Why Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem Is So Dark (Literally)

On paper, "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" sounds like a fun, interesting movie. Two giants of the sci-fi horror world coming together to fight in a small suburban town full of victims? Sounds sick. Unfortunately, the 2007 movie wasn't exactly what many fans and critics were expecting from a concept like that, resulting in a critical and commercial flop that still has a 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

There's a good reason why people didn't like what they got after being promised a suburban alien clash: A lot of those clashes couldn't actually be seen very easily. "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" is a movie that has been lambasted for how poorly lit it is, with many critical scenes and fights playing out in near-total darkness. Seriously: If you're wanting to watch the movie, you better expect to turn up your television's settings beforehand.

What many people might not realize is that the film's infamous darkness is a result of many different factors, including a smaller budget and a pair of first-time feature film directors who purposefully wanted to keep the creatures out of the spotlight.

'They're going to look like guys in suits'

"Requiem" had a smaller budget than its predecessor, "Alien vs. Predator." This follow-up cost around $40 million to make, whereas the first movie cost between $60 to 70 million. An exact reason why the budget was reduced hasn't ever been made public, but it is a significant cut for a movie that features intricate alien suits and gore. 

Greg and Colin Strause, known professionally as The Brothers Strause, were chosen to direct the movie as their debut, having only done short films and music videos up to that point. Needless to say, working on this particular movie as their debut proved challenging, as seen in how they handled shooting the scenes with the Predator and Predalien actors. In an interview with Collider, the duo described the importance of being able to keep the creatures bathed in shadows.

"One of the first things in our pitch we said the movie's got to take place and power's going get knocked out and it's got to be raining the whole last night," Colin explained. "Seeing an Alien in broad daylight or just plain view is going to look stupid no matter what you do. The reason it worked in all the other movies is you were in a dark spaceship, you had flashing blinking lights, steam jets. You had all these great elements to cover them up, basically, and if you don't do that, they're going to look like guys in suits."

On one hand, this logic makes a certain amount of sense. But while the movie was always intended to look dark, the Strause brothers ended up teetering too far in the wrong direction, leaving a muddled mess in their wake.

'Is a normal person watching the movie going to be able to tell the difference?'

Audiences weren't the only ones frustrated by that approach — even some of the crew members were annoyed with not being able to see enough on set. As seen in a behind-the-scenes clip from the movie that circulated in 2016, cinematographer Daniel Pearl was seen getting frustrated trying to shoot a scene because he couldn't get it "bright enough." 

Despite the crew's difficulty in capturing the action of the film, the directors maintained that the darkness was a creative choice rather than a logistical one. 

"One of the trickier things, too, was it's one thing when you've got like all the geeky fans who know everything watch the movie. They go, 'Oh, I know that's obviously a warrior alien, I know that's the Predalien,'" continued Colin. "The biggest issue we had with the design is, because we're going so dark with the movie and there's a lot of rain and atmosphere and everything, is a normal person watching the movie going to be able to tell the difference?"

Perhaps that's ultimately the problem with the film's lighting: It's an attempt to appeal to both the casual and hardcore fans. While it is important to keep things suspenseful for viewers, it's also important to (to some degree) give people what they came for. Blanketing the movie in darkness to increase tension might seem like a way to satisfy all audiences, but it ended up doing the exact opposite. The brothers' intentions were understandable, but the lighting of "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" ended up failing both franchises at its center, as well as the people who sat down and expected an epic — and visible — clash of titans.