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Back in January of this year, I had the opportunity to review the first region one release of Fox Home Video’s Alien vs. Predator and while I found that the disc was very well produced, I also found that the film was nothing more than a big letdown in comparison to what years of speculating on the possibilities had brought me. New to DVD, Fox has taken a second stab at the film in the form of a two-disc set featuring more extras and an unrated cut of the film that contains an additional eight minutes not shown in the theatrically released PG-13 version. Sometimes a few minutes of added footage can make a world of difference for a picture and give it a new life well after the theatrical release has come and gone, so does the same hold true for this latest incarnation of last year’s biggest intergalactic grudge match?

Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition
For those just tuning in and have yet to see the film, Alien vs. Predator is set in the present day as a sequel to the Predator films and a prequel to the Alien films. A team of archaeologists and other scientists financed by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) and led by Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) venture to a remote area of Antarctica in search of an ancient pyramid recently discovered by thermal imaging satellites to be buried deep beneath the snowy surface. Once there, they soon find that their arrival was made possible by no mere accident or chance occurrence—they have been lured to this desolate place by the Predators to act as hosts for breeding the most dangerous of prey, the acid blooded Alien species. But when things start to go very wrong with the hunt, the last remaining humans must quickly choose a side in the conflict that could decide mankind’s fate.

My main opinion of the film when I sat down to watch it earlier this year was that I felt more disappointed than anything in regards to it, as if a great opportunity to create something scary, epic, and memorable had given way to a mediocre, small scale, and instantly forgettable action flick. This is the first time that I have viewed the film since then, and my opinion of Paul W.S. Anderson’s movie really hasn’t changed much, but I did find myself enjoying it more so this time out than last. Maybe the fact that more time has passed since first seeing the film and that initial sense of disappointment that I felt for the finished movie as I walked out of the theatre has dissipated to a certain extent has a lot to do with it, but my feelings toward the movie have also softened a bit due to this new cut of the film.

One of the main problems I had with the theatrical cut was that there were too many times in the film, especially early on, that you could just tell some scenes were getting short shrift and edited in such a way as to allow the film a more teen friendly PG-13 rating, which disrupted the natural flow of the movie in each occurrence. With this new, unrated cut, most of these problems have been corrected by allowing scenes to finish as they were initially filmed, and of course this also allows the movie to show a little bit more of the red stuff in the process, which is what most fans wanted to see in the first place.

Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition
This new edition of the film also includes a couple of additional scenes that attempt to add some more development to a few of the main characters and explain the goings on a bit more, and while I welcome anything added to this or any film in an attempt to make the characters richer and fill in any gaps left in the theatrical cut, the elements new to this version still aren’t enough to turn lead into gold. In one of the new scenes, we finally get a fuller explanation as to what exactly the Predators are up to with the ancient temple found under Antarctica, which was something only alluded to previously, but there are still too many questions and contradictions to the earlier films which aren’t answered for or explained—such as why it only takes the Alien creatures minutes to gestate in this movie versus the days that it took in the previous instalments for starters.

So in the end, does this new version of the film make Alien vs. Predator significantly better than before? Not really, or at least not enough to warrant a purchase if you’ve already picked up the first, single disc edition released near the beginning of the year and have no interest in special features. This new cut of the film is slightly better than what came before, but it also doesn’t transform the movie into something that might positively change one’s opinion of it, as in the case of what Fox’s release of the Daredevil director’s cut to DVD around this time last year did for me. Being a huge fan of both the Alien and Predator films, I’m still disappointed with this film as a part of those franchises, but taken as a big, noisy action picture I’m resigned to the fact that even though it isn’t the film I had hoped it would be, I’m okay with it for being exactly that and nothing more.

Video
Fox Home Video presents Alien vs. Predator on DVD for the second time with an anamorphically enhanced transfer in the picture’s theatrically exhibited aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The resulting video is very similar to the first release of the film to DVD, and although it has a slightly lower bit rate associated with it the differences are nominal. Black levels are consistent throughout the movie and the picture is as sharp and detailed as any other DVD currently on the market. The only downside to the transfer is some grain that appears in the very darkest areas of the film, which is a carryover from the first release and the one thing that I had hoped would be improved upon with this second go around. Overall, however, Alien vs. Predator once again gets a near reference quality video transfer with this special edition and continues Fox Home Video’s reputation as being one of the industry leaders when it comes to a quality presentation.

Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition
Audio
Alien vs. Predator comes equipped with both English Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio tracks along with French and Spanish Dolby Surround and optional English and Spanish subtitles. As with the video transfer, there is little difference between this set and the former with the film receiving two excellent tracks to choose from. Viewers will not be disappointed with either the Dolby Digital or DTS selections as both tracks are a couple of the best examples of how each sound format should sound on a decent home theatre system, but the DTS track’s deeper bass and wider range win out as being the track of choice on the disc. The sound is crisp and clear coming from every channel and the surround channels get a good workout, which is always a plus for a big, noisy, action movie such as this. Overall, the audio tracks presented on this DVD are certainly of reference quality and should allow you to show off that nice, expensive system to all of your friends and most certainly all of your neighbours if you crank the volume up to eleven.

