ALIEN vs PREDATOR - TWO DISC COLLECTOR'S
Region 2 Edition reviewed by Tim Symonds
Paul W.S. Anderson
Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova,
Alien vs Predator
began life as a comic book series, produced by Dark Horse in 1989. Dark
Horse leased the rights to both franchises, producing a comic for each
character before bringing the two together in Dark Horse Presents #36. The
two creatures have met ten times in comic books, with the storylines
reproduced in paperback, followed by the inevitable video game spin offs.
The idea for a movie was stalled for a while, with the studio tied up in
negotiations with six different producers, until finally getting the go
ahead. Paul W.S. Anderson, a self-confessed fan of the Alien and
Predator films, pitched his idea to producer John Davis and was given
the task of bringing the two franchises together on screen.
was extraordinarily successful in cinemas and is said to be the highest
grossing movie across both franchises. The film tells the story of the
discovery of a subterranean pyramid in the Antarctic, and of an expedition
to explore it which becomes a battle for survival. Lance Henriksen returns
to the series as Charles Bishop Weyland, giving the new film a link to the
past. Sanaa Lathan is this film's Sigourney Weaver, with support from a
largely unknown European cast. Set as a sequel to the two Predator
movies and prequel to the Alien saga, the film suffers from the
legacy it has to follow. As a basic science-fiction action film it works
fairly well, but takes a few liberties, particularly with the Alien life
cycle, in order to move the action along. Critics have slated the lack of
gore and horror in the film, which was clearly aimed at getting the PG-13
certificate it was given in the USA, but there's still enough tension in
it to keep this viewer watching. It's an essentially lightweight and empty
film, but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours, and it looks
and sounds stunning, if nothing else.
Why do DVD
companies insist on packing their discs with trailers at the beginning?
They do nothing but annoy and everyone skips to the menu anyway....
comes in two versions - the standard theatrical cut and an extended
version. This is not as exciting as it sounds, however. The extended
version differs from the original only by having an extra scene at the
beginning, inserted using branching, showing the whaling station a hundred
years in the past, and showing what happened to the previous inhabitants.
There's a nice reveal here, but the scene only runs for approx ninety
seconds. If you select the extended version, you lose access to the
commentary tracks on the film. More on those later.
the film are disappointingly static, but do their job. After an opening
CGI sequence there are two main menus on the movie disc, one of which
appears at random. The first shows the sacrificial chamber, the
alternative menu shows a Predator wrist computer. All of the usual options
are here, with a First Look option to access yet more publicity for
other films (Elektra, Hide and Seek and Robots, for
in anamorphic 2:35:1 ratio, the image quality is superb. The average
bit-rate is 7.47Mb/s. Both of my low end players handled the disc well and
the dark scenes, which usually show up the limitations of a low end
player, were free from noise throughout. This is just as well, as almost
the entire film is shot in semi-darkness! The film was digitally
de-saturated to present a pastel-like palette, but the colours still stand
out beautifully. This is a great looking disc and the sound, presented in
Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384kbps) or in DTS 5.1 (at 768kbps), blasts out of
the speakers. The bass thuds into you at times and the sharper sounds,
such as the trademark Alien "sting" are piercing. The Antarctic wind in
the first twenty-five minutes or so really howls around you. I first
watched the film on a stereo TV, and was impressed with the quality of the
sound, but watching it on a 5.1 setup was an amazing experience. This is a
disc that deserves to be watched in the pitch dark, with the volume set to
The film features the original theatrical
captions (e.g.: "ICE BREAKER - PIPER MARU - CURRENT HEADING: CLASSIFIED").
The film has optional English HoH subtitles, but there are no subtitles
for the commentary, which is pretty disgraceful for a release this
popular. The supplements on the second disc do have English subtitles.
