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Welcome ladies and gentlemen to what should be the fight of the decade. In the red corner, we have an acid-blooded E.T with more teeth than the Jackson Five who first burst onto the scene in 1979. And in the blue corner, we have a humourless bounty hunter with more gadgets than James Bond and a severe disliking of the Governor of California. This is the big one; the one the fanboys have been waiting for. This is Alien vs. Predator. Place your bets, people...

Alien vs. Predator: Extreme Edition
Film
Occasionally a high-concept movie appears that you wish had stayed trapped on paper. Alien vs. Predatoris such a movie; a fanboy dream for many years that has already spawned a Videogame and comic book. In theory, the film should be the ultimatemonster movie. In practice, it's an instantly forgettable exercise.

The title pretty much sums up the basis of the plot but the detail is that millionaire Charles Weyland (Lance Henriksen) has recruited a group of experts to join him on an expedition to the Antarctic. Satellite pictures have unearthed a bizarre pyramid and Weyland is desperate to claim its discovery. These early stages of the film are reminiscent of the opening of Jurassic Park rather than anything in the Alien or Predator back-catalogue, and show good promise. They introduce our cast of characters, including Sanaa Lathan's Alexa and Raoul Bova's Sebastian, by showing them in their usual habitats. Extra-terrestrial beings are kept firmly out of sight as the film seems intent on developing an amount of suspense—so far, so good.  

Unfortunately, things take a downward spiral when the explorers arrive at the pyramid and a sudden change of pace threatens to derail the motion picture. Seemingly convinced that that the audience will become impatient, characterisation is quickly abandoned and thin back-stories are instead deployed to encourage us to empathise with the protagonists. Not that these characters are with us for very long; within minutes the cast has been cut in half (sometimes literally) by the ‘serpent creatures’ that inhabit the pyramid. These nasty blighters are, of course, Aliens; now blessed with a vastly accelerated life-cycle for reasons not disclosed. They have been imprisoned within the pyramid to create a worthy adversary to young Predators in training. When the Predators arrive for 'Alien Hunting 101', the remaining humans find themselves caught in the crossfire of a rather nasty battle.

With paper-thin characters despatched in throwaway fashion, any sense of suspense built by the, formerly slow-moving narrative, is lost. The remainder of the movie is a jumble of fracases and death scenes, the likes of which we've seen in one or more of six prior movies. By around the hour-mark, AVP has run out of steam and a half-baked finale comes into play. It's perhaps faintly ironic that a film that has been years in the planning, is all over so quickly.

Alien vs. Predator: Extreme Edition
While never dull or boring, AVP seems inconsequential when compared to the earlier offerings of either franchise. Barely scraping the ninety minute mark would not be a problem if the events prior to the end-credits held any weight. Alas Paul W.S. Anderson directs in a breezy tone; failing to make the proceedings the nightmare they should be. Even the much-maligned Alien 3 managed to present us with something hard-hitting and memorable.

Perhaps the central problem of this movie is that both the Aliens and Predators gave their most significant performances in films in which they barely appeared. Subtle glimpses are all we get in Scott’s Alien and Arnie fights a mainly invisible enemy in McTiernan’s Predator. By neglecting a human cast and pitting the two monsters against each other, the supposed spectacle of that high-concept title is, in reality, a guy in a rubber suit flailing about in front of a green-screen. For all its pretensions and hype, the main attraction can only ever be a big-budget restaging of the countless Gojira movies.

Anderson pulls out the occasional flourish but the officious PG13 rating (15 certificate for UK) restricts the horror by holding out on the gore. Ultimately, Alien vs. Predator fails as both a horror flick and an action movie. You get the feeling that Anderson would like to have remade Aliens but ultimately produces something that is only slightly better than Alien Resurrection.

Video
Considering that Alien vs. Predator was filmed in a range of darkened corridors and dimly-lit spaces, the video is exceptionally good. As opposed to the 'hollow' blacks that find their way onto picture transfers, the different shades are handled with a great deal of sharpness and genuine clarity. There's no pixilation and, unsurprisingly for a film so recent, there's not a bit of grain. AVP is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer.

Alien vs. Predator: Extreme Edition
Audio
Despite the faults of the main feature, Fox have obviously designated this movie as a high-profile release. In addition to extremely solid visuals, we have an almost flawless audio mix. It's presented in either Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1, although those with the right set-up should take advantage of the latter as it has a slight edge here when it comes to presenting sound effects and action. Either way, this is fantastic stuff with clear dialogue and nice surround effects.  

Extras
The first of the two commentaries is a genuinely entertaining affair featuring Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan. Anderson proves himself to be quite the fanboy, pointing out the numerous nods to the earlier movies. At one rather bizarre tangent, he and Henriksen spend around five minutes discussing the merits of James Cameron's Aliens, before Lathan reminds them that this is a commentary for an entirely different film. Further interruption comes from Henrikson's mobile-phone, which is eventually answered during a pivotal moment of the movie. The second audio commentary is not nearly as entertaining. A chat-track featuring the SFX guys, it holds limited appeal. The most interesting nuggets of information have already been handled in the previous commentary by Anderson.

The ‘Insider Look’ presents a (very) short peek at three Fox movies, namely Hide and Seek, Electra and Robots. This rather lazy marketing exercise is best avoided.

Moving on to disc two, and there's a great deal of good material present. The disc is split into five different elements—‘Pre-Production’, ‘Production’, ‘Post-Production’, ‘Licensing the Franchise’ and ’Marketing’—with featurettes and interviews supporting each one. Best of the bunch is arguably the ‘Pre-Production’ strand, which includes a twenty-five minute featurette on the conception of the film. This was shot before production began and includes clips from the earlier movies, interspersed with sound-bytes from Paul W.S. Anderson and members of the crew. Storyboard galleries are also on hand to illustrate the early ideas for the staging of the movie.

Alien vs. Predator: Extreme Edition

The ‘Production’ part of the disc is concerned mainly with the design of miniatures and costume and the featurettes therein should be worth a look to anyone interested in these aspects.

Special effects, meanwhile, are covered in ‘Post-Production’ in the 'Visual Effects Breakdown' featurette. Extras like this are an acquired taste, so approach with trepidation. Also covered in this area is a fairly long list of deleted scenes. At first, this seems to explain the slender running time but closer inspection reveals that each sequence lasts around thirty seconds. There are no hidden-gems to be found but there are moments of characterisation that many directors may have elected to keep. These moments can be cut back into the film by means of a branching option on disc one. Paul W.S. Anderson is on hand with his comments for the reel and offers a little insight into the editing of the film. He's joined by Lance Henrikson who must have simply been hanging around the studio after the commentary. His presence is welcome, if unnecessary.

‘Licensing the Franchise’ offers two featurettes—one on the comic book and another on the toys. The former will not offer much new information to long-time fans of the franchise but it should be of genuine interest to newcomers. In a similar vein, the latter featurette is surely the geekiest item on the extras list. In ‘Monsters in Miniature’, Todd McFarlane discusses the models and toys inspired by the franchise. The creator of Spawn is an eccentric kinda guy, but he talks with obvious enthusiasm.

Last, and definitely least, is the ‘Marketing’ strand which incorporates a bland HBO special as well as the teaser and trailer for the movie.

Alien vs. Predator: Extreme Edition
Overall
Fans of the franchises involved would do wise to hold back on an instant purchase and wait for the price to drop. While this is an excellent DVD package, incorporating good presentation and interesting features, the weak link is surely the movie itself. While not quite the catastrophe many naysayers would have you believe, Alien vs. Predator is ultimately forgettable stuff.


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