Published on August 15th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Alien vs. Predator
Warning this review may contain material some readers might find objectionable.
With the recent surge in both comic book movies and films that pair up two franchises against each other (a la Freddy vs. Jason) it seems only right that someone would finally realize that there was one untapped “vs.” match-up that is also a comic book/video game franchise. With all that going for it, it would be impossible to screw up, right?
Unfortunately, for the viewer, watching Alien vs. Predator is like being bent over a chair by director Paul W.S. Anderson and being violated with nothing more than the Alien-creature’s searing, acid blood as lubrication. The film is such a mess one must wonder if FOX knew what was going on during the movie’s production and if they actually knew that two of their greatest franchises, with so much established canon, and potential, would be going down the virtual crapper faster than you can say “dollar signs.”
The fact that the movie wasn’t screened for critics during the week of its release was the first indication that something was wrong. Usually, for those who are unfamiliar with the premise, a film is screened for “professional” critics a few days in advance of its release in order to build up buzz for the film. When a movie isn’t screened the studio usually knows something is wrong and declines to hold a screening hoping to stem the negative buzz before it hits the streets.
Alien vs. Predator, as a film catering to fans of both franchises, doesn’t need critical approval for the movie to be accepted and viewed. Maybe that is the most troubling actuality for me. The fact that people will be endlessly viewing the film hoping that they are finally going to get the ultimate showdown between two of the coolest characters in sci-fi history. Half-way through the film it won’t be uncommon to check to make sure the director isn’t behind you, waiting for you to get up. Even if Paul W.S. Anderson isn’t back there, perhaps the FOX studio execs are, waiting for their opportunity to shovel this crap down the throats of unsuspecting movie-goers.
Those looking to see a film that capitalizes on the strengths of both franchises are due to be very disappointed. Coming in with the cop-out, and crippling, PG-13 rating, AVP lacks the violence of its predecessors and aside from a few in-jokes here and there, you never get the feeling that this film is anything more than a marketing measure gone horribly wrong than an actual film in either series. Granted, the premise of the film isn’t too bad, although a great majority of the comic’s fans, including myself, was hoping for the film to be set in the future allowing for the two alien creations to go up-against the lovable space marines from James Cameron’s excellent Aliens. The prequel aspect took out the enduring quality of the Alien series, Ripley, a hero identified as one of the top 50 ever, and left us with a tough rock-climbing chick (Sanaa Lathan).
Instead of Ripley to tie the movies together, we get the equally cool Bishop in the form of the founder of the once-nameless Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen). Weyland who finds a temple constructed under Antarctica. Striving forward, in the capitalist definition of the word, the corporate headpiece brings together a rag-tag group of drillers, explorers, and archaeological experts to travel to the temple, and see what lies within.
It just so happens that a clan of Predators use that temple to train their youngsters and allow them to become full-fledge hunters in a coming-of-age hunt that rewards them with their shoulder-blasters. Imagine how surprised the humans are when they stumble upon the sacrificial chamber used to impregnate host with alien embryos. This is where things take a turn for the worse. As we saw in Alien, the gestation period for the embryo is hours, if not a better part of a day, but in AVP, it takes all but five minutes for the alien to “bust-out” onto the scene and begin to cause havoc. This is just one of the glaring inconsistencies with the series including established canon that goes back to the very first film in the series. The movie seems to rely on the Alien back-story more than the Predator one. Why do I say this? The fact that no one seems to remember anything that happen in the previous two Predator films (acres of jungle being blown to kingdom-come and a giant explosion under a major US city), even though they would have happened in the past if this film takes place in 2004. Even the Predator series’ most revered joke (“You’re one ugly mother…”) is misplaced in this film, when they utter it towards the wrong species!
There were times during the movie when I wished for a blunt instrument to jam into my eye and see if I was more entertained. The stylistic camera motions used by Anderson exhibit his need for a Steadicam more than a sense of style. The head to head battles, between the two title characters, are very hard to follow when the camera seems to jump all over the place, making it hard to understand what is going on. Towards the end, things become even more ludicrous as a sort-of-Charlie’s-Angels-like motif sets in including the prerequisite slow-motion run in front a wall of fire and Jurassic Park-rip-off ending sequence. Even the “ha-we-got-you” ending is rendered futile if you examine the previous films in the series and realize that it could never happen.
Alien vs. Predator is yet another failed sequel and a huge disappointment for the people who support those sequels, the core fans of the series. Instead of a fight to the death or even FOX’s marketing ploy of “whoever wins…we lose” we get a tame version of a film that had so much success in other mediums it should have been a no-brainer to bring it to big screen in style. In the long run, maybe it is better this movie has been made so in 30 years, when Hollywood completely runs out of ideas again, they can remake it and know what not to do. Here’s hoping things look better in 2034 and the grocery store isn’t out of ointment.