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The Abyss (1989)


About two-thirds of the Earth is covered in water. While science has pretty well figured out what lives on all the landmasses, the depths of the ocean remain a mystery. So far we’ve only caught glimpses of the strange, nearly-alien lifeforms that can withstand the crushing pressure in the deepest portions of the ocean, and its unlikely that were can ever know everything about the sea. We can only hope that whatever’s down there is friendly.

The Abyss is a science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Beihn, and some really neat CGI effects created the hard way. Because it’s a James Cameron film, that’s why.

It is the height of the Cold War. When the U.S.S. Montana sinks near the Cayman Trench after an encounter with something unknown, the Soviets waste no time in sending ships and subs to recover the submarine and its warhead. With a hurricaine moving in, the Americans decide that the quickest way to get to the sub before the Soviets do is to insert a team of Navy SEALs into a privately-owned experimental underwater oil platform called the Deep Core and use that as a base of operations. Lindsay Brigman, the designer of the platform, insists on going along, even though she knows that her estranged husband, Bud Brigman, is serving as the platform’s foreman. Things get complicated when the salvage team tries to determine the cause of the Montana‘s failure, and spot strange, apparently intelligent creatures down there with them. The situation goes from bad to worse when the hurricaine hits above them and they are unable to untether themselves from the Benthic Explorer before its crane breaks off in the storm, nearly pulling the Core into the Trench. Now trapped far underwater, they must decide the best method of recovering and disarming the Montana‘s nuclear missile, while all the time something unknown and inhuman is watching them…

James Cameron does not make small movies. Even when he has a small budget, he makes big movies. For The Abyss, he had a big vision that, unfortunately, outstripped the capabilities of special effects at the time. As a result, almost a half hour of footage was cut out of the theatrical release until Cameron was able to find a way to make it look good. Fortunately, I had the privilege of watching the Special Edition (sometimes erroneously called the Director’s Cut, even though Cameron did the original surgery himself), and it definitely fills in a few of the holes leftover in the theatrical release, like why are the water beings there and what the hell happened to the hurricaine at the end. The underwater setting is spooky and haunting, reminding us how little we know about this particular biome, and the interior shots are claustrophobic in a way that reminds me of the original Alien, and for similar reasons: there is nowhere to run. There is no escape. In this case, though, the main internal threat comes in the form of a Navy SEAL suffering High Pressure Nervous Syndrome, one of many true-life phenomena that Cameron included to give the story a nice ring of verisimilitude.

The plot was slow to develop, but engaging all the same. While the first third seemed like it was just going to be a deep sea drama, giving the audience time to meet the characters and learn about the setting and its hazards offered a chance to identify with the cast before weird stuff starts happening. As such, I had a chance to sympathize and care about these people, and I was definitely rooting for Bud during his moment of truth in the Trench. Some people criticized the Brigman estrangement subplot, pointing out the possibility that it had been inspired by Cameron’s own pending divorce, but I felt it added a layer of human drama to it, setting up a believeable reconciliation at the end. The alien beings were alien enough that they were definitely outside the realm of People in Suits, and the fact that all their technology was water-based offered a glimpse of the true possibilities of intelligent alien life. Interesting note: At the time this movie was made, CGI technology didn’t exist to create effects that shared a scene and interacted with human actors, so for example with the water tentacle Cameron made live-action models of the tentacle, and filmed the set from every angle so it could be digitally recreated with the water tentacle in place. In the end, ILM spent six months to create 75 seconds of really awesome looking footage.

If you’re in the mood for a sci fi drama with just as much drama as sci fi, check out The Abyss. It doesn’t get overwhelmed by the special effects, and in the end the human plot is every bit as crucial to the story as the alien plot. James Cameron wins again.

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Species (1995)


I find it ironic that the first entry in former model Natasha Henstridge’s body of Hollywood work is a movie in which she, well, shows off so much of her body. While the “aliens mating with humans” type plot is hard to pull off successfully (and without resorting to tentacle rape), especially in a serious movie, this one also boasted semi-famous actors and a decent plot. Did it succeed? Let’s find out.

Species is a sci fi horror film directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Natasha Henstridge, Marg Helgenberger, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, and creature effects by H. R. Giger.