THE BONUS MATERIAL
commentaries come in two flavours. There's a cast and crew commentary,
featuring Paul W.S. Anderson, Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan, and an
effects commentary by Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jnr and John Bruno. The
most entertaining commentary of the two, as far as I'm concerned, is the
first of these. I found the effects commentary somewhat dull, as it
consisted mainly of "This is CGI background with CGI water and a model
helicopter" type comments, with very little in the way of anecdotes. If
you like technical commentaries, this will probably fascinate you, but I
prefer the lighter style of the primary track.
commentary featuring Henriksen, Lathan and Anderson is more to my taste,
but even here there are irritations. Anderson has some good stories to
tell and you suspect Henriksen does too, but most of his comments seem to
be confined to going "Wow, man. That's amazing" at various effects shots,
or in reaction to something Anderson reveals about the film. When
Henriksen does get going, he's usually cut off by Lathan, who I could have
done without on the track. On a couple of occasions, she cuts off a
Henriksen anecdote in mid flow, usually just to express how "gross"
something on screen is, and she seems more interested in mentioning the
film premiere she has to attend later than in commenting on the film. At
one point she even starts talking about a burger she's eating while doing
the commentary! This kind of thing always annoys me in DVD commentary
tracks, although Henriksen commits a cardinal sin of his own. Twice....
disc contains extensive featurettes which run for over two and a half
hours. The obvious enthusiasm everyone has for the project shines through
here, from the director and producers through to the cast and crew.
There's some repetition across the whole package, but this is inevitable
with so much to get through, and there's very little reuse of footage.
When Paul W.S. Anderson enthuses about the franchises for the umpteenth
time, you're at least hearing it from a different interview to the last
time! The average bitrate for the extras is around 4.52 Mb/s, with the
sound presented at 192kbps.
All of the
featurettes, with the exception of the HBO special, ADI Workshop
featurette and nine minute Easter Egg, are shot in 16:9. Details of how to
find the Egg and what it is are at the end of this review. The featurettes
are split into each area of production as follows:
This featurette gives the background to the origins of the film, with
producer John Davis discussing the problems involved in getting the two
franchises signed up, and how Paul W.S. Anderson's pitch sold him on the
idea. Anderson and designer Richard Brigeland talk about the look and feel
of the film; the thinking behind the design of the pyramid; the timeline
of this film in relation to the others in the series; and so on.
Anderson's enthusiasm for the project is obvious here - he even paid for
the stunning conceptual paintings out of his own pocket - and one can't
help but feel a little sorry for him sometimes, bearing in mind the
panning the film received from most critics. Lots of storyboards,
paintings and set designs are shown in this featurette, along with a look
at some of the creature effects and weaponry at Tom Woodruff Jnr's
workshop. Which leads us nicely into....
ADI Workshop (7:02)
This shows the effects crew hard at work with animatronics, hydraulic
puppets, mask making, costume fittings and testing of the various
mechanical effects. The featurette is presented well, as Woodruff explains
what you're watching and why the decision was made to use a certain style
of effect for a scene, animatronic over CGI for example.
of these featurettes can be viewed as a continuous feature, using enhanced
viewing mode, which branches
sections of the two together. I found this didn't work too well on my main
player, as the branched sequences tended to end a couple of seconds
earlier than they should have done, chopping the ends off abruptly.
pre-production section is rounded off with a
which shows stills of the early artwork. The work of
three artists is featured here, and these can be viewed individually or
you can play them all. Storyboards are never my favourite extra on a DVD,
but if you like that kind of thing there's plenty here for you. The last
feature is an all too brief Concept
Art Gallery which covers
similar ground. I prefer concept art to storyboards, but there are just
twenty-nine images in this gallery, with some of the images shown in
Anderson's office in the Conception featurette present. Though not all,
of AvP (59:11)
Clocking in at just under an hour, this is the longest and most
interesting of the features on the disc. Packed with interviews and behind
the scenes footage, the viewer gets a real feel for the process of making
the film. Once again, the enthusiasm of the director, crew and most of the
cast is there for all to see and, although you often see enthusiasm in
featurettes such as this, it all rings true to this viewer. There is
plenty of behind the scenes footage in here, to please those who like the
technical aspects of film making, with a decent mix of interviews to keep
the featurette from becoming boring for the rest. The only thing missing
from this Making of... is an interview with Ian Whyte, the actor
who wore the Predator suit. In a couple of the featurettes and in the main
commentary track on the movie, we're told that Whyte is a huge fan of the
Predator films and watched them to match his movement with those of
the original Predator, to give a consistency of look to his performance.
