Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"If We Pit Two Popular Monsters Against Each Other, Can We Gut Both Franchises?" Alien Vs. Predator Fizzles!

The Good: Interesting story moments, Decent acting and effects
The Bad: Speed, (Mis)Use of Bishop character, Obviousness
The Basics: When humans find a subterranean Antarctic pyramid, they discover they are pawns in a battle between two creepy science fiction/horror villains.

It's surprisingly easy, after viewing Alien Vs. Predator, to see why Sigourney Weaver, the acting mainstay of the Alien franchise (reviewed here!) wanted out of the series when it looked like the series was headed toward a melding with the Predator franchise. That is not to say that a crossover between Alien and Predator could not have made for a movie that was as good as the Alien Trilogy, but this movie is not the cinematic accomplishment the first three installments of the Alien franchise was.

Set in Autumn of 2004 (giving people something to look forward to other than election stuff!), Alien Vs. Predator finds a heat signature blossoming on Antarctica in a remote area that ought not to have any life. When a team, financed by businessman Charles Bishop Weyland and headed by an explorer named Alexa Woods, goes to investigate what appears to be a subterranean pyramid, they discover the source of the heat signatures is a processing plant wherein an Alien Queen is making eggs for use by three young Predators who have come to reclaim the pyramid from the invading humans. Hilarity, er, something, ensues.

The more apt title for Alien Vs. Predator would be Boring People Vs. Alien Vs. Predator. I'm a huge fan of character-driven films and I went into this movie with low expectations. It was about what I expected. Actually, I went in to see Lance Henriksen as Weyland. I like Henriksen and his portrayal of Weyland was interesting. He acts well as the predecessor to the Bishop character of Aliens and Alien 3.

Unfortunately, the character makes little sense. My thought, going into the film, was that Weyland - whose Company spends the Alien movies desperately searching for the Aliens for their bioweapons division - would encounter an Alien, end up with no material evidence of the creature and set his company on beginning the quest to find the deadly creatures out in the universe. That level of thought does not even come into this project. In fact, how the Company becomes aware of the Aliens is now a complete mystery and the fate of Weyland is an incredible disappointment, despite Henriksen's performance.

In fact, given the experiences of Weyland in this movie, the Company should have been set upon searching the galaxy for the Predators. C'est la vie.

The real drawback of Alien Vs. Predator comes twofold. The first is that it plays to a PG-13 audience and the second problem is that it insults the audience. Whoever approved taking two rated R franchises and melding them into a single PG-13 movie should be stripped of their ability to make movies. Ever again. It's easy to see why this is a PG-13 movie; all of the horror of the Aliens is gutted, all of the gore of the Predators is cut away from moments before it occurs. In short, the violence and significant action takes place either entirely off-screen or between aliens and predators, which is considered acceptable violence because they are not human.

This premise, along with several key plot points, insults our intelligence like the revelation of Luke Skywalker's parentage after watching the Star Wars prequel trilogy (ever think about that? The punch from Darth Vader's climactic revelation in The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!) is completely gutted by the prequels where we see everything happen!). So, for example, there comes a moment when an alien facehugger leaps at an unmasked Predator and the next time the Predator is seen, it is putting its mask back on. The end of the movie, then, is of absolutely no surprise as anyone with a brain can see it coming.

But the same lack of sense in setting up a sequel (the Queen alien exits the film almost the same way she enters it) pervades the movie. Things don't happen organically in Alien Vs. Predator based on the established tenants of either movie franchise. I speak to the Alien half because I am vested in it, while I know little of the Predator franchise (though I've seen the television edit of Predator). In order to make the action of Alien Vs. Predator realistic, events unfold with ridiculous speed once the team reaches the pyramid. In Alien, the alien takes a long time to gestate within Kane. In Alien 3 it similarly takes quite some time for the alien to grow in Ripley. The ox (or dog) alien may be excused from the time element because of the simplicity of the creature and (in the ox's case) the ambiguous time element (i.e. it seems reasonable that the ox could have been infected hour before Ripley's body was found). Yet, in Alien Vs. Predator, the aliens gestate within fifteen minutes. And they grow huge even quicker.

Come on!

Alien Vs. Predator utilizes state of the art computer generated effects with the alien face huggers, but their cluster opening approach does not make sense on any level and is not even entertaining. This movie is an exercise in nonsense from two franchises that had complex backstories and ideas.

Still, it's better than The Virgin Suicides.

For other creature features or horror films, please check out my reviews of:
Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2011, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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