When a satellite owned by billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) picks up evidence of an ancient pyramid 2,000 feet under the Antarctic ice he promptly assembles a crack team of scientists, archeologists and soldiers to investigate. They enter a deathtrap populated by a race of alien predators that hunt another dangerous species of alien for sport. The humans very quickly become prey for both species. Thus begins the latest horror sci-fi extravaganza by writer and director Paul WS Anderson.
This is a film that was destined to be a cult hit, no matter what, whether brilliant or dreadful. Having already spawned a successful comic book and computer game it was blatantly obvious that fans of both the Alien films and the Predator series were chomping at the bit to see their favourites collide. It would definitely be a cash cow for Fox Studios. Sadly, that's predominantly what it is. Another lowest common denominator money making machine. Pumped straight out of the summer blockbuster school of trite film making - Class 101. The script is poor with no cliche or stereotype left alone, the dialogue is woeful, and the characterisation is non-existent. Paul WS Anderson is not much of a writer, that's for sure. And as for the acting, it's truly naff. Ok, most of them are there just to be killed but still, that's no excuse to sleepwalk through your part. The actors are often miscast and at best bland. Blame Anderson. He just doesn't direct them very well. Even a name actor like Ewen Bremner, ol' spud from Trainspotting, bumbles about onscreen in a very wooden manner, with a terrible fake accent. Creosote that man now! The only person that shines is genre favourite Lance Henriksen who gives a nicely understated performance as the billionaire behind the expedition. His casting gives a nice continuity link to the Alien films as well. Whenever he's onscreen things improve. The lead character and expedition leader, Alexa Woods, is played by Sanaa Lathan and she simply comes across as a poor man's version of Ripley from Aliens. Her performance is flat and uninspired, and I found her strangely lacking in screen presence. Whatever you thought of Alien and all the sequels, it has to be said that Sigourney Weaver always gave a first class performance, full of depth and gravitas. Lathan simply doesn't come across that way. And as the female leader her advice, of course, always gets ignored by the male grunts. In a film like this, wouldn't it be nice to see male professionals treat a female professional with courtesy and respect for once? Particularly one recognised as the best in her field. Their arrogance always leads to their demise. Same old, same old. But most disappointingly of all for a horror film, there is no sense of terror or dread eminating from the characters or the film itself. I mean, imagine it, trapped in the dark 2,000 feet underground in a stone labrynth, eight foot tall humanoids dimembowelling your comrades, acid spitting monsters leaping out of the shadows decapitating people. Creatures laying their spawn inside still living bodies. A violent death waiting for you at every corner. The situation is enough to make you soil yourself, isn't it? Not so for these guys. They seem no more perturbed than if you spilt some crisps on their carpet. Ho hum.
Well, that's the bad stuff, is there anything good? Well, this might seem like a complete u-turn but I found Aliens vs Predator to be a lot of fun. Despite the myriad of flaws that mar the film it is still a damn entertaining romp. It's a stupid, loud, flashy Saturday night beer and pretzels movie. And there's no shame in that; the shame is just in the wasted potential of such a colossal pair of cinematic icons. Without baggage, AVP (as they are wont to call it) is a fine B-movie. What Anderson lacks in script writing skills and character directing he makes up for on the visual side. The set design and cinematography are splendid. The special effects are excellent. The action comes at you thick and fast. The creatures whether men in rubber suits, models or computer generated are all very well realised. The CGI in particular is impressive and blends in very well with the live action. In fact, it's the best I've seen in a long time. Amongst the highlights is a flashback to Mayan times with three predators standing on top of a pyramid fighting off literally thousands of advancing aliens. A slick shot where face huggers leap towards their victims in slow motion also brought a smile to my face. Paul WS Anderson may be a hack, but credit where credit's due, he can come up with some stylish moves. And when it all kicks off, about forty minutes in, the action never lets up right until the end. Sci-fi fans will grin when the predators make their appearance and get the party started. They've been missed. In their absence from the silver screen, they've either been working out or scoffing junk food as they're a lot more bulky than they used to be. In the two Predator films they're more lithe, but these ones make the ground shake when they run. The fights between the Aliens and the Predators are frenetic and exciting. It's a pity that this film was aimed at kids as well as adults, as the film has very little gore, even for a fifteen certificate (certificated PG-13 in the USA). The cutting is so fast that you never see anything truly horrible. This is another aspect that makes the film seem like such a compromise. Shame, this is one movie that would have been improved by a bit of the old ketchup slung about! So what about the fabled 'extreme' extended cut of the movie also present on the disc? Well, when you play the extended version you get a pre-credits flashback about ninety seconds long, to when the predators last visited Antarctica about a hundred years ago. That's it. That's yer lot. They call that an extended cut. What a damp squib! Barely worth mentioning.
Our Review Ethos