While I was a big fan of the movie when it played in the theater, it was very interesting getting to see the film how the director intended it be shown.
Sadly, with so much information packed into these DVDs, iconic figures like the Alien and the Predator lose some of their mystique.
Though I am still unclear about the specifics, essentially human beings have stumbled on to a Predator ritual whereby they have to defeat Aliens in order to be seen as full fledged warriors by the other Predators. Human beings are being sent on a mission to excavate an underground pyramid, and it is here that the carnage begins. While I personally don’t mind not understanding the entire plot of this movie, it was a bit of a shock when I screened it in the theater to see the Predators become somewhat domesticated. This is clearly a film that Paul W.S. Anderson had intended to be one thing, and then in the service of time and story logic, the studio decided that it should be something else. Clearly, we have a movie that has some substance and when you really sit back and take off your skeptical cap, it’s actually a pretty darn good film.
What I couldn’t get out of my mind was the idea of the Alien creatures still being scary after all these years. If you had told the original screenwriters back in 1979, that the character they created would be engaging in intergalactic smackdowns with another iconic image from 1987, I think they would have laughed you out the door. Yet here we are in 2005 and I am writing a review about the Alien Vs. Predator (Un-Rated Collector’s Edition). Sure, this film is full of problems (if you really care to look for them), I personally was swept up in the idea of how unimportant our species becomes if creatures like this really do exist out in the universe.
There are two commentary tracks in this set. The first one is from director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen. This is an interesting if not somewhat dry look at this film. They certainly aren’t making jokes and laughing at one another’s performances. In fact, they seem almost too civil in this commentary. I wasn’t expecting them to be yelling at each other but I didn’t expect things to be as tepid as they are here. They just talk about the film itself and some of the lore behind it. The second commentary track is from the FX team and we hear from Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr., and John Bruno. I really liked this technical look at the film. They talked about what they trying achieve in certain scenes, and most importantly they lifted up the curtain a bit to show how certain FX were achieved.
Added Unrated Footage and Footage Marker
The added unrated footage that can be screened here is Antarctica 1904, Argument, Chamber of Skulls, Sacrifice, Weyland’s Death and the Predator Ritual. This footage has been put into the movie, but it can also be screened on it’s own. Personally, I don’t know why you would ever want to watch it that way? Seeing these segments cut into the film really bulks up the narrative flow of the movie, and I was wondering why they excised them in the first place? The Footage Marker allows the viewer to know what the added footage is. This seems sort of redundant as one could watch it themselves and figure it out, but I am always a fan of DVDs that go the extra mile.
There are three of these and they are titled The Sister, Miller Gets Caught and Love Scene. Honestly, I don’t think these portions needed to be in the movie and the fact that they were cut (but left as extras on this DVD) even says something about what Paul W.S. Anderson thinks needs to be added. Judge for yourself, but as those who have read my DVD reviews know, I am always a bit ambivalent towards deleted scenes.
AVP - The Beginning and HBO Special
These are two medium sized featurettes that are actually quite similar. AVP - The Beginning is a more in-depth look at how this movie got made, and what director Paul W.S. Anderson was going for. The HBO Special looks at the making of this film, although it’s from a much more fantastical perspective. It is clearly a promotional piece trying to make everything seem bigger than it is. What AVP - The Beginning gets right is the whole idea of giving us more of a backstory to how this movie came together. Honestly, they could have left the HBO Special off, but this is a blown out release so you can’t really fault the DVD’s creators.
This section of the DVD was a much more in-depth look at the making of this movie. It was on the set and examined specific scenes as they were being shot. I liked that this portion of the DVD wasn’t really slicked up that much, and as a result I think we are able to very easily get into the heads of the people who were making this movie. This is the kind of “making of” piece that really serves a DVD well because it gets through all the BS and red tape that often comes up when watching a traditional “Making Of.”
