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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

I love science fiction. It’s not usually something women are supposed to be drawn to, or if they are, they aren’t supposed to admit it. Sci-Fi is the realm of guys, especially basement dwelling mouth-breathers who are more attached to their hard drives than they are to human companionship. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Hi, Guys!

I’ve often thought that if I was going to make a movie about my life it would probably fall into the category of science fiction. After all, it is hardly normal, barely believable, filled with out of this world experiences, and I’ve met more than a few real “space cases.” My sister Lucy was once abducted by aliens and held for three days against her will while they did all sorts of poking and prodding at her bits. Okay, so it turns out the aliens were only illegal Mexicans who were eventually arrested and shipped back across the border and Lucy wasn’t so much “abducted” as “soliciting” an offer to take them “’round the moon” but it sounds exciting when you first tell somebody. I mean, technically, they were “Aliens.” Illegal aliens, but still Aliens.

I’m not sure what I’d do if I was faced with either choice of the critters that star in
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which I saw this week at the Essex Cinemas. I’d probably just keel over dead on the spot and save myself the trouble of getting done in by either species. Both are particularly nasty in their own way, and an encounter with one or the other never ends well for a human being, that I could have told you even without having seen the movie.

I’ve been a fan of both series since their very inception, and I probably know way more than any
middle-aged woman should about Aliens and Predators. I saw 20th Century Fox’s first Alien in 1979, in Las Vegas, at the Parkway Theater. I remember it vividly because the guy I was dating at the time had already seen the movie and thought it would be great fun to reach his hand under the armrest (where my arm just happened to be resting by the way) and give me a pinch at the very moment that the Alien baby, i.e., the “chestburster”) made his appearance. Unfortunately for my date, I was hopped up on diet pills at the time and his prank sent me into a startled amphetamine-fueled jump that caused my arm to fly off of the armrest and wallop him directly across his chest, resulting in me breaking his collarbone. C’est dommage! Fortunately, there was a hospital only a block from the theater, so he was able to walk there on his own. I stayed for the rest of the movie. After all, I already knew it wasn’t going to work out between us, so why pay twice to see the end, right?

I was an old married lady by the time Aliens arrived in 1986 and I had indoctrinated my perfect husband of five years into proper theatre etiquette, so he knew better than to try anything during the return of Ellen Ripley and the big-headed double-jawed beauties. A year later, my loyalties were tested when Fox introduced the Predator to do battle with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I wasn’t sure I was all that thrilled with the Predator until he took off his helmet, but when I saw that face! Such a face I had never seen on screen before. I fell in love. For him, I’d even cook.

It was inevitable I suppose that these two powerhouses in the Sci-Fi realm should someday meet onscreen, and eventually they did in AvP: Alien vs. Predator, back in 2004. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad disappointed. Much was made about the fact that these darlings of destruction would be bringing it on here on earth, so I think fans in general expected a kick-ass bloodbath in the city like we saw in Predator 2. Instead, AvP: Alien vs. Predator took place in Antarctica of all places, where their presence and the human slaughter was limited to a smattering of archeologists and other scientists on hand to inspect a recently discovered ~ get this ~ Aztec Temple under the polar ice cap. It turned the whole legend of the two species into a silly joke with a storyline about how Predators had been gods to the Aztecs and had been coming to earth for centuries to hunt down Aliens as a part of a “manhood” ritual among their young. Apparently we were to believe that the Aliens were bred on earth just for the purpose of being tracked down and killed for sport by Predator teens for more than two thousand years and not once had a human being come in contact with either one and lived to tell of it.

So now I was here again, back at the trough of my favorite beasts and hoping for better than last time, and, fortunately, I finally got it with
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Writer Shane Salerno (Armageddon) does a superb job in cleaning up after the fiasco that was AvP: Alien vs. Predator without breaking stride from the timeline of that picture. He picks up exactly where that one ended, with the Predator ship leaving earth to return to the Predator homeworld with a dead comrade secured in the back of the ship and a cargo of Alien “facehuggers” on board for study or preservation until the next hunt. Unbeknownst to the crew, however, their dead crewmate had been impregnated with an Alien egg before he died, and a “chestburster” hybrid breaks free of the body and quickly grows to gigantic size, killing the rest of the crew and causing the ship to plummet back to earth, where it crashes just outside the small town of Gunnison, Colorado.

Yep! Finally, the match between critters we have been waiting to see tussle with one another and with and a town full of human beings is set. Better yet, the ante is upped with the inclusion of the Alien-Predator hybrid, which has no allegiance to either of its parent species. Since the Predators had collected a number of living facehuggers and kept them in stasis on their ship, naturally they escape, soon grow into their own colony, and the whole town is swarming with loafheads, dreadlocked crab-faces, and the dumbest bunch of folks this side of just about any horror movie. You know the type. They hear creepy noises in the dark and instead of running like hell in the opposite direction they walk right into the room going “Hello? Is anybody in here?” The only one with half a brain is an ex-con named Dallas (Steven Pasquale; tv’s “Rescue Me”) who has just arrived back in town the same day the spaceship crashes, but nobody wants to listen to him because he’s got a “record.” Well, so does Britney and people do what she says all the time. No, wait. I guess that’s not a good comparison, but you get the idea.

The plot isn’t all that important and it is slimmer than Nicole Richie’s pre-pregnancy hips anyway. The whole movie is basically just a mash-up between everybody in town against the Aliens, the hybrid and a Predator that arrives from his homeworld in answer to a distress call from the pilot of the doomed ship before it crashed. As far as I could tell, we are supposed to end up rooting for the Predator as our “savior” though I’m not sure he’s any better than the Aliens when it comes to his treatment of humans. Even if he wipes out all of the Aliens, there is no telling what his intentions are for the townspeople of Gunnison, and there isn’t a single sighting of Chris Hanson or the crew from NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” anywhere in sight.

One thing that Sci-Fi nerd girl me was bothered about is how the timeline of this encounter was never recorded or explained in future history. One hundred and eighteen years later (see what a Sci-Fi nerd I really am) the Nostromo encounters the Alien in what was the beginning of that franchise and yet there was no information available about this species’ existence. Okay, so maybe a mining ship wouldn’t have that in its ship’s computer, but by the time Ripley is found floating in a space pod 53 years later, in Aliens, her story about the creatures should easily be corroborated by the story from Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and the inevitable sequel which is set up in the final scene of this picture, even though we haven’t seen that story yet. Yes, don’t think the fight is over, Kiddies. Expect another gut-buster in your Christmas stocking next year. Think of it as a new Holiday tradition. Nothing says “Christmas” quite like a visit from Santa, The Predators, and a few Alien elves.

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