DVD Review of
Alien Vs. Predator
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/18/05
First off, despite what you’ve heard, Alien Vs. Predator is not a terrible film. Is it a good film? No. It’s just mediocre- about on par with 2003’s Freddy Vs. Jason, another monster meets monster flick. In short, it’s a B film with A film pedigree, and written at a comic book level- which is where the two species first met. Overall, it’s better than the last two Alien film installments, almost as good as the first Predator (but that gets the edge because of Schwarzenegger), and the second Predator film I’ve not seen- mainly because of the fight scenes between the two titular combatants. It also serves as a prequel to the Alien series, and sequel to the Predator films, and thus bridge between both. The film’s B filmness comes through right away, as there is no suspense to buildup to the unveiling of these thoroughly familiar monsters. Having seen the prior films there is no suspense nor terror in the hundredth time an Alien face hugger leaps out at a character, nor the first time one of the toothed vagina faces of the Predators is revealed. The audience is always far ahead of the characters, although this does allow a perverse pleasure of sorts, in knowing they’ll die, and just guessing who will be done in by which species. The narrative and characterizations are throwaways, as well, and this film owes as much homage to B films as diverse as 1951’a The Thing From Another World, and 1997’s Cube. Like the former the action takes place in frozen wastes (the Antarctic vs. the Arctic) and forces the characters into early unnatural camaraderie, and like the latter there is a maze like structure that traps the protagonists and ensures all but one of the characters’ deaths.
They would be Lance Henriksen, as the billionaire computer genius Charles Bishop Weyland, whose visage would later inspire the Bishop robots in the earlier Alien films, set later in time, Sanaa Lathan as Alexa Woods- the Ripleyesque mountain climbing überbabe who survives as all around her perish (and the most gorgeous black actress in film- a definite rival to Halle Berry), and a cast of mostly no-name and European actors whose roles have no consequence save as fodder for the two non-terrestrial species to kill. Weyland’s satellite system discovers an ancient pyramid under Antarctica, so he has his goons hire experts to get there before anyone else. This is how he gets Woods and the others to go along. When they get there they find that someone (the Predators) have carved out a tunnel below the ice, to allow three young’ns to test their manhood (or Predatorhood) against a batch of Aliens. The Predators, it seems, were in on the Ancient Astronaut business of Erich Von Däniken, and were worshipped as gods in ancient Egypt, Cambodia, and Mesoamerica, which is why the Antarctic pyramid resembles all three cultures. The Predators were the ancient astronauts, and every hundred years some young Predators had to test themselves against the aliens, using human sacrifices as gestational hosts for the Aliens. If they won they were given interstellar bris. If they lost they nuked the ancient civilizations into ruins. Guess what? A hundred years have passed since the last go-round, and the Weyland gang finds itself deep in the shit when they find the three Predators’ weapons first. Many humans die, and all that is left is Woods. Hot babes in supertight sweaters apparently have a power non-terrestrials can’t resist. And truth be told, I couldn’t resist Sanaa Lathan either. For some reason, she and the last surviving Predator hook up and go apeshit on the Aliens. Of course, a Queen Alien survives, makes it to the surface with the Predator and Woods, but the two of them defeat it, hurling it to the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean, reminiscent of the way Aliens have been disposed of before, out of spaceship hatches. The Predator, however, is mortally wounded. Woods is left alone in Antarctica, though, her only scars two ‘kill marks’ made by the Predator on her face, with Alien acid blood, as The Predator elders recover their fallen failure. On their ship a mutant Alien-Predator chestburster beaks through the dead Predator’s chest. How Woods will ever get back to civilization is unknown, although she looks simply marvelous at film’s end, having tossed her outer garments to avoid Alien acid drippings, thus freeing her ample bosom and killer bod to heave seductively in the Katabatic winds.
Of course, the film makes no sense- neither from the Ancient Astronaut perspective, nor any other? How was evidence of Predator nuclear bombings not discovered? Nor Alien and Predator corpses? How can Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and crew not know of the Aliens if they were known of in 2004? And how has word of Schwarzenneger’s 1980s rumble with the original Predator gone undetected? And, despite all of the special effects, and DVD commentary claims of filming in the bitter cold Czech Republic, and bragging of the realistic looking fake snow, how can the effects team not have CGI’d in misty breath when the characters speak? I guess the first questions will take some The Terminator-like government conspiracy to explain in a sequel (if one is ever made for the film- which bombed), and the latter question is why AVP (as it was marketed) is a B film.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson (not Paul Thomas Anderson of Boogie Nights and Magnolia fame) made his name in films, like Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, based on computer games and Event Horizon, and it shows, but, again, the action is good enough so that few will care. And, as I said, the film is better than all but the two original franchise films, and James Cameron’s Aliens- perhaps the best pure action film ever made. Compared to other films in its genre, where Universal’s Frankenstein or Dracula, or Toho’s Godzilla meet rival monsters, it holds up, and will hold up. Once the ‘purist’ fans’ ridiculous moaning (reminiscent of those of the Star Trek, Star Wars, and James Bond film series) starts withering away the film will be an easy treat for most younger sci fi fans. The fact is it does not even try to have the depth that the original Alien did, and a lack of pretension can go a long way, especially in genre films- even when much of what is done violates ground rules the earlier films set. Why else would Lance Henrikson seem almost self-mocking in the DVD commentary whilst fellating the brilliance of such Anderson penned lines as ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ as genius, even though it’s a total cliché, and not anything original, as Anderson claims? Why else would the film’s tagline, ‘Whoever wins, we lose’, be meaningless since the Predators are clearly shown as the good guys- unless, as some bitter critics claimed, that line was actually truth in advertising aimed at its audience? Why else would a ninety minute film have eleven minutes of credits? Why else would the human experts be able to instantly decipher ancient mixed texts, yet not know to haul ass the minute the first non-terrestrial imagery or weapon appears? Why else would the only woman in the expedition be the only survivor? Oh, wait- Political Correctness explains that thin, petite women (especially if babes) like Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Garner, and others can routinely kick the asses of men and aliens much larger and more dangerous and armed than they are. Then, again, it’s Sanaa Lathan, so I can live with that result. Or why else would I, despite the titular combatants, find myself wanting to be her sweater?
The making of featurette on the DVD is pretty lame, as are the deleted scenes, and the commentaries- one by Lathan, Henriksen and Anderson, and the other by effects guys- seem phoned in. Not an iota of insight is given, although Lathan seems sufficiently airheaded to explain why her tight sweater was such a necessary part of the film. Um….this film was about monsters, right? Damn that sweater!
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