Another positive review:
Like most people who grew up in the 80’s I’m a huge fan of both franchises. And like most fans I was not pleased with the first offering of AvP. While there were some things that I liked in the first film, mainly the premise, but I was among those who wanted to walk out when the Predator teamed up with the chick and ran down the hall like Clooney and O’Donnell in nipple suits.
That being said when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to see the film at an advance screening this past Tuesday in the toxicity of Century City, I still was jumped at the chance. I liked the trailers enough, the TV spots playing during South Park were even better, and I thought the new Predator looked pretty bad ass. However, I still entered the theatre with a cautious optimism, the scars from AVP ran deep.
The film opens right where the previous installment left off. The PredAlien bursts from the dead Predator and runs amok causing the ship to crash. A hunter and his son are face hugged. A lone Predator receives a distress call. If you’ve seen the 5 minute clip you know the deal already. While I had already seen the footage I thought the Predator planet looked a lot better on the big screen. It was a nice balance of giving people a taste without demystifying the whole species.
From there we are introduced to the main characters. The ex-con Dallas steps off a bus only to be greeted by the Sheriff, who he apparently used to be buddies with. Dallas’ younger brother is poor white trash working as a pizza boy and getting his ass kicked by the jock douche bag in front of his crush. It’s all pretty standard small town horror set up but it moves with enough pace that it doesn’t linger on the less than stellar character development.
Meanwhile the Aliens begin to burst and along with the PredAlien and facehuggers make their way to the sewers. There’s another face hugger attack which seemed to feature much more practical effects that ends with the PredAlien getting really nasty on a homeless woman. In fact he seems to have a serious fetish for women in general, especially of the pregnant variety, but who doesn’t?
The Predator arrives and begins his investigation while more and more townspeople go missing. After the Predator tracks the Aliens in the sewer, the melee begins. I liked how the Predator wasn’t really into fighting fair or following a code but just trying to get the job done. It was a needed change from the E.T. with mandibles and justified in the context of the story. Unfortunately, he makes the Aliens look pretty bad in comparison as they don’t get the benefit of the usual Predator cockiness. He shoots first, uses laser mines, and a steel reinforced fist. But even that isn’t enough to keep the Aliens down as they quickly escape the sewer and manage to spread across the town.
This was the point where I expected the film to really kick into over drive but it still took it’s time unfolding as Predator tracks the Aliens, the PredAlien tracks victims, and the humans just try to survive. It wasn’t until the new medkit scene where the Predator sutures his wound as lighting flashes and the rain begins to fall that film really started to mean business. It’s amazing it took this long to figure out that Aliens and Predators look cool fighting in the rain. Keeping things wet and dark really helps the look of both creatures and help sell the whole man in suit thing.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Nispel’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, I did like the look of Daniel Pearl’s cinematography, I guess it helps that he shot the original too. However, Pathfinder’s visual style really wore on me and seemed to get more and more muddled as that mess unfolded before my eyes. Here Pearl is back to his horror roots and it shows. The lighting is crisp and the style is classic. Although some of the daytime shots are a tad too contrasty, which is his trademark so I let it slide.
Brian Tyler has been doing consistently good work on a lot of mediocre films but here he really revels in the fact he’s standing on the shoulders of giants. The score combines the driving percussion of the Predator with eerie atmosphere of the Alien quite nicely. While I wish he came up with a more unique theme at least he didn’t go bland and generic and stuck to what worked.
The overall feel of the film is very much grounded in the style of the 80s. The gore is intense and gruesome but it’s also kind of funny in a demented Sam Raimi kind of way. (That is if you find exploding pregnant bellies funny and seriously come on, who doesn’t?) The Brothers Strause definitely wear their love of Aliens and Predator on their sleeve as there are numerous homages throughout the film. But they handle the tone way better than their predecessor knowing when to play it straight and when to not take things too seriously. The film looks twice as expensive as it’s budget with a pretty epic ending and non-stop action in the third act. I’d definitely like to see what they could have pulled off with a bigger budget that was more in line with rest of the series.
In the end its not the epic space opera that many wanted but it is a fun monster romp that exploits the Aliens on Earth storyline and offers the most interesting Predator character since the original.