When SETI was established decades ago, it sent out a polite “hello” to any intelligent races that might be listening, in the form of information about Earth and its inhabitants, including info about our DNA, hoping that someone would say “hi” back. Twenty years later, they got a reply, in the form of information on the creation of an endless fuel source. Cool – they’re friendly! Naturally, when they send their next transmission, a sample of alien DNA and instructions on how to splice it with our own, a government team is set up to see what happens when Tab A is spliced with Slot B. Led by Dr Xavier Fitch, the team tries following the instructions in the transmission, deciding to make the result female in order to avoid any natural aggressive tendencies of a male specimen. Out of a hundred fertilized ova, finally one of them survives gestation, producing a hybrid named Sil, resembling a human girl. She grows quickly and appears to be highly intelligent, but she has violent night terrors which appear to be flashes of genetic memory of home. Her outbursts during these nightmares lead the team to judge her dangerous, and they try to kill her with cyanide gas. She escapes the lab, and a team is assembled to track her down and destroy her before she can mate with a human male, producing more like her and possibly eliminating the human race. Naturally, she has reached sexual maturity since escaping, and is now on a mission of her own – booty.

With a plot like this, one might expect Species to be nothing but softcore porn with only the vague sketches of a plot and shitty special effects to string the sex scenes together. Surprisingly, the movie actually works as a serious thriller. The opening scenes take the time to lay the groundwork for the story, rather than saying, “Here’s a hot alien chick, look at her boobs and don’t worry about the plot.” The story unfolds realistically, with the plot playing out in a logical fashion, winding up to a conclusion that feels genuinely tragic despite its necessity. Sil’s lack of a nudity taboo meshes naturally with her background – she is a creature of instinct, raised in a lab, with heightened senses, greater strength and agility, and the ideal appearance for attracting a mate. She acts and feels like a genuine organism looking for a suitable mate rather than a space slut willing to shag anyone.

The characters are, thankfully, not a cast of morons. While Fitch’s decision to terminate Sil in light of her violent nightmares seems ill-conceived, it makes sense – she is only likely to get stronger and more agile as she matures, and who knows how she sees the world. The composition of the team gathered to hunt her down is also logical: Dr. Arden to study her behavior for clues about her next move, Dr. Baker as a familiar face that Sil might trust, empath Dan Smithson to track her via her emotional states, and mercenary Preston Lennox for when they have her cornered and the time comes to kill her. Even Sil appears to have genuine motives for what she does beyond “gotta get laid”. While she is deadly, she does demonstrate species-perpetuation instincts, and she is decently choosy about her mates (rejecting one hopeful when she senses that he has diabetes). Though she can and does kill several people through out the movie, she is cunning and discreet, and generally kills only to defend herself or erase a sexual rival – this sort of thing happens all the time in nature on Earth – but as a non-native species there is a higher chance of her buggering up the biosphere.

While Species sounds like it might just be a brainless festival of tits and blood, I recommend it to fans of sci fi horror. Giger’s creature effects are amazing as always, Natasha Henstridge is hot, and the whole thing is overlaid on a surprisingly well-developed storyline. Worth a rental.

2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

04/04/2011 2 comments

Okay, raise your hand if you watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. The whole thing? Good. Keep your hand up if you understood 2001: A Space Odyssey. Uh huh. Keep your hand up if you understood it without reading the tie-in novel? Yeah. I thought so. That’s why Arthur C. Clarke wrote a sequel, which was naturally made into a movie, in an effort to help explain what the hell was going on to audiences who have been confused for the last 16 years. Did it work? Let’s find out.

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a science fiction film directed by Peter Hyams that serves as the sequel to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film was adapted from Clarke’s novel 2010: Odyssey Two, which also serves as a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Steady… no use getting confused already.) It stars John Lithgow, Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Kier Dullea, and the uber-creepy voice of Douglas Rain.

