2007’s Alien Vs Predator: Requiem was a low point for both franchises according to fans and critics, but how did the dud manage to mess up both the iconic Alien and Predator? Beginning with the legendary “haunted house in space” sci-fi horror Alien in 1979, the Alien franchise soon expanded from that sparse Ridley Scott effort into the larger-scale James Cameron-helmed sequel Aliens in 1986. After a solid start, the Alien series trailed off into less impressive territory with the much-delayed, eventually disowned Alien 3 and the less awful, but even less interesting, Alien: Resurrection in 1997.
Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger took to the jungle to face off against the Predator in the 1987 sci-fi adventure thriller of the same name. The Terminator actor didn’t return for the blockbuster’s 1990 sequel Predator 2, but this futuristic follow-up took the action out of the jungle and into the concrete jungle of LA for more gory human-hunting. Although the Predator movies featured plenty of violence, the franchise wasn’t focused on body horror the way Alien was, and although the Alien movies featured plenty of suspenseful sequences, only Cameron’s Aliens could be called a full-blown action movie.
With similar but distinct tones, it was clear that the action-adventure-focused Predator franchise could pair perfectly with the darker, more horror-oriented Alien movies. Fans were desperate to see a Freddy Vs Jason style face-off between the sci-fi icons, and only a year after those famous slashers finally had their cinematic showdown, Alien Vs Predator was released. The film was a sanitized disappointment for many fans, and although Alien Vs Predator has its defenders, the consensus was that both movie monsters deserved more gore and a more engaging story. So when Alien Vs Predator: Requiem arrived in 2007, offering a hard-R take on the material, fans were understandably excited for the do-over. However, while the sequel may have added an R-rating and more gore after the anodyne 2004 original, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem earned even more ire from fans and critics. So how did the movie manage to screw up both Predator and Alien?
A major criticism of the original Alien Vs Predator is that the movie teased the existence of a Predalien hybrid, only to fail to depict the monster until the movie’s closing moments. It’s one of the hardest things to defend about Paul WS Anderson’s otherwise-underrated Alien Vs Predator, as the match-up movie would have been better off ignoring the existence of an Alien-Predator hybrid entirely instead of shoehorning in an offhand acknowledgment that the monster exists in the last few seconds of the film. However, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem made the strange decision seem understandable when the sequel’s Predalien was the biggest design disappointment of the franchise since Alien: Resurrection’s Newborn.
Graceless and lumbering, the monster was oversized and under-utilized, looking like a combination of the aforementioned Newborn and the Alien Queen. The Predalien suffered from inevitable backlash after how heavily hyped the Xenomorph-redefining monster was, but with only a few scenes of its own to shine in, there’s no knowing if less anticipation would have led to better fan reception for the creature. In fairness, the Predalien’s killer tail is a sharp twist on the existing Xenomorph design, but a more lithe and less bulky monster would have made for a more threatening and less clumsily realized antagonist.
After the bloodless, PG-13 Alien Vs Predator defanged both titular monsters and Event Horizon director Paul WS Anderson, the last complaint that fans expected to have about Alien Vs Predator: Requiem was that the movie was too gory. But the opening scene’s murder of a small kid, the eventual attack on a maternity ward, and finally the closing scene wherein much of the movie’s setting is nuked into oblivion meant that there were few stakes for Alien Vs Predator: Requiem. While it may be fun to see some bullies offed shortly after they are introduced a few sudden deaths may be shockingly effective (such as the brief role of one True Blood star) the vicious slaughter of local homeless people shortly before this scene makes it clear long before the bleak coda that most of the cast are doomed to a nasty end.
Both the male deuteragonist, Ricky, and his barely sketched love interest Jesse are killed off to no fanfare in rapid succession near the end of Alien Vs Predator: Requiem – assuming Ricky does succumb to his pretty massive injuries – thus leaving viewers with few characters to care about, let alone root for. The scene spent establishing their mutual attraction could be a darkly funny misdirect if the sequel were aiming for subversive black comedy like James Gunn’s Slither, but instead, many felt Alien Vs Predator: Requiem was just too invested in throwing in another violent death to care which characters ended up killed off.
The most embarrassingly avoidable of the movie’s issues, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem’s low lighting is nonetheless a major problem for the film. Viewers literally couldn’t make out large stretches of the gloomy action, a problem that few big-budget movies have to contend with but one which doomed this one to becoming the worst entry in either franchise. It’s a bizarre issue that may have contributed to the shaky-cam aesthetic that was massively popular in the late ’00s going out of fashion, as the style lent itself to bright daytime action sequences in the Bourne and Bond franchises far better than the already murky, dark environs of horror. The style remained in use by some (equally critically reviled) Platinum Dunes action horror movies but was phased out by the end of the 00’s to make way for a cleaner, more fluid style of camerawork epitomized in Mike Flanagan’s popular genre output.
Alas, this development came far too late for the impossible-to-watch Alien Vs Predator: Requiem, whose excessive gore, hopelessly bleak body count, and uninteresting Predalien design could all likely have been excused if fans could have seen what was happening on screen. Instead, the Alien and Predator franchises both received what remains their lowest-rated entry and the hopes of another face-off between them were dashed for years to come.