The second "Alien vs. Predator" film is, like its predecessor, one very dark movie. Not psychologically dark; dark dark, as in, not very generously lighted.
The first film took place largely underground, in Antarctica. The new one, which opened Tuesday, first finds itself in the sewers of a Colorado town, where the title, um, characters are doing battle. And then, after the intergalactic struggle moves to the local power plant, the electricity for the whole region is knocked out. Bring your night-vision goggles to this one.
You might wonder if the shadowiness is a subtle admission of shame: "We don't want anyone looking too closely at this thing." But "Requiem," as the new film is subtitled, has nothing to be ashamed of. It may not be classic sci-fi like the original "Alien," which it has in its DNA, but it's a perfectly respectable next step in the series.
Reiko Aylesworth from "24" and Steven Pasquale from "Rescue Me" provide some acting cred as two residents of a small town in which a spaceship crash-lands. The film doesn't seem interested in drawing any new fans to the series, because it doesn't bother to provide any back story, but here's the gist of it: The predators from the "Predator" films hunt the aliens of the "Alien" films, using Earth as a sort of practice range because the aliens breed inside humans.
The first film ended with a new wrinkle: An alien bred inside a dead predator. As "Requiem" opens, the hybrid hatches aboard a predator space ship, all heck breaks loose, and the crash-landing is the result.
Another predator is dispatched to Earth to track down the aliens, which have escaped from the crashed ship and are busily suction-cupping onto the faces of every Coloradoan in sight.
Greg and Colin Strause, the directors, and Shane Salerno, the screenwriter, give the humans in the story much more attention than they received in the first film, which makes for a far more watchable movie. The story is fairly generic try-to-get-away stuff, but it's decently rendered. There are a couple of classic horror-film bits in among the sci-fi oh, you young people, don't you know that skinny dipping attracts malevolent creatures? and even one pretty funny joke.
There is also a nice life-or-death choice for the survivors: go await a promised airlift, or go with the resourceful Aylesworth to look for a helicopter? Robert Joy is a perfect low-key villain in military guise.
"Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for violence, gore and salty language. Running time: 86 minutes.