Nine years have passed since the epic mind-screw that was the failure of the Discovery One‘s mission to Jupiter, caused when HAL 9000 lapsed into Killer Robot territory and killed four out of the five crewmen, while the fifth, David Bowman, disappeared into an alien monolith about 2 kilometers long orbiting Jupiter and suffered an acid trip so bad that he evolved into a giant space fetus and left audience horribly, horribly confused. Somehow, the blame for all this (though maybe not the giant space fetus thing) has landed on the shoulders of one Dr. Heywood Floyd, who resigned his position as the head of the National Council of Aeronautics in shame. Tension has been growing between the United States and the Soviet Union (which in this timeline still exists, complete with Cold War, in the year 2010) as both nations prepare to go find out what the hell happened aboard the Discovery, with a slight wrinkle: The Russians will have their ship, the Alexei Romanov ready first, but American technicians will be needed to parse out the nature of HAL’s malfunction and to operate the American Discovery. Since the Discovery‘s orbit is decaying, it is likely to crash into the moon Io before the Americans are able to get their shit together, Russia and America decide to team up to find out what the hell happened. Once there, they make a few interesting discoveries: one, there is chlorophyll on Europa. Two, Europa gets really mad when they try to figure out where the chrorophyll came from. Three, HAL wasn’t homicidal, he just got confused when told to conceal information about the monolith and decided the best way to follow his orders was to kill everyone. Four, David Bowman is back. Sort of. Five, something wonderful is about to happen. And six, Dr. Floyd discovers the best way to get close to a hot cosmonaut who can’t speak English is to just be handy during a terrifying aerobraking maneuver. Down on Earth, however, tensions between America and Russia continue to intensify, and the force of both countries are starting to get ready to seriously throw down. However, when it appears that “something wonderful” is manifesting as countless thousands of little monoliths devourin Jupiter, the respective crews of both ships will have to work together to get clear of Jupiter, lest something wonderfully annihilate them all.

Good news: This is a straightforward narrative. You can all relax on that account, secure in the knowledge that you won’t have to watch it with a team of philosophy majors and compare notes afterwards. HOWEVER – you do have to have at least a vague idea of what happened in the previous film. They do recap what happened, as far as anyone on Earth can tell, but for obvious reasons they don’t explain anything about part four (remember, the acid trip?). You can catch up pretty quickly, though, so that’s good. However, something strange happened between 1968 and 1984: the space effects got slightly worse. They didn’t have greenscreen effects in 1968 (so far as I know), so they worked around it, to great effect. They did have greenscreen effects in 1984, though, and they used them to add a bit of realism to the spacewalking effects. They mostly succeeded, but if you know what to look for you can see the outlines. Not bad, though, and it gets a pass. Also, they get bonus points for getting Kier Dullea and Douglas Rain to reprise their respective roles as David Bowman and HAL 9000, though creepily Dullea doesn’t appear to have aged at all in 16 years. The addition of Roy Scheider, previously seen in Jaws was also a good choice, and would set him up for the sort of “wonderment of exporing new worlds” vibe he would give off in seaQuest DSV.

They also explain a lot of the trippy stuff that happened in the previous movie, which is good, but I can’t help but wonder if that would have even been necessary if the first movie had simply been a bit more straightforward. It doesn’t help that moth movies were trying to compress about two hundred pages of narrative into two hours of movie, but in that respect I think 2010 manages a clearer interpretation than its cinematic predecessor. It doesn’t jump around (let alone the first one’s jump of several hundred thousand years), and it follows a straight path to a definite conclusion. The story is tight and linear, and it actually makes itself understood. Yay.

If you liked 2001 but were left a bit light on explanations, try out 2010. It’ll help you understand most of what happened in 2001, and brings the whole story arc to a very impressive conclusion.

Transformers (2007)

04/01/2011 2 comments

This is a story about a boy and his car.

Of course, that isn’t all. It also has giant transforming robots, a massive interplanetary civil war, car chases, fight scenes, explosions, tangles with shadowy government organizations, and the human race held in the balance as two powerful factions fight for dominance.

In other words, this is a story about a boy and his car, directed by Michael Bay.

Transformers is a sci fi action film directed by Michael Bay, based on the Transformers toy line. It stars Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, plus the voices of Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving, and a buttload of CGI effects detailed enough to melt several processors.

A civil war between the Autobots and the Decepticons has destroyed their homeworld of Cybertron. The key to restoring life to the dead planet is the Allspark, which has the power to infuse machines with life. However, the Autobots wish to use it for peaceful purposes, while the Decepticons wish to use it for conquest. Complicating matters on both ends is the fact that the Allspark has been lost, last seen on a little blue planet called Earth. One of the denizens of said little blue planet is impending high school graduate Sam Witwicky, a simple guy with simple goals: get a car, and get a girlfriend. One of his plans to acquire capital for said car is selling some artifacts from his great-great grandfather’s fateful expedition to Antarctica in 1897, a trip that left him blind, insane, and raving about ice monsters. Little does Sam know that his simple quest for a sweet ride is going to throw him into the middle of the abovementioned civil war…

