20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Deleted Footage, Documentaries, Featurettes, Still Galleries
I would like to put to rest wether or not you liked "Alien vs. Predator" or loathed it. If you loathed it, chances are you won't be reading this review in the first place, so let's move on so I may give my thoughts on the new "Unrated Edition" that has recently hit store shelves.
Having enjoyed "Alien vs. Predator" in the theater and purchasing the first release of this film on DVD, I was genuinely interested when I heard of an "Unrated Edition" becoming available. After seeing the original presentation, I always felt that there was a little more that could have been added to the final cut of the film, which is why I jumped at the chance to review this re-release of "Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition" on DVD.
"Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition" boasts an additional 8 minutes of footage that has been reedited back into the films final presentation. Will this 8 minutes offer a complete new vision that might possibly win over more fans, especially those who were thoroughly disappointed with the theatrical version? I somehow doubt it. I did discover that the added scenes do enhance the story, ever so slightly, but the footage does manage to polish the film as a whole. You simply can't deny the fact that fans of these two franchises were a little pissed off when "Alien vs. Predator" hit theaters with a weak PG-13 rating, I mean come on, we have Predators stalking Aliens and doing full out battle on one another and all we see are splatters of blood and off-screen sounds that "leave the gore to the imagination." This style may work with other films, but fans wanted to see these two alien species duke it out with every gory visual detail and that's not asking a whole lot. Had this film been released into theaters with an R rating, it would have kept some of the younger viewers away; possibly causing the studio to chance some of its potential box office take, and we know that studios don't like to gamble with their bottom line, period.
I also believe that, had "Alien vs. Predator" gone into theaters with a full blown R rated presentation, Twentieth Century Fox could have easily done the same numbers as the PG-13 presentation, simply by tapping into the large fan base that comes from both the Alien and the Predator franchises. Studios have to learn that they simply cannot be everything to everyone by catering to this trend of offering a PG-13 presentation to "cover all bases." This trend must stop and it must stop now.
With a timeline that begins shortly after the Predator films and 150 years before the setting of the first Alien film, "Alien vs. Predator" acts as a kind of bridge between the two once separated franchises, attempting to build one complete saga.
I have to agree with Director Paul W.S. Anderson's analogy of "Alien vs. Predator". He states that his vision is meant to build suspense quite like the first two Alien films and the first Predator film, where the first 45 minutes or so of the presentation strictly focuses on story and character development, helping the viewer to establish a feeling for the characters and their plight, before allowing all hell to break loose with the ensuing battle between the Aliens and Predators, with the human characters caught up in the hostility. For me, I thoroughly admired this approach, that way you are forced to anticipate the coming onslaught, instead of becoming immune to it prior to the film properly establishing itself.
After the discovery of an ancient pyramid buried deep within the continent of Antarctica, ailing billionaire entrepreneur Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) sets out to explore his company's latest finding in a last ditch attempt as his final legacy. Assembling a team of scientists and explorers to join him on his adventure, the journey leads the team straight into the middle of an ensuing battle that takes place every hundred years between two alien races.
This "Unrated Edition" release of "Alien vs. Predator" is nothing short of reference quality material. Once again, Twentieth Century Fox proves that they are definitely a leader when it comes to transferring and presenting their films on the DVD format. Color saturation captures every detail from the yellow-green tones of the acidic blood oozing from a wounded Alien to the fully balanced naturally appearing flesh tones. Rich black levels produce gorgeous detail that displays every fine point of the intricate sets used throughout the film, while maintaining good contrast with the white balance, highlighting the harshness of the arctic landscape during complex evening shots. I found no distracting dust particles or compression artifacts, just a clean and crisp image that is sure to please.
You will also discover pure enjoyment within the sound department as well, where you have your choice of either a dts or Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Both tracks offer smooth deep bass and great sound dispersion, leaving your home theater area filled with a rich enveloping surround experience. Vocals are reproduced to appear natural at all times, maintaining even levels during scenes containing the gargling roars from stalking Predators and the hissing of Aliens that never leaves you scrambling for the remote to catch any missed dialogue. The overall sound presentations remain on par with the visuals, contributing to my recommendation that "Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition" is nothing short of a top-tier exhibition.
Some irresistible special features are included in this two-disc set for fans' total enjoyment. Starting with two full-length audio commentaries to complement the feature presentation on disc one. The first contains contributions from Director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan. The second audio commentary features Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno and Creature Effects Designers/Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., sadly, the audio commentaries are only available with your selection of the theatrical version and not the unrated version. Upon choosing the unrated cut of the film, you are given the option of selecting an "Added Footage Marker" that will display a tiny "Swirling Alien" icon on-screen to notify you when the new footage is present. There is also the option of viewing the 8 minutes of newly added material completely separate from the films presentation, nicely edited in sequential order.