This gives us a short glimpse of the people who literally inhabit the Aliens and Predators. They show us aspects of the creatures that are not inhabited by humans, but I was really amazed at how they were able to just step inside these “costumes” and be able to move around how they were. Just by looking at them, all manner of movement would seem to be impossible, but they pull it off making what is real and not real seamless.
Storyboard Gallery and Concept Art Gallery
These two segments were very interesting because we get to pre-view the film before there was anything to look at. Everything was so detailed and coming from a place of trying to be faithful to the source material, that I am not surprised that I enjoyed this movie (and this segment) as much as I did.
Visual Effects Breakdown
I found this to be a pretty standard look at the visual FX of the movie. Obviously, with technology being what it is today (is there anything these FX guys can’t do?), there is going to be a decent mix of regular FX, CGI and anything else these guys can think up. What I was impressed with was finding out what was real and what wasn’t. Though they don’t totally let the cat out of the bag with this segment, I found hearing these guys talk about their work and then seeing it in action to be very intriguing
Monsters In Miniature
This is another insider’s look, this time at Todd McFarlane, and the miniature’s of the creatures that he creates for films. I found his intricacy and attention to detail to be quite inspiring. It’s nice to see someone take what appear to be kid’s toys, and add a degree of seriousness to them. While sometimes I am sure this seriousness can border on other things, I am willing to give the creators and collectors the benefit of the doubt.
The Comic Book
This looks at the comic book related to this film. From a purely visual standpoint, this thing looks amazing. The colors are very rich and the characters are all, literally, very clearly drawn and documented. While I am not so into the lore that I really know which came first, this whole 2 disc set has really been packaged and put together very nicely. In fact, if you know nothing about Alien Vs. Predator, this DVD would be as good a place as any to start.
2.35:1 - Widescreen. Surprisingly, I think that it was this movie’s big look that really stood out for me. I wasn’t even bothered by how dark this movie was. In fact, so much of this movie is lit by fires and other nonstandard light sources, but I was able to get passed all that because I was so keyed into the events happening on screen. This was one of the first times where the look of the movie, the grayish, blue darkness, really played into what I was seeing on a psychological level. Yes, this movie is very much a film from our times, and what I am praising this movie for I often detract while watching others, but this is a movie where the look not only worked... it was necessary.
5.1 Dolby Digital - DTS. This is the kind of movie that makes me wish I had a better sound system on my TV. Things would be so much better in my life if I did, because I really feel that while I am getting the effect of what I am seeing, I am not getting the full effect. I am missing something very special that could transform something like Alien Vs. Predator from watching a movie into a viewing experience. This film is very big in a visual sense and the audio really underscores that which we are seeing on the screen. I can only wonder what they might do to this movie with the new Blu-ray or HD discs?
Alien and Predator both seem like they have been “carbon frozen” on this front cover. I imagine if earth was wiped out, these images are what explorers would see if they excavated around our deserted landscape. The back gives us a description of the movie, a “Special Features Listing,” a cast list and technical specs. One might think that they would go overboard on a 2 disc set of this nature. This is thankfully not the case. While these DVDs have clearly been loaded with supplemental features, I found the packaging to be both economical and somewhat restrained. It is here, just looking at the images that adorn the artwork, that the real mystique of these creatures percolates.
Alien Vs. Predator (Un-Rated Collector’s Edition) is a really fun to own, 2 disc set. What I really liked about the movie (and it certainly has spilled over into the packaging), is the bigness of the director’s approach. This is clearly a film that could have become a joke. They could have lampooned the characters and made this movie something that went for laughs as opposed to something more important. Now, I know we are dealing with movies that are essentially “genre films,” but within that I think that this film speaks of ambition. The idea of the Alien fighting the Predator has been talked about for years. It could have been done in a campy way, but I am thankful that all involved refrained from such courses of action.
Alien Vs. Predator (Un-Rated Collector’s Edition) is a nicely put together box set and I am happy to have it in my collection.
Alien Vs. Predator was released August 12, 2004.