This was another one of those movie announcements that had nerds all over the world perking up their ears, particularly we children of the 80s, who grew up surrounded by the Transformers. Steven Spielberg has done great sci fi and fantasy work in the past, making him the ideal producer, but Michael Bay had initially balked when asked to direct, dismissing it as a “stupid toy movie”. He learned how wrong he was when he visited Habsro and learned about the MASSIVE mythology behind the toy line, but in true Michael Bay fashion he averted the possible kiddie-ness of the movie by adding more to the military subplot (read: more shit blowing up). The CG-created Transformer characters were intricately detailed, with special attention being paid to making the transformation sequences look like they obeyed the laws of physics and conservation of mass: a robot that is this big as a vehicle must be this big as a biped. As a result, the titular Transformers looked great, and I could actually believe that the human cast was being threatened by twenty-foot-tall robots.

As for the human cast, LeBeouf fared decently well as Unlucky Everydude Sam, and Kevin Dunn and Julie White were suitably embarrassing as his parents, from whom he’s trying to hide facts like his ’74 Camaro being alive and wanting to recruit him for an interstellar war. Megan Fox’s Mikaela tries so hard to be a well-rounded character, but in the end is just the Hot Gearhead. John Turturro is more or less every character he’s ever played, and deserved to get a swift kick in his self-importance, contrasting with Jon Voight as Secretary of Defense John Keller, a surprisingly reasonable authority figure once he gets a handle on what’s going on. However, while the story focuses mainly on the human perspective of OMG GIANT TRANSFORMING ROBOTS, when the Transformers themselves show up and a Michael Bay movie ensues, the human subplot is very nearly lost amid the car chases, downtown battle sequences, robot fu, and massive property damage.

In the end, the robots looked great, the battle sequences looked great, and the paranoia fuel of transforming robots was applied just enough to offer a human perspective on the franchise. In the end, though, Transformers mainly runs on special effects and awesome, with a fair amount of plot to contain it all. If you’re a fan of the Tranformers franchise and/or you’re looking for an exciting sci fi action movie, check this one out.

The Thing (1982)

03/26/2011 2 comments

When you’re stuck in an Antarctic research base over the winter, the only people you can really trust to help you if there’s trouble are your fellow researchers. But what if there’s something there that can imitate anything perfectly? If that happens, you can’t trust anyone… even yourself.

The Thing is a science fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, ostensibly a remake of The Thing from Another World but actually a more faithful adaptation of the original novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr., and serves at the first part of Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy (followed by The Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness). It stars Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Charles Hallahan, Donald Moffat, and some stomach-churning monster effects by Rob Bottin and Stan Winston.

The Year: 1982. The Location: an American Antarctic research station, manned by a small team of scientists. As the researchers are getting ready to batten down the hatches for the coming winter, they are accosted by a scientist from a nearby Norwegian station, trying frantically to kill a fleeing dog. The Norwegian is hysterical and disoriented, shooting wildly, and the Americans are forced to kill him for their own safety, and adopt the dog. When they investigate the Norwegian camp looking for an explanation, they discover the place is trashed, its personnel variously missing or dead, with evidence that the Norwegians had found something bizarre under the ice. Analyzing the uncovered remains, the research station’s medical examiner comes up blank, except that the hideous, inhuman creature possessed a complete set of humanlike internal organs. It is not long, though, before the researchers discover that the creature is not completely dead, and possesses the ability to assimilate and imitate any living creature it encounters. Remember the dog? Yeah. It soon becomes clear that with this shapeshifting alien on the loose in their station, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell who is an ally, as the harsh Antarctic winter closes in on all of them…

Paranoia fuel FTW! This tale of unknown malevolence closing in on an isolated group of individuals is further proof that John Carpenter is a genius of horror. The story is tight and nerve-wracking, building the tension as the hours of increasing uncertainly creep by, until you can’t even be sure if MacReady (through whose eyes we largely view the story) is not the Thing. The idea that close friends, family, or even colleagues might have been seamlessly replaced by this malevolent creature whose motives are impossible to guess is the ultimate in paranoia, used in movies ranging from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Terminator 2, but The Thing offers a claustrophobic twist: you are trapped there with this creature, and it is trapped here with you. Such unrelenting uncertainty leads to desperate reactions to flush out the traitor, the imposter, the Thing pretending to be your friend, until ultimately you reach a “nuke it from orbit” solution: destroy everything and hope it is destroyed too.

