Gory but uninspired sci-fi action mixes with dull human drama in Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, a sloppy follow-up to the summer 2004 hit that first pitted Fox's two iconic space monsters against each other on the big screen. While fans of the contemporary Alien vs Predator comic books and videogames should ensure AVPR (as the clunky title is being abbreviated) an initial theatrical audience, older moviegoers who remember much classier early instalments of the two separate franchises will be very hard to pull in.
Looking to counter-programme to bored fanboys over the holiday period, Fox opened the film wide in North America on December 25, slotting it in between the still strong I Am Legend and mid-January opener Cloverfield.
The R rating will be both a hurdle and an enticement for young genre afficionados (the 2004 film was PG-13) and matching the $80.3m domestic gross of the original AVP will be difficult.
The international rollout begins in a few major territories during the holiday period and continues into January. An international take close to the domestic figure - AVP ended up with $91m outside North America - is more likely than the kind of international windfall achieved by the last two Alien instalments.
Technically not a sequel to the first franchise face-off, AVPR is supposedly set after the events of 1990's Predator 2 and before those of 1979's Alien.
The script, by Shaft remake writer Shane Salerno, introduces new creature the Predalien, an 80% Alien, 20% Predator cross that appears to have inherited the nastiest attributes of each creature.
When a Predator ship carrying them crashes on Earth, the Predalien and a gaggle of Alien face-huggers go looking for human incubators among the unsuspecting people of Colorado mountain town Gunnison. The crash attracts the attention of a Predator 'cleaner' who flies into Gunnison to round up the uninvited visitors.
Non-fanboys who are unfamiliar with the franchise's other incarnations (or who have not read the press material) will have little clue who's who and what each creature is really after.
And even fanboys may be less than wowed by the way Colin and Greg Strause, the special effects experts (300, X-Men: The Last Stand) making their feature directing debuts, stage the monster action.
The brothers include some of the creatures' classic moves - including a number of chest eruptions as infant Aliens burst out into the world - but they add nothing inventive as the ET tussle spreads through the town's sewers and buildings and eventually into its streets.
The human side of the story is even less inspiring. Early on, the film introduces a slew of plot threads involving the people of Gunnison: there's good natured sheriff Morales (Ortiz, from American Gangster); ex-con Dallas (Pasquale, from TV's Rescue Me) and his estranged younger brother Ricky (Lewis); returning Iraq vet Kelly (Aylesworth, from TV's 24) and her family; and sexy high schooler Jesse (Hager, from I'm Not There).
But with its hackneyed dialogue and flat performances the human tale never comes to life.
And most of the plot threads are left dangling as the townsfolk band together in a desperate bid to evade the monsters and escape to safety.
The human characters never learn anything about the invaders or mount a counter attack and in the end they serve only to add a gratuitous element of human interest.
The Brothers Strause
20th Century Fox (US)
Davis Entertainment Company (US)
Dune Entertainment (US)
20th Century Fox
Daniel C Pearl
Tom Woodruff, Jr