Remember when the Bermuda Triangle was really big
in the 1970's? All those supposed planes and ships mysteriously vanishing
in one area of the ocean? As popular as it was, it was natural to
use that as a backdrop for science fiction and horror movies. And
use it they did. It seemed that you couldn't turn on the tube without
seeing a series or made-for-TV movie that was some how linked to the "Devil's
Triangle." Heck, even Steven Spielberg mentioned it in Close Encounters.
Today, of course, audience are much more sophisticated than that.
The Bermuda Triangle is passé. Now it takes something
like Area 51 and Roswell, NM to get audiences excited. At least that's
what movie writers think. If they are right, Alien Hunter
should be an interesting movie. Unfortunately, the writers are wrong.
Shot in Bulgaria on a limited budget, this made-for-cable
movie starts with a good hook, but quickly descends into a formulistic
movie filled with cliché characters and familiar plot devices, albeit
more than the average movie.
It starts off near Roswell NM in 1947. An
amateur radio enthusiast picks up a strange signal on his ham radio.
Piling his equipment into his jeep, he finds the source of the broadcast
in a glowing hole in the ground in the desert. As he approaches,
a white light shines down on him. He looks up, screams, and the screen
Flash forward to 2003. Julian Rome (James
Spader) is a cryptologist who is sent to Antarctica to aide some scientists.
These researchers, who are growing genetically altered corn in underground
farms, have dug up a block of ice that contains an object which is emitting
a powerful radio signal. He arrives just before a storm cuts off
all communication. The ice block melts to reveal what appears to
be an alien object. The scientists set about trying to open it to
find out what is inside.
Though it starts off well, this movie has a good
number of flaws. There are several plot holes that just never get
explained, which is bothersome. Foremost of these is why in the world
would you want to hydroponically grow corn in Antarctica??? It doesn't
make any sense. Why do some of the residents go around in heavy winter
coats while others (mostly female) wear skimpy revealing outfits?
And most importantly, why doesn't a single person on this scientific team
act like a scientist? When they see they see the alien object, their
first reaction is to cut it open with a buzz saw. Once opened, one
of the characters stabs the inside with a pointed stick. This is
This movie borrows from (or should I say pay homage
to) several SF movies from the past. The parallels to John
Carpenter's The Thing are hard to miss, trapped in Antarctica as
they are with an alien something, but the movie also has equal parts of
Abyss, and Andromeda Strain, among others. This pastiche
never achieves what the originals did. It just comes across as being
worn and old.
Another thing that bothers me about this movie
is the name. Alien Hunter? The movie isn't about hunting
aliens or about an alien that hunts. The name was chosen, possibly
before the plot had been thought out, simply because is sounded thrilling.
The characters in this film are all two dimensional
stereotypes. There's the love interest, the wise old man, the antagonist
who disagrees with the hero every step of the way, and the strong silent
guy. None of these charecters seem real in the least. The movie
is plot driven, and characterization was thrown out the window, unfortunately.
The actors are average at best. James Spader
plays basically the same character he played in Stargate: an intellectual
who was pushed aside by mainstream science because of his belief in aliens.
He did a much better in Stargate. In this movie he seemed like
he was going through the motions. He didn't add any feeling or emotion
to the part.
Carl Lewis (yes, the track star) does an acceptable
job as the Grisham, the Antarctic radio operator who first discovers the
alien signal. He supported the other actors well, and managed to
breath some life into his character. Ironically, he was not part
of the big chase scene near the end of the movie.
That is not to say that this movie has no redeeming
qualities. The setup is good, and the mystery of what is trapped
in the block of ice keeps your interest. There are a couple of suspenseful
scenes that work very well also. The special effects, while not state
of the art, look good and the director was wise enough not to overuse them.
A great job was done on the sets. They set up the right atmosphere
for the film.
In the end, it's a run of the mill science fiction
film, which isn't bad especially if you are a SF fan, as I am.
Kind of a strange menu. The main menu has
a moving collage of still photos from the movie. It looks nice.
The only words on the screen are "Play Movie." My
first thought was that there were no other options,
and that this was a bare DVD. Not so, the other options are invisible
until you cursor over to them. So you have to press buttons until
you happen to hit what you want. Rather annoying.
The movie has an English 5.1 mix and a French
2.0 track. (There is also a director's commentary track that is accessible
from the "Special Features" menu.) The audio effects that were used
worked really well. The explosions sounded good, and some of the
directional gunfire shots were startling. This DVD won't give your
system a real workout, but it has enough effects that you'll be happy you
have all those speakers.
Alien Hunter is presented in an anamorphic widescreen
transfer. There is not a pan and scan version on the disc, though
it was originally presented in full frame when this movie premiered on
the Sci-Fi Channel. The picture quality was not too bad overall.
The colors were bright, and the image crisp, but there was a slight grain
noticeable, especially in dark backgrounds. The black shadows were
not as black as they could be. In the CGI space scenes, the blackness
of outer space was spot on.
This disc is really loaded with extras.
First, there is a commentary by director Ron Krauss which wasn't to exciting.
Not the worst commentary I've heard, but it wasn't very insightful.
There were a lot of long pauses, and when he was talking he was often just
telling us what was on the screen. "This is the first time that we
see James Spader." Or, talking over a shot of a guy driving down
a highway, "This was an exterior shot." There are some interesting
nuggets of information about the movie, but they are few and far between.
Five deleted scenes with optional commentary are
included too. These all run one after another, and you can not select
which scene you want. At the end of the deleted scenes, there is
an alternate ending. The audio and video quality on these is much
lower than the rest of the movie, which is understandable.
Also included on the disc is a 16 minute making-of
documentary which was pretty good. Better than the average HBO making
of film, this did not have too much footage from the movie, and the cast
and crew had some interesting things to say. The sound on this
feature was uneven though, with some parts sounding louder than others.
In a few of the interviews the speaker's voice a little bit of an echo
sound. One warning: don't watch this before you see the movie.
It gives away some plot twists, and show the important parts of the ending.
A rather novel extra that was included was the
director's location scouting footage. When Ron Krauss went to Bulgaria
looking for places to film his movie, he took along a camcorder to record
some of the locations he found. The main problem with this ten minute
feature is that the camera work is horrible. It is very jerky, and
Ron doesn't keep the camera pointed at the structures he is interested
in long enough to see them. I can't imagine that he got much use
out of this footage. It reminds me of some of the worst parts of
The Blair Witch Project. It is interesting to compare this
short with the similar one on The Thing.
The story board comparison is nicely done.
Three scenes were compared. The story board art shown vertically
on the left. On the top right was the scene as it appeared in the
movie, and on the bottom right was the scene as it was shot, without the
special effects inserted.
Lastly there was a very nice photo gallery.
Just about all of the photos were of the conceptual drawings, the props,
and sets. They were arranged into six subcategories that made browsing
easy. One of the best sets of photo sets I've seen on a DVD.
Trailers for Bad Boys II, Charlie's Angels:
Full Throttle, and T3 are included to.
While there is a lot that is wrong with Alien
Hunter, it is not a horrible film. Yes, the acting is just mediocre,
and it is not tightly scripted. But it will offer an nice evening
of light entertainment. The extras are very extensive and add a lot
to the disc. I'd say its a good rental, and worth a purchase if you
are a science fiction fan.