try to get us tonight, I’ll be able to see them before they’re even on our street.
KELLY: There are no monsters, angel.
Oooooh, boy. Dude. Why don’t you just show the little girl watching ALIENS with her goggles? It’s no less subtle as a bit of foreshadowing. And naming a character “John McTiernan”? Don’t, man. Do me a favor and pretend it’s all real, and don’t make reality-breaking jokes like that.
The distress signal summons a single Predator to the Texas woods, and as the Sheriff organizes a search party for the missing father and son, they are stalked by the Predator, who sees the guns on their belts and marks them as fair game.
It’s not until around page 40 that the film officially becomes Alien versus Predator. Or more like Predator Hunting Alien. The Predator visits the crashed invisible ship. He sees the black box holograms, sees what happened onboard. Sees the heat signature of the Alien’s footprints leading out into the Texas woods. Realizes he’s got to go after it.
And to make the point, MR THOMAS (yes, like John and James, creators of Predator) writes “SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” on the chalkboard. Seriously. The hard cut is to a classroom, and that’s what is written on the chalkboard. And just so we don’t miss it, MR THOMAS then delivers a monologue about survival of the fittest. And Darwin. And natural selection. And he goes on for a full page about what it means. And then when the Predator finds the Alien cocoons, where both the hunter and the son are dead, chests exploded, we actually still hear MR THOMAS (yes, like John and James, creators of Predator) in voice-over, still explaining the central simplistic theme of the film, some insane studio note gone horribly out of control:(
MR. THOMAS (V.O.): What cannot adapt, becomes extinct.
YEAH! GAME ON, ************!
Or, at least, I presume that’s what they want us to stand up and yell at this point, as the Predator knows that there are three Aliens loose at this point. Three he has to find and kill.
As of page 40, that’s the basic premise. Let’s ignore all the lousy human soap opera stuff that’s padded out those first 40 pages. We’re looking at a present-day rumble between a predator and three aliens. Is that what you want from the sequel? Are we really content with an excuse for a movie instead of something that actually advances what is a pretty rich cinematic mythology? Even though I have issues with ALIEN 3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION, I think they all have interesting implications for the franchise, and I think they all ultimately respect the basic concepts of what an ALIEN movie is. The promise of that franchise was always, in part, “What happens if they reach Earth?” Because it was clearly established in the films that these things had never been seen on Earth. That’s why they are so valuable. They’re brand-new and worth looking at. That’s what made that teaser trailer for ALIEN 3 so enticing. “On Earth… everyone will hear you scream.” We were finally going to see the impact of the introduction of this creature into our own ecosystem. It was going to be chaos… a nightmare… and that was a film I always hoped we’d see. Maybe even from someone like Scott or Cameron.
But this? A modern-day introduction of the Aliens into small town Texas? A four-way monster rumble that’s given a back seat to some fairly uninteresting human padding is hardly the film I think I want as a fan, and I’m willing to bet other fans feel the same way.
This film doesn’t seem to be connected to the first ALIEN VS PREDATOR except for the shot of the Predalien being born onboard the ship. Keep it. Just figure out a different place to crash the ship. Make it something where the introduction of these creatures genuinely threatens a way of life. THE THING always struck me as great because the stakes were so high. You needed your fellow men to survive, but suddenly, you couldn’t trust any of them. That sets some pretty serious stakes. Here, it’s sort of like a ”˜50s monster movie in terms of how much time is devoted to rote character stuff. When Molly and Kelly turn back up, it’s for another earnest tearful conversation about monsters. *sigh* When Ricky faces down his bully and runs around with his girlfriend Jesse, it’s stuff you’ve seen in a thousand high school TV dramas and movies. And there’s a lot of it, with Aliens and the Predator all creeping around in the background. The Aliens keep reproducing, more face-huggers grabbing people, and by page 60, the first head-to-head has happened. Salerno even puts in the score so it’s easy to track. “Predator 1, Alien 0.”
Someone actually says the line, “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” which isn’t nearly as bad-assed as it was the first time we heard it in the original PREDATOR, but that might also be because this time it’s followed by, “We’ve got to get to a phone!”
Look, if this was just an original monster movie by Salerno, with monsters he created, given a compelling reason to go head to head in the midst of this human town… that would be better. Because Salerno writes some decent action scenes. If this was like a really rough-and-tumble TREMORS, which is sort of what it seems to be aiming at, that might be fun. But as an AVP film…
It takes until page 60, well over halfway into the film, before people even realize there’s something going on that’s out of the ordinary. Once they see the Alien and the Predator, they finally react to the situation, calling in the authorities. The National Guard.
That’s a good choice.
Everyone decides they need to go get supplies they can use to fight the Aliens and Predators, and they start to head towards the location of the next big set piece to end all set pieces. Yes. That’s right. It’s true. They all head over… to Super K-Mart.
And that’s a bad choice.
Again… of all the things I’d want from a film with this title, an extended battle sequence inside a product placement wet dream is not my idea of spectacular. That might just be me.
And maybe it’s the crass, heartless nature of the script that bugs me. It’s all so mechanical. There’s a walk through the sewers, actually one of the better pieces of pure action writing in the entire script, and then they emerge onto a street in the middle of town. “At least on this one city block, it is eerily similar to the ruins of New Orleans after the flood.” Yikes. I don’t know if I’d evoke the name of a genuine tragedy in the middle of your crummy monster movie.
The action sequence that closes the film, where it finally gets back to the Predator vs Alien stuff, is written well enough. It’s an exciting fight sequence, better imagined than any of the action in the first film:
”THE REMAINING TWO ALIENS attack and ruthlessly devour the Predator, as revenge for Antarctica, as revenge for a hundred hunts over a thousand years.”
The human stuff is ridiculous, and by this point, people are doing such absurd superheroic stuff that it’s hard to relate to anything we’re watching. When Dallas Howard (the tough guy, not the pretty girl) gets hold of the Predator gun and starts killing Aliens, the script finally kicks into a sort of horse**** overdrive that it never shakes.
And the ending…
Well, I guess I should say, “What ending?” At 104 pages, the script ends abruptly with a shot that raises more questions than anything, and not in a “Cool, I need to see a sequel tomorrow!” sort of way, either. More in a “Are you kidding? I sat through 100 minutes for that?” sort of way.
Final calculation, taking all the decent work into consideration, it’s catastrophic. It’s really that bad a script. If fans don’t already feel like whipped dogs, they will by the end of this, and the sad thing is, they’ll buy just enough tickets to guarantee Fox makes another one of these, if only for DVD, in the future. Because it’s so cold and crass and calculating, so pointless a retread of the work of the genuine talents involved in the franchises previously, this is the one that feels like the stake in the heart of both properties. This is the announcement that they’re not remotely interested in continuing the films in a way that expands the great work that already exists. It’s creatively bankrupt in a way designed to take the least effort for a return. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, having to kiss off both franchises for the time being, and all I can hope is that there’s a genuine rebirth later. This certainly isn’t it.