Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alien vs. Predator (2004) Review

Alien vs. Predator
 “Whoever wins, we lose.” The most truthful advertising ever.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that all the trouble that went into creating AVP was caused by a little throwaway moment at the end of Predator 2 where Danny Glover discovers one of the alien dome skulls in the back of the predator's ship. It was like a trophy, hinting that the predators hunted the aliens for sport somewhere, much like they hunted the humans on Earth. Oh, how many possibilities and theories would soon be crafted by curious fans. Soon scriptwriters started to get in on the craze, but none of their drafts were chosen to be produced. Then a little writer and director by the name of Paul W.S. Anderson came in with his script, which was then chosen by the studio to be “The One.” Now Anderson had made some reasonably fun B-movies in his career, such as the guilty pleasures Event Horizon and Resident Evil, which means he should've had few problems with bringing the same fun and entertaining feel that was in his previous pictures to this one. But after 12 years and multiple scripts, is this really the treatment it deserves?

Plot Synopsis: In the year 2004, a satellite owned by Charles Bishop Weyland picks up an unidentified heat signature on an island in Antarctica. Weyland assembles a team of various scientists, archeologists, drillers, etc. in order to find what’s in the area and claim it as their own. When they arrive they find the remains of an old mining town that had been deserted since 1904, and a recently dug tunnel entrance leading towards the heat signature. After reaching the end of the tunnel, the remains of a massive pyramid are found underneath the ice, and the crew investigates. Soon enough they find a sacrificial chamber filled with rib cages of corpses that appear to have been burst open, and another room containing some form of advanced weaponry. At the same time an alien queen awakens deep within the pyramid, releasing its eggs into the sacrificial chamber, and the predators soon arrive on their spaceship. After the predators enter the pyramid to fight off the aliens, the crew realizes that they are caught in the middle of a centuries-old war and they attempt to reach the surface. However, they also have to contend with the constantly shape shifting pyramid.


There are some glimmers of originality present here, such as the idea of the pyramid shifting every few minutes and the background that explains the war between the aliens and the predators. This background creates a mostly plausible reason (in this twisted world at least) for the epic feud at hand, with the aliens basically being used as fodder to train new predator recruits. But any other redeeming value stops there. I must credit Anderson for trying to make some kind of build up to the action, in an attempt to create tension and suspense, but there's a problem with this. The build lacks the necessary suspense and character moments that would've made it work. So now we have about 50 minutes or so of boring exposition and nothing of interest going on. When the aliens finally began picking off the men, I felt as if the movie should've taken off, but it didn't. The kills lack any kind of blood or gore that would have made them fun pleasures (thanks to the family friendly PG-13 rating), or the scare factor that would have created horror in these situations.

At one point I could almost feel like the movie was going to redeem itself. The predator and alien meet for the first time, as the alien impales a predator with its tail. It's a tense moment, one where two horror icons have a face off and would soon start their long awaited fight. The alien opens its mouth, strikes the predator with its tongue, and...no blood. A perfectly good moment ruined. But the disappointment doesn't stop there. The resulting battle between the alien and another predator reaches levels of stupidity I rarely see, even in second-rate horror remakes. Instead of a genuinely hard hitting brawl, Anderson gives us sensory overload, with copious amounts of quick cutting, a shaky cam, and an alien that can be swung through stone walls without receiving any kind of injury.


I wouldn't have taken issue with this had the movie not taken itself so damn seriously. Rather than simply creating a monster mash without any other pretense, the film shoots itself in the foot by trying to set it up as another horror movie, which is a problem since it isn't really scary. The actors on display here follow suit, with leaden acting and minimal characterization. Lance Henrikson, a great character actor in his own right, looks bored and disinterested, Sanaa Lothan is a very uninvolving protagonist, and the other crew members resort to stereotypes (like the hieroglyph decryptor who seems to know everything about the pyramids history even though it's never been discovered before). Lothan's character has the most ridiculous moments in the film, as she and the predator join forces (!!!) to fend off the aliens in the end and when she recites a famous quote from Predator. Other minor issues crop up a lot, and only adding to the frustration. Face-huggers are presented in slow motion, which ruins their appeal. Obviously CGI aliens pop up occasionally (both during fight scenes and non fight scenes), and plot holes rear their ugly head. One hole happens during the final battle involving the alien queen and a predator, which doesn't make sense plot-wise, and is simply the result of sloppy writing.

All in all, Alien vs. Predator just doesn't work on any front. It's not a good horror movie, it's not a good action movie, and it's not even a good guilty pleasure. At least Freddy vs. Jason had the good sense not to take its story seriously, and just had fun with the idea. There's no fun here, just boredom and frustration.


No comments:

Post a Comment