The creature effects in this movie are striking and well-done. Created in an age long before CGI was even plausible, the animatronics and puppetry required to bring the Thing to life were designed by Rob Bottin, celebrated master of body horror, with the dog-Thing created by Stan Winston, celebrated master of just about every other kind of monster. The effects are visceral, meaty, and cheerfully gooey, nauseating and terrifying audiences with the mishmash of barely-recognizeable shapes forming in an amorphous pile of Thing – maybe this head reminds you of a dog, or that face reminds you of one of your colleagues, while this limb might almost be a batlike wing. On the other side of the coin, three effects that really stand out are the chest-mouth, the spider-head, and the exploding blood (which is likely to make even the most jaded horror-hound dump his popcorn in a neighbor’s lap). The acting is exemplary as well, considering how many key plot points are dependent on in-universe uncertainty, and a number of scares and twists were kept hidden from the cast until the “boo” moment to allow them to react genuinely.

If you like your horror movies paranoid, your settings claustrophobic, and your aliens weird and pissed off, absolutely grab a copy of The Thing. Watch it with friends and with the lights off.

Galaxy Quest (1999)


Once, the sci fi series Galaxy Quest was so popular that a rabid fanbase developed around it, with enthusiasts debating the science and theories behind the show until the cows came home. Today, hardcore fans still travel miles to attend Galaxy Quest conventions, each one itching for the chance to talk to one of their favorite stars. Some come from states away. Some come from distant countries.

And some even come from galaxies away…

Galaxy Quest is a sci fi comedy film directed by Dean Parisot, centering on the washed-up actors of a cancelled sci fi television program who discover that somebody has mistaken their adventures for documentaries. It stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, and Daryl Mitchell.

It has been seventeen years since the once-popular sci fi series Galaxy Quest was cancelled, but the actors playing the crew of the U.S.S. Protector are still the target of fanatic adoration by their fans, a fact which inspires a wide spectrum of reactions from the actors themselves. Jason Nesmith (Allen) continues to soak up the attention and adoration, while Sir Alexander Dane (Rickman) hates being eternally associated with his role of Dr. Lazarus, as he started off in Shakespeare. Regrettably, none of them have had any meaningful acting roles since Galaxy Quest, and all their work these days mainly consists of convention appearances and being commercial spokespeople – all in character, of course.

During one of the loved/hated/best avoided Galaxy Quest conventions, Nesmith is approached by a group of people who identify themselves a Thermians and request his help. He happily agrees, thinking they are bringing him to an amateur filmmaking session, but he soon find out that the Thermians are genuinely aliens, using devices to make themselves appear human. They have built their entire society around the Galaxy Quest “documentaries”, and want the crew of the U.S.S. Protector to help defend them against the genocidal warlord Sarris. Nesmith does what anyone would do in this situation: He has a panic attack. Now, he and his crew find themselves having to truly assume the television roles that they have come to hate so much, and find in themselves courage and ingenuity befitting the crew of the Protector, or else Sarris is likely to kill them all.

I loved this movie. Even though I’m not as big a Trekkie as some of my friends, I enjoyed picking out the references and in-jokes to the series it was riffing on, and the whole movie works as The Magnificent Seven meets Star Trek. The concept was sound, and the story was tight, even as it freely made fun of itself throughout. Trek veterans were originally leery about this parody, but were relieved to find the “affectionate” part of “affectionate parody” was solidly in place. George Takei actually called it a “chillingly accurate documentary” – ironic, given the core plot point that the Thermians believe that Galaxy Quest was itself a documentary. The interactions of the human cast, who start out hating their tired TV roles (except for the egotistical Nesmith) and eventually end up finding the spirit of each character again, are well-scripted and well-acted. Rickman as falled Shakespearian Dane is, of course, the deadpan snarker of the group, utterly despising the rubber headpiece he wears throughout, until the moment when he makes it quite clear to Sarris’ men that Dr. Lazarus has quite a bit of Worf in his Spock. Tim Allen’s feature-length comedies have historically been rather hit or miss, but here he is dead on as a Shatner clone, and Sigourney Weaver shines as the opposite of her role in the Alien series – instead of a brunette action girl badass, her entire role in Galaxy Quest is to be the blonde token female who repeats everything the computer says. The Thermians were well-characterized as well; while they might be pitiably naive about matters of fictional entertainment, their plight appears genuine and potentially tragic, while Sarris comes off as entertainingly evil, having his own reasons for exterminating this pacifistic race but likely just doing it because he can.

