Region 2 Edition reviewed by Tim Symonds

Director:  Paul W.S. Anderson

Featuring:  Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner


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.



AvP 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....

The film 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.

Menus for 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 the record).

Presented 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 eleven.

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.


Disc One

The 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.

The 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 Two

The extras 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:


Conception (25:33)
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.

Both 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.

The pre-production section is rounded off with a Storyboard Gallery, 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, sadly.


The Making 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.

Miniature Whaling Station (6:53)

This 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)

The 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 sci-fi film!


Trouble At The Mouth of The Tunnel (3:47)

When 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)

A 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)

The 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.

Licensing The Franchise

Alien vs. Predator: The Comic Book (11:26)

As you'd 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 McFarlane (13:32)

This is 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.


HBO Special (13:02)

The usual 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.

The extras package is rounded off with a theatrical teaser (50sec) and theatrical trailer (1:55)

Easter Egg

The Egg 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 your dollar.

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).


Link: Zeta Minor Alien vs Predator film review, by Lee Medcalf












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