Running Time: 101 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio: DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Region: 1
MSRP: $29.98

Own It!
Alien vs. Predator (2004)

On the heels of two highly successful franchises, multiple Dark Horse Comics mini-series and two first person shooter games, this movie was inevitable, clamored for as much as Freddy vs. Jason. And, with equal inevitability, roundly vilified. Though mainly, I suspect, by people predisposed to hate director Paul W.S. Anderson.

There are missteps: for some ultimately unfathomable reason, the story is set on Earth in the present day. A sudden heat signature in the middle of the Antarctic wilderness causes a hasty expedition from the not-yet-totally-evil Weyland Corporation to investigate. They find a buried pyramid, and discover that the Predators built all those Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, and that three teenaged Predators will come 'round every hundred years or so for a rite of passage involving being trapped in the pyramid with a bunch of alien xenomorphs.

There's an alien queen frozen in the basement who is thawed out to hatch the warriors for this exercise, you see. Though there are no Mayans about to provide hosts for the hatchlings, there is this convenient bunch of Weyland contractors milling about, who are also stuck in a constantly-changing Rubik's Cube of an environment.

Anyway, phooey on the rest of you. I liked this movie, though that may be based just as much on my enjoyment of the screams of dismay from the geeks and nerds around me as the quality of the movie; if I had never seen any of the previous entries, I would have thought this was a damned neat movie - as it is, it's a good popcorn muncher. Certainly, it plays fast and loose with some of the accumulated lore (some of it, based on the complaints voiced to me after the movie, purely fan-created), but taken on its own, Alien vs Predator is a more than competent sci-fi action movie.

Certainly a lovely transfer; though the increased clarity of DVD often lets me pick out a process shot I never saw in the theater (I'm looking at you, Lord of the Rings), there are plenty of shots on this disc that remain absolutely seamless.

With a staggering six audio tracks, including the two commentary tracks, there isn't much room for extras on this disc, and I'm sorry, some of that precious space is just wasted.

You get an "alternate beginning never before seen in theaters", which takes place in 1904. The only reason it's there is to make the geeks start screaming all the earlier. Three deleted scenes, and good riddance. "AVP Promo" is actually a fairly decent 23 minute "Making Of" featurette, which also covers the earlier movies and comic books. There is a gallery of covers from the Dark Horse comics.

Then, for some reason, there is a Superbowl XXXIX commercial, another one for American Dad, and Inside Look, which will net you a preview for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and a puff piece interview with Jennifer Garner about Elektra, which is curiously window-boxed.

The first commentary track is done by director Anderson, Lance Henriksen and star Sanaa Lathan, and is quite informative. Henriksen, in particular, really appreciates a good effects shot. The second track features FX guys John Bruno, Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. - who, in large part, go over the same ground as the first track, and not surprisingly, fall silent whenever there isn't any FX stuff going on (which is, fortunately, not often).

DVD-ROM material includes the first issue of the Dark Horse comic book, an article on the making of the comics, a preview of an upcoming graphic novel, and hot links to the Dark Horse and AVP websites.

A deluxe two-disc set is being released in the UK, which means it should be seeing a Region 1 release within the next year - so caveat emptor, and all that.

Dr. Freex, 2/16/2005