Welcome to “Postmortem,” a feature that goes behind the scenes of some of your favorite films, and asks: What the heck went wrong?!
Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil films, “Soldier,” Event Horizon,” “Pompeii”), if you’ve ever seen him in a interview, like the one above, appears very knowledgable about the films he chooses to direct. So knowledgeable, in fact, that he makes his film, “AVP” sound like a natural progression in the Alien franchise.
Yet when you actually watch the movie, it quickly becomes apparent that something went wrong somewhere along the way.
One of the (many) things that bothered me about “AVP” was that it took place in Antartica, which actually makes sense if you listen to Anderson’s explanation. He said, essentially, that many regions of the world that are cold now weren’t always that way, and the region where the Predators trained their hunters was originally tropical.
I get it, but considering that the first two Predator films spent a whole bunch of time establishing that the Predators were drawn to hot climates and conflict, why place the pyramid in a place that’s cold?
Primarily Anderson said that he wanted to evoke the desolate look of the first film–which took place in space. I get that too, though the implication is that you couldn’t do the same thing in ahotter climate, which isn’t the case.
There are so many practical effects in the film, and while Anderson deserves kudos for going that route (and relying on studioADI. They’re awesome) he does so much to undermine any faith a viewer may have had in the first place that it almost negates the good he’s done.
Such as, slow motion Facehuggers.
Why? For a director interested in evoking the feel of Ridley Scott’s original “Alien,” having Facehuggers move in slow motion across the screen seems like the wrong thing to do. He also changed the gestation period of the aliens. What in the first film took two or three days has been reduced to hours. It was particularly an odd change to make, because it pretty much said that we aren’t going to even try to use suspense and far of the unknown this time around, especially when we can have them just go at each other like wrestlers.
Anderson, in the featurette talks about how different “Alien” was from “Aliens,” and how James Cameron took the franchise in an entirely new direction; making it bigger while still maintaing the features that made it so popular with fans.
Which seems like the opposite approach Paul W.S. Anderson took. Though the weird thing is that he clearly understands what made the first two films great, yet he ignores it, and instead seems to think that people would be more interested in seeing Aliens and Predators as cartoon characters, which is what it looks like when the Predator grabs an Alien by the tail, and swings it around like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
It’s an odd approach when you consider that, in the prior films, while Aliens were tough, they weren’t that tough.
And one pivotal point in “AVP” I can’t to this day make sense of. When the Predator removes his mask and is impregnated by a Facehugger, the movie treats it as if it were an event of no significance, and the Predators–which possess the ability to see in various spectrums, including X-Rays–seemingly miss an Alien gestating within one of their fallen comrades.
As I said, it’s a stupid scene, though if your intention is to build in a sequel, then perhaps it’s not such a bad idea.
When Ridley Scott first directed “Alien,” little was revealed about the creature. Visually, this was because the costume imposed certain restrictions upon the director, for instance movement was very restricted, so Scott had the creature more often than not emerge from darkness and generally appear in situations where very little actual movement was required.
The costume itself, as well as technology, improved significantly by the time James Cameron’s “Aliens” came about, which mean that this time around there were scenes with Aliens moving about, most of which appeared to be practical.
By the time “AVP” came about, CGI became significantly easier to do, and while the film is primarily practical, there are instances of entirely CG-animated Aliens. Though Anderson has done something neither Scott or Cameron had done, which is to virtually lay out the entire film before anything happens, which is a great thing to do if your goal is to kill suspense and rob something of mystery.
There are such scenes throughout the film, though the worse examples are delivered by Sebastian de Rosa (Raoul Bova) who seems only in the movie to know things that no one should.
Because you can’t make a movie where viewers have to think for themselves why things happen, can you (though that’s exactly what Scott and Cameron did)?
So, when all is said and done, “AVP” isn’t by any stretch a terrible film, but it’s hobbled by writing that seems to underestimate the intelligence of the viewer, which is perhaps the greatest sin of all.