AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) / Action-Horror

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, gore, and language (how the hell this isn't rated R is beyond me!)
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremmer, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agethe De La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Review published March 20, 2007

The tagline for Alien vs. Predator is, "Whoever wins...We lose." Truer words have never been spoken, in what ends up being arguably the weakest entry in either of the popular science fiction series (and that's saying quite a bit). The idea for this movie has been a long time coming to fruition, first starting off as a popular comic book by Dark Horse back in the early 90s, then a video game, ultimately kicked around at 20th Century Fox for several years, finally green-lighted, one can only presume, due to the success of Freddy vs. Jason.  In theory, it's an interesting idea, but what might look good on paper doesn't always have the same weight when given a big budget theatrical release, and if there's one thing AvP is not, it's weighty. 

This is about as thin a plot as any film has a right to be, with one of the most ridiculous stories one could have chosen to contrive a meeting between the two villains of both franchises.  Lance Henriksen (The Terminator, Aliens) is the only actor from one of the other films to make an appearance, not as the android known as Bishop, but rather as Charles Weyland, one of the founders of the corporation from the Alien films (presumably the class of androids that comprised of Bishop was based on the looks and sounds of Weyland).  Here he leads an expedition to Antarctica to investigate a large pyramid under the ice that is believed to be the first on Earth, and the inspiration for those built in Egypt, Mexico and Cambodia.  The way is fraught with peril, but if there's any as perilous as the Predators who have also come for their 100 year investigation, its the reawakening of the dormant Aliens within the sacrificial chambers deep within the pyramid structure.  Yes, it seems that the Predators have spent centuries honing their skills by breeding Aliens with humans to form a "super prey" that they can be proud to hunt, in some sort of convoluted rite of passage...and...and I have to stop because I CAN'T TYPE ANY OF THIS WITHOUT LAUGHING!

Basically, it's a sequel to the Predator series and a prequel to the Alien series, and so out of context, it's non-canon to both.  One thing is abundantly clear -- Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Soldier) is not the guy to put in charge if you want to resurrect either franchise.  He may have cut his teeth in sci-fi action vehicles, but they have not been very impressive thus far.  All he has chosen to do with his combo flick is to dish out an amalgamation of all of the films in both series and cram as many of the most memorable confrontations within the structure of his thinly defined story as he could.  Unfortunately, it's a dismal and excessively dark experience, which might have worked if there were more comic relief involved, but this one is just another excuse to show countless nonsensical melees combined with copious amounts of gore. 

Let's face it, neither franchise left us on a high note, with Predator 2 and Alien Resurrection making most people leery about the prospect of seeing any more damage done to two of the more interesting sci-fi/horror concepts of the last 25 years.  What made the only good films in either series work was the fear of the unknown, utilizing atmosphere and surprise to achieve all of the terrorization.  AvP suffers because we've seen all there is to see -- chest-rippers, egg-hatchings, giant Queens, Predator's ugly mugs, acidic blood, carnivorous teeth, and decapitations.  Every single attempt at a scary moment in this film comes from ground that's already covered, except for the main event of a Predator taking on an Alien.  Sorry, but that confrontation alone does not a movie make, without anything else to pin their cap on, this project collapses from thinly constructed ideas and a generous dose of implausibility.

My expectations were fairly low coming in to this, and I can't really say it disappointed me -- it was as crappy as expected.  It's a big budget resurrection of drive-in theater fare -- junk food cinema that can only be appreciated by unabashed fan-boys looking for wanton carnage and a few good yuks.  Every scene is shot as dark as can be and still be able to see.  I say, it needs to be 100% darker to satisfy me fully. 

Both franchises were born from inspired ideas, solid direction, and engaging actors, but further chapters in both series turned out to be duds, and years of dormancy resulted.  No tension, no dread, no excitement, no signs of life at all.  Alien vs. Predator coins the new adage that we should let sleeping duds lie.

-- Followed by Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo