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REVIEW

'Requiem' a too-mild monster outing

The latest 'Aliens vs. Predator' is heavy on goo but lacking in visual excitement. But that won't stop the franchise.

December 28, 2007|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

"Aliens vs. Predator -- Requiem" comes from such a wealth of back story material -- including the six separate "Alien" and "Predator" movies, assorted comic books, novels, video games, as well as the previous "Alien vs. Predator" film -- that screenwriter Shane Salerno has a veritable buffet of mythology from which to draw. The story (as such): A predator space ship carrying captured aliens crashes near a secluded Colorado town, and its cargo gets loose. The aliens start jumping on faces and bursting from stomachs, and soon, a full-on infestation is in effect as a watchful predator arrives from elsewhere in the galaxy to clean up the mess.

So, aliens bad, predator good (sort of), and humanity is caught in the middle. Along the way there's green goo, blue goo, an ex-con, a war vet returning from duty, some blood, the National Guard, dismemberment, one girl in her underwear, a helicopter and a hybrid creature know as a "predalien." But with moderately more gore than the prior "AVP" film, the leaden pacing of "AVP -- R" makes it still feel more mild than wild.

Colin and Greg Strause (credited as "The Brothers Strause") are longtime visual effects supervisors who have here been promoted to directors. Which makes it all the more odd that the film feels lacking in both visual excitement and basic direction. The action (even the exposition) is rendered with such disconcertingly low light levels -- and of course there is heavy rain for the climatic sequences -- that it can be a strain to simply see what is occurring on-screen. Then again, maybe that's for the best.

In a film in which the title itself promises a showdown between two beloved monsters of moviedom, the human story is inevitably bound to seem somehow an afterthought. Even as "AVP -- R" gamely uses boilerplate character tropes, the people just get in the way of the main event. Whether meant as an existential joke or simple genre expediency, characters (including children and pregnant women) are dispatched with a cold efficiency that would be heart-wrenching in a movie more concerned with character development and less preoccupied with intergalactic smackdowns.

Those expecting a holiday cornucopia of CGI will perhaps be surprised by the amount of screen time given over, Toho-Godzilla style, to actors wrestling around in elaborate yet relatively low-tech character suits. Although it is hard not to feel saddened somehow for the diminished legacy of these movie monsters, it is likewise tempting to label the film as depressing for how much potential it carelessly throws away. But that would still be assigning it more emotional weight than it properly merits. "Aliens vs. Predator -- Requiem" simply exists, nodding to the continuity of the larger series and opening the door for, yes, another entry in the franchise. In Hollywood as in outer space, spawn begets spawn.

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"Aliens vs. Predator -- Requiem." MPAA rating: R for violence, gore and language. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. In wide release.

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