Extras
With this being the film's second release this year to DVD and a two-disc set, you should expect a fair amount of extras spread across its two shiny platters. Never one to disappoint when it comes to putting together a special edition, Fox Home Video has done just that and has compiled an assortment of great extras that really dig deep into the making the movie that should be of interest to any fan of the film.

On disc one you are offered the choice of either the theatrical cut of the film or the unrated cut through a seamless branching option with an optional marker on the unrated version to let you know when new material has been added to the film. Coming in the shape of a coiled Alien creature, the marker was most helpful to me in trying to spot out some of the new material as some of it comes and goes so quickly that if I had blinked I would have missed it.

The only other extras included on the first disc of the set are the audio commentaries for the film, which are unfortunately only available while viewing the theatrical cut of the movie. These are the exact same audio commentaries featured on the initial release of the film, and while a new track with director Paul W.S. Anderson focusing on the unrated cut of the picture would have been a great addition to this set, the two tracks that have been carried over are quite good. The first commentary track features writer and director Paul W. S. Anderson and stars Sanna Lathan and Lance Henriksen. The stars and their director seem to have a good rapport and the commentary is light, entertaining and informative. The second commentary track includes a more technical commentary from the creature designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. from Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. and visual effects supervisor John Bruno. This second track is where the real meat and potatoes of the information behind the film are found with every special effect dissected and revealed while making for an interesting listen.

Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition
Moving on to disc two, you will find a number of anamorphically enhanced featurettes and documentaries, all of varying running times and focus and split into five categories—pre-production, production, post-production, licensing, and marketing.

Under the pre-production menu is a thirty minute featurette, entitled ‘AVP: The Beginning’, which features writer and director Paul W.S. Anderson, in an interview done before principal photography of the film, going over the conceptual work for the film, producer John Davis, who describes the process in getting the film to come together, and Tom Woodruff, Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. going over some of the work that went into creating the Alien and Predator creatures for the film. The featurette also has available the option of watching a branching version of the feature, which includes a more involved look into the effects behind one of the Predator costumes used in the movie. This extended bit, and all of the other such pieces found within the discs’ other featurettes, are also available for viewing separately from each section’s main featurette and may be accessed from the appropriate menu. There is also a series of storyboards and conceptual art galleries included within the pre-production menu which, along with the featurette, give a good overall picture of what went on before the cameras took their first shot.

Under the production menu is a sixty minute making-of featurette, which again features the option of viewing a branching and extended version of the piece. The production featurette goes into detail mainly on the practical and on set effects work that went into the film including details on the whaling station, Alien and Predator effects, the Alien Queen, and the pyramid set from the film. Several of the technicians and actors are interviewed throughout the piece, including Lance Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, and visual effects supervisor John Bruno as well as Anderson. This featurette is the most extensive and informative of the three major featurettes found on the disc, and with its extended pieces included actually carries a running time of close to ninety minutes.

Next is the post-production menu which features a thirty minute featurette that primarily focuses on the digital effects work seen in the film, which includes the alien face huggers, some of the Alien and Predator elements, and the flashback to the ancient civilizations who worshipped the intergalactic hunters. Also found under the post-production menu are three deleted scenes which, to be perfectly honest, are of little consequence or interest, but do include optional commentary from director Anderson and Lance Henriksen.

There are two, fifteen minute featurettes found under the licensing menu; the first concerning the genesis of the Dark Horse Comics Alien vs. Predator series of books and a second which is an interview with comic artist and toy maker Todd McFarlane in which he discusses his process and marketing of toys for an adult oriented market, which of course includes the Alien vs. Predator line of action figures and play-sets. While the McFarlane interview feels almost like a promotional tool to sell a few more toys, the Dark Horse Comics featurette, which features interviews with the men responsible for the franchise, is a pretty good and informative piece.

The final menu found on the disc is the marketing menu, which is home to a fifteen minute, HBO produced promotional piece about the film, the movie’s theatrical teaser and trailers, and trailers for the Alien Quadrilogy set on DVD and the 35th Anniversary Edition of Planet of the Apes, which are both available from Fox Home Video.

Overall, I’m not quite sure as to what else could have been added to the list of extras that would have enhanced the behind-the-scenes look into the making of Alien vs. Predator any further. The set contains both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film, two decent commentary tracks for the theatrical version, and a number of informative featurettes that all combine to make a pretty good array of supplemental features for the movie.

Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition
Overall
The unrated cut of Alien vs. Predator makes up for one of the shortcomings of the theatrical cut in that the movie’s editing seems more natural with the extension  of several scenes and a couple of newly added ones, but doesn’t change the fact that I still think it’s a mediocre film that had the right ingredients and pedigree to be a first rate action-horror piece. Fox Home Video’s treatment of film is great though and falls right in line with the other two-disc treatments given the six films in the Alien and Predator franchises collectively. Just as I expected from a Fox major release, the video and sound are outstanding and the set comes included with a good amount of quality extras to boot, making this one of the better DVD treatments of the year from a technical perspective. While I suspect that many will be perfectly happy with the first DVD release from earlier this year, fans of the movie, and those who just have to own the very best editions of these films on DVD, should definitely pick up this title.


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