Alien Vs Predator

Alien Vs Predator

***

Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Even though this crossover franchise has existed for more than 10 years, through many different forms of media - arcade game, comicbook, video games, card game, toys, multiple web sites - Twentieth Century Fox still manages to screw up the film in every conceivable way.

First of all, they hired long time hack Paul Anderson to direct. This is a man who seems to be going from rookie director to "has been" without ever knowing fame. He's churned out more duds than a Lada factory and constantly blames the poor end results on studio interference.

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Paul, that excuse is becoming very old, very fast.

The dude turned down Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Mortal Kombat 3 to direct this. I'm really wishing he hadn't. Then we could have had someone worthy helming this project. Having Anderson direct AVP is like losing your virginity to a five dollar hooker. It should be something special, but ends up being something you'd rather forget.

Second of all, they make it a kiddie's movie, with sanitised violence and cuddly Predators. What the?!?! Come on! The Predator is so hard he's allowed to wear a fishnet body stocking and still be tough. How many Rambos, Bonds and superheroes can say that about themselves?

With these two utterly fatal flaws, the AVP movie plays like a live action version of an AVP Saturday morning animated show from the Eighties. Fans across the world will be disappointed. Intelligent folk, like the Gator, can only be thankful that the success of this film will probably result in an Alien 5 or Predator 3.

Anderson and Co go about breaking as many franchise rules as they can. Remember how the Predators are drawn to earth in areas of extreme heat and conflict? Like the guerrilla warfare in the South American jungle, or bullet-riddled streets of heatwave L.A? Well, who the hell would have known they'd go to bloody Antarctica for a hunt with the aliens. A dumb, ignorant idea. And why, oh why, are the aliens born within mere minutes of the hosts being impregnated? Why do they grow to full size so quick? Why does one Predator choose to kill a human without honour?

So get this, the pyramids were designed by Predators and built by humans. Many, many, MANY moons ago, they worked together to build a comfortable civilisation. In return, all the Preds wanted was a couple of human sacrifices (hosts for aliens). A fascinating addition to the mythology, indeed!

If only it were in more capable hands. And the way this narrative manifests itself within the film is direct plagiarism of a key scene in H P Lovecraft's At The Mountains Of Madness. And with all the rip offs and homages, there are still many plot holes scattered around. Far too often the audience is left to think up explanations for themselves.

It does do a good job of tying both franchises together, coming after Predator 2, but before Alien. I was annoyed at no mention, however slight, of Dutch, or Lieutenant Harrigan. Surely, after the last rampage in LA, the Predator would have been something of an urban legend.

The story begins with a Weyland/Yutani satellite picking up a heat bloom on a remote island in Antarctica. Thermal scanning indicates a pyramid 2000 feet under the ice that pre-dates any known civilisation. Charles Bishop Weyland (that's Lance Henrikson, folks) assembles a team of scientists and mercenaries to discover said pyramid before anyone else. And in doing so they unwittingly walk right into a battleground. Or, at least, they should have. I swear, there must have been about two minutes of actual fighting between the creatures - none of it exciting or, strangely, relevant to the scene. The title ends up being, mostly, a lie.

But less of what is bad and more of what is good. For a hack director, Anderson still manages to milk as much atmosphere from his elaborate sets as possible. The whaling station and Predator ships are very, very cool indeed. And for a film with long periods of quiet, with no dialogue, a strong sense of visual storytelling is absolutely necessary. This is where Anderson's meagre talent pays off best. It's when dunderheaded characters open their stupid mouths and talk crap that the film fails most.

Both Alien and Predator movies have one key thing in common, a constant, almost oppressive, sense of dread. This is the main thing AVP lacks. It does make up for it by having enough mystery and discovery. The characters just don't know they are in trouble until they're dead. It feels more like a Friday The 13th picture, with a lumbering, clumsy, cumbersome Predator instead of a Jason. And how friggin' incompetent are they at killing these aliens, anyway? You thought the colonial marines were bad?

However tedious and childish the film is, I'm all for more of the Alien and Predator. Anything that gives us insight into the creatures' history is fine by me. Here we get a left-handed Pred. Wow! In fact, the Predator can stand there reading the Bible for a couple of hours and I'd like it. But when so many years and incarnations of this crossover have come and gone, you know you've been screwed when the studio churns out a castrated, family-friendly movie like this, hoping to cash in on the appeal of the video games (never a good inspiration for a film) rather than a proper grown-up movie that honours both franchises with an orgy of heavy duty gore and violence.

Even after the release of AVP, REAL fans of the series will have to turn back to the comic books to get their kicks and hope that when the inevitable sequel comes out, Anderson is not in the director's chair.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2004
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Alien vs Predator, with man in the middle.
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Read more Alien Vs Predator reviews:

Keith Hennessey Brown ***
Jennie Kermode **
David Haviland **
Scott Macdonald *1/2

Director: Paul W S Anderson

Writer: Paul W S Anderson, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Schusset

Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe De La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard, Sam Troughton, Petr Jákl

Year: 2004

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Czech Republic / Canada / Germany / USA

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If you like this, try:

Alien
Aliens
Predator
Predator 2