It would have been nice to have heard from the man himself, but he is
absent from this feature and all of the other featurettes on the disc.
featurette shows how the whaling station model was built and destroyed for
the film. The so-called miniature was built in a huge space, and designer
and effects man Richard van den Bergh talks you through the destruction of
his painstakingly built model.
Facehuggers & Eggs (14:55)
setting up and shooting of a scene, including cocooning the actors, use of
hand puppets and also the famous drums of KY jelly - often talked about in
movie commentaries, but rarely seen! The featurette demonstrates perfectly
that an actor's life is not all glamour, particularly in a big budget
The Mouth of The Tunnel (3:47)
you're blowing up a set and put a mad German in charge of the
pyrotechnics, something is likely to go wrong. This short featurette
demonstrates the hazards of stunt and effects work.
As with the pre-production section, an enhanced viewing mode allows you to
branch the sections together into a continuous feature.
Visual Effects Breakdown (30:11)
comprehensive half-hour piece on effects, which puts across both points of
view concerning the effectiveness of CGI. I must admit that it was
refreshing to hear a director say that he prefers models to CGI. Although
AvP made use of computer effects, as much as possible was achieved
with models and animatronics. I found the sequences dealing with model
work more interesting than those where computers were in use, particularly
as the guys who do CG work always seem so pleased with themselves!
Whichever camp you are in, there's something here for you. There are
plenty of pre-viz sequences alongside the model work and the explanation
of the effects shots is never overly technical. Several aspects of the
film are covered here, from miniature helicopter descending to a miniature
ship (a shot Anderson admits to hating in the commentary track of the
movie) to the fight between Alien and Predator, which uses a combination
of techniques to good effect. The final effects breakdown uses a split
screen comparison for the final confrontation of the movie, with the rough
plate combined with pre-viz elements at the top and finished scene at the
bottom. A very interesting and informative featurette.
Deleted Scenes (8:41)
deleted scenes are simply extensions to existing scenes, or short
sequences removed for pacing reasons. There's nothing particularly
startling here and the opening sequence from the extended version of the
film is not included, which is a shame. You can see the extent of the
grading used on the final film here, however. The deleted scenes were not
de-saturated and the colours are quite vivid. All of the scenes come with
an optional commentary by Paul WS Anderson and Lance Henriksen. Oddly, the
deleted scenes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format.
Alien vs. Predator: The Comic Book
expect, this is a brief look at the comics and their influence on the
film. Starting off with the development of cross franchise ideas for DC
Comics and covering the birth of the Dark Horse series, with comparisons
to the film that followed.
Monsters In Miniature by Todd
nothing but a plug for McFarlane’s action figures. He talks a lot about
his company and bangs the drum for the quality of his merchandise, but I
found this featurette somewhat boring and unnecessary.
collection of short interviews and clips, but not too bad as far as these
HBO featurettes go. If you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all.
package is rounded off with a theatrical teaser (50sec) and theatrical
can be found in the pre-production section of the extras. Move the cursor
down to the ADI Workshop featurette and press right on the remote. A
facehugger should appear on the right side of the screen. Pressing 'enter'
on the remote selects the Egg, which runs for approximately nine minutes.
In this, Tom Woodruff Jnr talks to various members of the crew about his
work and career whilst they work...and ignore him completely. It's
supposed to be funny but it falls completely flat and there's nothing of
much interest here. Like most Easter Eggs, it's a watch once affair.
The disc features DVD-Rom bonus material,
which involves installing additional files and programs on your computer.
These include the pages of the first Alien vs Predator comic book;
a look at the creation of an AvP comic; a preview of the latest
AvP graphic novel; and links to the Dark Horse and official AvP
websites. This are PC-only features, but some of them can be persuaded to
work on a Mac with a bit of manual tweaking.
The film divided fans and critics: a
popular hit, but lambasted by the majority of reviewers. As a popcorn
movie, it's entertaining, and you get a lot of the title creatures for
As usual, Twentieth Century Fox Home
Entertainment have produced a packed two-disc set for one of their
blockbusters. And, as is becoming increasingly common, the Region 2 set
features a lot of material that's not on the US edition (which is a
single-disc release, with little more than the commentaries and a couple
of deleted scenes - Fox will probably double-dip with a more comprehensive
two-disc set later).
Alien vs Predator film review, by Lee Medcalf