The special effects are also well-done in this movie, well-crafted with a certain degree of stylistic schlock to capture this modernization of the original Star Trek, using CGI where the original might have used a guy in a shitty-looking costume, and using a guy in an awesome-looking costume where the original might have used a rubber forehead alien (and using an actual human in a rubber forehead because he was a human in a rubber forehead on the show). The replica Protector look like a Star Trek set, but then, that was the point, and it enhances the effects with CGI exterior shots that match well with the spirit of the movie.

Whether you’re a longtime fan of Star Trek or merely a casual acquaintance of the franchise, I think you’ll enjoy Galaxy Quest. I pokes fun at itself and the overall concept of the rabid fandom in ways that simultaneously honors and parodies both. By Grabthar’s Hammer, watch this movie!

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)


The AvP movie franchise had so much promise. It really did. The idea of Xenomorphs and Predators duking it out had been tested in print media, to great success. Both sides were well-detail as far as social structure, weapons, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses as fans of both series tried to calculate who would win, in the style of Deadliest Warrior. Then the first movie came out, and it was… mediocre. Nothing stellar. Of course, Universal seemed to like the idea of taking the Alien franchise to Earth (and portraying the chaos that would ensue in a populated area), so they made a sequel to their mediocre crossover.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is that sequel. Directed by Colin and Greg Strause, AvP:R picks up right where the previous movie left off and stars Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, and John Ortiz.

When I say this movie picks up right where the last one left off, I’m not kidding. Reminding the viewer in its first scene how screwed the Predators are when a Predator-Alien hybrid (hereafter Predalien) hatches from the chest cavity of the last surviving Predator from the first film, the film dives right into the action as this nasty critter matures and lays waste to the crew of the Pred ship. A distress signal is sent back to the Predator homeworld, and a single Predator is sent to investigate as the wrecked ship crashes in the woods outside Gunnison, Colorado, releasing a number of facehuggers and the Predalien. The facehuggers are first encountered by a man and his son out hunting, and as these facehuggers appear to still be on the accelerated gestation exhibited in the first AvP, it is not long at all before their guests hatch out. Meanwhile, the Predator lands, investigating the cause of the crash, and we learn that Pred visors can record as well as see in multiple light spectra. In the recording, he sees the beastie that shredded his comrades, and goes searching for it, using a weird blue liquid to destroy any evidence of the Predalien’s predations.

In town, a number of potential victims locals and visitors are seen, including an ex-con returning home to her family, the distressed wife of the hunter, the town sheriff, and a reluctant pizza boy sustenance delivery specialist trying to woo the girl of his dreams, only to incur the wrath of her current douchebag boyfriend soon-to-be-ex. Of course, the human plot soon spirals off into pandemonium when the Predalien takes up light housekeeping in a storm drain with its growing army of offspring, and the Predator heads into town in hot pursuit. And, uh… a monster movie ensues.

This movie managed to be even more mediocre than its predecessor. The quality was neither high enough to be considered a good movie, nor low enough to be an enjoyably bad movie. If you look at it as a pure monster movie, it’s about Sci Fi Original Movie-quality. As an Alien movie, it’s proof that the franchise might be running out of steam, and as a Predator movie, it doesn’t have quite the cultural details that made the hunters in the first two movies engaging, and the human characters are more one-dimensional than the cast of the first AvP. I found myself in the state of mind where I was having a hard time caring about the human side of the plot enough that the Predalien menace was thrilling, and in all the movie seemed to be aiming to shock me or gross me out than really engage me. In other words, it took the qualities that failed in the first and added blood and guts to make the second movie fail harder.

The Xenos in this film are variously bad CGI drones, ugly Xeno costumes (looking distinctly ragged, as opposed to the sleek, efficient design that made Alien and Aliens work so well), or unconvincing CGI chestbursters. The only Xeno that looked good was the Predalien, who combined distinctive traits of both Xenos and Predators, but it didn’t have nearly enough screen time to make up for it. The use of heavy shadows in the fight scenes boded ill for the FX guys’ confidence in the Predalien design, but given the context it mostly worked.

For a long time, the Alien people have wanted to make a “Xenomorphs on Earth” movie. They’ve been kicking it around since the early stages of Alien:Resurrection, and James Cameron was even working on his own Alien 5 script when the AvP movies began production. I hope this isn’t the best they can do. My advice for anyone who decides to try again – take the time to do it right! Putting good monsters in a bad story just makes a bad movie. As for AvP:R, give this one a big miss.