- Written and Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
- August 12, 2004 (International) / August 13, 2004 (US)
When a satellite discovers a mysterious heat signature beneath the Antarctic ice, a team is dispatched to investigate and comes face-to-face with the galaxy’s most lethal lifeforms.
As mindless action and violence goes Alien vs. Predator is decent in that respect. I won’t call it great, but I will call it watchable. This film does have some strong points but those are unfortunately countered by equally strong bad points. Before I begin I must note I watched an extended edition so my views are derived from that.
The film begins with the final moments of what occurred to a 1904 whaling expedition. I honestly think the events of that provided the potential for a much more interesting movie than the one we actually got. It was strongly implied at the end of Predator 2 that the Predators had been on Earth before, but nothing really ever came of that other than the events briefly depicted here.
One egregious sin story wise of Alien vs. Predator is the use of the basic premise that can be found in many ancient alien theories of a dominant yet forgotten extraterrestrial civilization on Earth. Turns out the Predators essentially ruled Earth and came back once a century in the distant past and used the temple where the movie occurs at as part of a rite of passage for all their young males.
The temple that is found contains random elements from cultures all around the world. I would’ve bought something a little more generic like the Predators just kidnapped people and dumped them there to be infected and then they hunted the Aliens. Once a century seems like a long time and implies either these Predators that we encounter are among the elite or those that engage in the hunt are just a very small group. It wouldn’t make sense for them to be the dominant members of their society and only a handful show up once a century.
I’m not sure if they’re going for Ellen Ripley or Arnold Schwarzenegger or what with Alexa “Lex” Woods (Sanaa Lathan) but she never quite clicks no matter what they are going for. As a character she is not bad but she’s not great either. In Predator, Dutch (Schwarzenegger) was the alpha of his group, but he was out of his element and lacked a complete picture and needed to catch up. The Predator was his equal and at times superior. Ellen Ripley was an average woman for her era and rose to the occasion. Lex is super capable from the start and that makes things rather bland. We know she will win not because she is the main character, but because she never really struggles.
It’s cool to see Lance Henriksen as Charles Bishop Weyland. Then again it is cool to see him in just about anything. His presence was a nice call back to Bishop from Aliens. His Weyland here was not an evil corporate villain but rather a very sick man desperate to secure a legacy beyond a corporation that would outlive him for some period.
Colin Salmon makes an appearance here. I could not help but note that he has died in two different films getting diced into small chunks. Though as Maxwell Stafford here the process wasn’t completed but in Resident Evil he most certainly did die like that. That’s a weird little coincidence.
As a general rule the characters here are rather generic with the most minimal of differences amongst them. I fully expected the spiky blonde (I dare you to name her) to last a little longer than she actually did. There’s just not enough development among any of them to make you care really about their deaths.
What really works though are the Alien and Predator fights. But illogically the Predator knocks people and Aliens out of the way when fighting them. This dude has Wolverine style weapons on him and he decides to swipe at people? Grab the creature or the person and kill them with your arm shiv!
Despite some illogical choices by the combatants the action isn’t bad. There are some Matrix time bits here and there but as a whole you get to see some frequent monster slugfests. And the climactic battle with the Alien queen is very cool.
I also give them points for the sets. But this film looks more like a TV movie with a better than usual budget. It lacks the scares of the original Alien and the tension and visceral excitement of the first two Predator films. I think those two worlds could have worked much better together if the creative minds not only at the studio but on the set understood what made the first films of both individual series work. Instead it was all about showing cool shit.
This may be nitpicking but one thing that really bothered me in this movie were the cobwebs in the temple. For much of the film all the characters are wearing cold-weather gear. There’s no hint of any warmth so how did the spiders survive in the Antarctic to put cobwebs on the skeletons that were down there? Desiccated corpses would’ve been much better and probably grosser.
That doesn’t make it bad. The story just is not as good as it could have been. The battles between the two factions came a little too early and there were too many times when they asked you to leave your brain at the door and then asked you to bring it back for a few moments. You need to either go completely mindless or go intelligent. You can’t waffle.
AVP: Alien vs. Predator is not a high point in either series. However it is entertaining enough that you will feel that you have not wasted your time and you just might go back and visit it.