The second disc, which is dedicated to the bulk of the special features, is separated into five main categories; "Pre-Production", "Production", "Post-Production", "Licensing the Franchise" and "Marketing".
The "Pre-Production" section offers the documentary "AVP the Beginning" that gives you the option of viewing with a branching feature to more in-depth information on the pre-production of the film. With in-depth discussions on creating "Alien vs. Predator", a film that combines two hugely successful franchises into one, with the years involved to gather acceptance from the vast amount of producers that have been involved with all of these individual films over the years. For history on what it took to bring "Alien vs. Predator" to life, I highly recommend giving this documentary a viewing. "ADI Workshop" is a smaller segment that shows some of the unpolished costumes and animatronics going through their early phases of testing. A cool "Storyboard Gallery" and "Concept Art" area is also added to this portion of the special features.
Leaping over to the "Production" section, you are presented with a one hour documentary simply titled "AVP Production", which again allows you to utilize a branching feature to gain access to even more behind-the-scenes material. Being completely honest here, I found this documentary to be one of the better behind-the-scenes presentations that I have seen to date. Some of the highlights include Director Paul W.S. Anderson's decision to shoot the film in Prague for the skilled set builders and cold winter settings that easily doubled for the harshness of the films actual setting of Antarctica. You will also learn why Fox easily gave the green light to Anderson's vision over other writers. This is due to the fact that Anderson's story offered something a little different to both franchises, with the main setting being Antarctica, and not set entirely in space, like most of the script proposals put forth by other writers vying for the project. Also found in the "Production" section is three shorter featurettes, one focusing on the "Miniature Whaling Station", another on the "Facehuggers and Eggs" and the third exploring the sequence of "Trouble at the Mouth of the Tunnel". All three offer a good look at the productions, with explanations of why the creators chose to shoot with 1/3 scale miniatures, rather than full CG sequences.
"Post Production" includes a featurette titled "Visual Effects Breakdown", where Visual Effects Supervisor John Bruno (Titanic, Terminator 2, The Abyss) expresses his distaste for fully CG sequences, instead choosing to produce practical visual effects 90% of the time, then only finessing the visual effect with CG, thereby producing a better feel, texture and tone that translate more depth in the final product. I find it truly inspiring and impressive to see a real visionary, like John Bruno, still producing awesome results with traditional effects, especially in a time in filmmaking where CG is often overused a little too much. This featurette also comes with the option to view with or without an audio commentary.
There is the offering of three smaller deleted scenes, with a total running time of 1 minute and 56 seconds. The footage is good, but doesn't really add much to the story and you quickly understand why they are available under the "Deleted Scenes" section.
A cool section titled "Licensing the Franchise" presents the featurette "Alien vs. Predator: The Comic Book" that offers input from the creators of the Dark Horse Comic Book, which is based on these two franchises. "Monsters in Miniature: By Todd McFarlane" is totally cool, to say the least. If you are like myself and collect figures from McFarlane Toys, you will truly appreciate this intimate interview and behind-the-scenes look at the production of McFarlane Toys "Alien vs. Predator" action figure line.
The fifth and final section titled "Marketing" includes an "HBO Special Featurette", which is pretty much standard fare, using interviews mixed with footage from the film's trailer. I thought that the inclusion of this featurette was kind of useless, considering that this two-disc set offers up some really great documentaries and featurettes already. Rounding out the extensive special features included on the second disc are three theatrical trailers for "Alien vs. Predator", a trailer for the "Alien Quadrilogy" DVD box set as well as a trailer for "Planet of the Apes: 35th Anniversary" two-disc DVD release.
For those that don't own the previous "Alien vs. Predator" DVD and are thinking about picking it up, I can easily recommend this two-disc set as an alternative choice. For fans that own the previous DVD and want the added scenes and tremendously informative documentaries and featurettes that this new release has to offer, I can strongly recommend this two-disc DVD set as an upgrade. With the trend to offer an ever increasing "Special Edition" banner to re-sell the same film to fans of a particular film over and over, without any real "new" content, I don't believe that "Alien vs. Predator" falls into that re-hash category.
The marketing of this "Unrated Edition" boasts "more violence, more action, and more intense battles", which is really only a minor part of the equation. "Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition" presents additional footage that actually enhances the overall story, instead of just glorifying the gore and violence, with reference quality picture and sound that's paired with a plentitude of behind-the-scenes goodies, "Alien vs. Predator: The Unrated Edition" two-disc DVD set comes with my highest endorsement.