I think we all knew that the grassroots success of last summer’s Freddy Vs. Jason would surely spawn some knockoffs, and combining Alien and Predator was Fox’s answer. Smart choices they were, as the Predator and Alien series have been two of their most successful franchises.
When the project was first announced, fans lept with delight at the possibilities that combining Alien and Predator could entail. Sci-fi/horror/gore specialist Paul W.S. Anderson was recruited to direct, and all of the sudden the excitement was cut right down the center. Anderson (not be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson of Boogie Nights fame) has a divisive reputation with much of the film community. People either love his sci-fi gore films or they don’t. There’s really no middle ground.
Then the movie received a PG-13 rating. Say what? Stomachs blowing up, people skinned alive, gory battles, bad language, and manic intensity…how can this all be conveyed with a PG-13 rating? The excitement decreased further.
I am very happy to report that Alien Vs. Predator is not a complete disaster. In fact, I think many fans will get exactly what they are hoping for: a lot of mano a mano combat between the Aliens and Predators.
The story is pretty thin, but does its job and sets up the battle. In barron Antarctica, an ancient ruins is discovered by the Weyland Corporation (headed by Charles Weyland, played by the ever dependable Lance Henriksen). The team he assembles to explore the temple (which is 2,000 feet below the surface) believes it to be contructed by three of the earliest civilizations known to man, and quite possibly the first construct ever.
Upon entering the temple for exploration, you guessed it, the Aliens and Predators begin showing up, and they’re not happy. Soon the humans, led by Alexa Woods (Lathan), find themselves caught in the middle of a battle between the Aliens and Predators. Who will win?
Of course it would be a crime for me to give away the ending, so I won’t. But I can say that the film works on as many levels as it doesn’t, hence the nicely divvied up C rating. Let’s start with the good things.
The show-stealer is the special effects along with the atmosphere, two key things for a film like this. Both the Aliens and Predators look outstanding, with the Predators receiving a bit of an upgrade since the original film debuted. They are vicious, as it should be. The Aliens are as slimy as ever (this has to be the first movie to have “slime” in its rating description), and the Queen Alien can really shoot out those babies. The ruins set is also a sight to behold, with plenty of pitfalls and dangers lurking around every corner. This is all extremely impressive, along with Anderson’s sometimes overly erratic directing style for the film.
The main problem with the film is that it’s just not gruesome enough. The majority of the “scares” are of the startling variety. There is a lot of violence, but much of it is heavily edited or cut away from. This seems like the kind of film where the majority of the budget should have been spent on slime and various colors of blood. Diehard fans wanted this, so why not dish it up? Studio politics, that’s why.
Another drawback is that there is not one memorable character to speak of. Sanna Lathan is the only character anyone will remember, if at all, from this film. She is an unlikely hero, and not really one that many will identify with. Lance Henriksen is solid in the film, but his character is very forgettable.
Paul W.S. Anderson has always gotten too much of a bad rap in my opinion. His Event Horizon was an enthralling haunted house in space film, and probably still his best film to date. Mortal Kombat put him on the map, and he has never really strayed far from his marked territory. Alien Vs. Predator is not a whole lot different, but he is dealing with two of the most beloved characters of modern cinema. The debate will rage on about whether or not he was the correct directing choice for this film. I will stand up and say he was. The smart money says that the studio made him edit the film to PG-13 so it would be more kid-friendly. Anderson has never been one to stray away from graphic violence, and this film presented a golden opportunity for that. It’s easy to take it out on the director, but I believe Anderson to be innocent in this case. His direction is more than adequate. Blame the studio when it comes to politics.
All that being said, AVP is some good late summer fare, but nothing more. It’s a film that could go down as one that could have been so much more, but wasn’t. It’s very entertaining, but could have used some more oomph. Fans of either series will undoubtedly see it regardless of reviews and decide for themselves. This is encouraged.
So when do we get Chucky Vs. Michael Myers? Just wondering!
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, horror images, slime and gore.
Theatrical Release: August 13, 2004
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Story & Screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson. Based upon the characters created by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett & Jim Thomas & John Thomas.
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan