Posted: 08/13/2004

 

Alien vs. Predator

(2004)

by Barry Meyer



Whoever wins… we lose. That’s “we” the audience, by the way.


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In 1979 one of the scariest horror films of all time hit the screens. It not only revived the ailing horror genre, it infused new life into the sci-fi genre. It was Alien, directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and written by Dan O’Bannon. It made a star of then-unknown actress Sigourney Weaver. Seven years later the sequel came out. It was much-anticipated and audiences everywhere were dying to see how they could improve upon the original. Rising writer-director James Cameron was given a chance with this one, fresh from two hit films in The Terminator and Rambo: First Blood, and he did not let us down. Aliens was a huge boxoffice success, one of those rare occasions where the second outperforms the first. The only surviving member of the original cast, Sigourney Weaver, was brought back with welcoming arms. And a new character was introduced who would return for two more films in the series—Bishop, the android, always played by character actor Lance Henrikson. Six more years would pass before the third film in the series would come out—Alien3. This film was frought with setbacks and trouble even before it went to production. With over 12 writers on the project at various times, with star Sigorney Weaver first declaring she would not be a part of such low-brow entertainment, then demanding she have final say on the script and the film never be made without her, and with original producers David Giler and Walter Hill finally pulled in to salvage the script, the third in the series was finally made. This time little-known director David Fincher was given a shot at helming the latest in the hit series. He did a bang-up job, all things considered. Then, five years later, the fourth in the series would be released, and this one would prove far superior to its predecessor. Alien Resurrection brought the Weaver character back as an 8th clone of the original, but Bishop was replaced by Annalee, portrayed by Winona Ryder. This film was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who would follow this film up with the acclaimed hit Amelie. Even though original producers Giler and Hill were still along through the fourth film, everyone thought this would be the last in the series. How much further could they go?

In the meantime, a wildly popular series of two films had come out with a similar theme; 1987’s Predator, directed by John McTiernan, and 1990’s Predator 2, directed by Stephen Hopkins. The connecting leap between the two films was performed in that most free of all American cultural mediums, the comic book. In fact, by the mid-90’s almost every superhero in the DC/Marvel universes had done battle with either/or both the Predator or the Alien at one point or another. In comic books, it only made sense that the two more ferocious and vicious of alien creatures would meet. And, comics being a world where its fans talk openly and honestly about what they’d like to see most, the concept of a motion picture pitting one creature against the other eventually made its way inside the invisible walls of Hollywood. It was only a matter of time…

So it’s 14 years after the last Predator film, and 7 years since the last Alien film, and the two creatures finally meet. Has it been too long? Does anyone care anymore? Apparently 20th Century Fox thought so. Why kill two of their most popular cash cows? Yes, that’s right; 20th Century Fox was the distributor for all of these films. So, why did it take so long to get our two hellraisers to go head-to-head? I’d love to know that story…

Director Paul Anderson is best known for the mediocre Resident Evil, and the above par Soldier (with Kurt Russell) and Event Horizon, which felt like an Alien film. Unfortunately, Even Horizon feels more like an Alien film than AVP. AVP feels like a Predator film gone horribly wrong. Why? Well, that’s why I’m here.

As the film begins we’re introduced to two main characters: top mountain climber and Arctic guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan—Out of Time, Blade), and archaeologist Sebastian de Rosa (Raoul Bova—Under the Tuscan Sun). I won’t go into the strange concept of an African American woman as a mountain climber or Arctic guide, but I will mention it just to give you some idea of what we’re up against here. Anyway, these two are yanked out of their remote locations by incredibly wealthy industrialist, Charles Bishop Weyland (you guessed it—Lance Henrikson) and added to a large contingent of specialists in their fields who are all being taken to Antarctica, where a new temple has just been discovered that seems to be a hybrid of three cultures: Aztec, Cambodian, and Egyptian.

Here, I have to say, writer Paul Anderson had a pretty good idea and connected the dots well enough that we all can nod our heads and say, “Yeah, that works.” He suggests that the “gods” these three ancient cultures worshipped were actually the Predators, who visited the Earth once every 100 years. The next connection is that these ancient ruins sit atop breeding rooms for the Predator’s most difficult prey, one that is a rite of passage for every young Predator—the Aliens. In 1904 a small whaling town in the Antarctic disappeared suddenly. It happens to sit atop the recently discovered temple, and it’s 100 years later. Get the picture?

I don’t want to explain much more just in case you actually wish to sit through the film. I will say that the first 20 to 25 minutes of the film are slow and drag on dully. However, not once do they ever explain why there’s a character named Bishop in this film who looks like the Bishop in the other films, but is obviously not an android.

Anyway, at minute 21 or 26 we go into hyperdrive and stay there through the end of the film. Once the action kicks in, it’s pretty good. And I admit I’ve been a fan of the Predator’s for a long time. It’s mighty sweet to see some other creature able to slice and dice up an Alien; something we humans seem unable to do without a whole lot of firepower. In fact, an hour into the film and I was enjoying it, even if most of what I was watching was about 50 times inferior to the worst of the previous four. By the end of the film I was ready to walk out feeling as though they hadn’t done such a bad job, after all. Certainly the final battle scene was very thrilling. But then we have the last scene, and the writer-director springs the cheesiest of endings on us, right out of the cheapest of horror films. And all I could do was curse and get out of the theatre as quickly as possible—get away from that abomination before its hideous vision ruined my sight forever.

See AVP if you must. But remember; you’ve been warned!

Barry Meyer is a writer sweating it out in Jersey.



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