Alien vs. Predator
July 28, 2005
It was the franchise slugfest fans thought would never happen except in comic book form. After years and years of failed attempts and false starts, the powers that be finally got it together. Hoping to capitalize on the surprise success of the merging of two successful horror franchises with Freddy vs. Jason (2003), two of science fiction’s most popular creatures go toe-to-toe in Alien vs. Predator (2004) with those pesky humans caught in the middle.
Mega-rich tycoon Charles Weyland (Henriksen) of Weyland Industries has discovered a temple buried 2,000 feet under the snow and ice on a remote island in Antarctica. So, he hastily assembles a team that includes a chemical engineer (Bremner), an environmental technician (Lathan) and an archaeologist (Bova) in the hopes of uncovering the temple before his rivals.
At first, the technician Alexis Woods (Lathan) changes her mind at the last minute because she feels it is too dangerous and there’s not enough time to train the people in the expedition. But then, after a half-assed bonding session with the engineer and the archaeologist, she decides to go anyway. This jump in logic typifies the clunky short-hand of the film’s script. There’s not a cliché that it doesn’t like. The disposable characters are broadly sketched. For example, a bottle cap worn around a character’s neck is considered a defining trait. The film even manages to include that old chestnut where characters outrun a fireball explosion.
Surprisingly, nobody thinks it odd that when they get to the site and find a perfectly cut tunnel has appeared in the ice and snow that leads right down to the ancient temple. According to one of the members of the expedition, the technology required to pull off such a feat in such a short time isn’t humanly possible. With nary a pause for reflection, the team heads down to the temple. The human arrival not only brings the Predators out of hiding but also awakens a Queen Alien out of deep freeze who begins popping out baby aliens like an inhuman Pez dispenser. Pretty soon the Predators are making short work of the humans and the addition of Aliens makes their numbers dwindle even faster.
Fans waiting for the two alien races to start slugging it out will have to wait almost an hour until their first battle but it is pretty impressive as they toss each other around like something out of a comic book. Admittedly, the fight scenes are pretty cool in all their CGI-assisted glory but this is hardly an endorsement.
Poor Lance Henriksen is slumming it here as an egotistical businessman who provides the only human link to the other Alien films (it is hinted that he is the inspiration for the Bishop android in Aliens). He’s only in maybe a quarter of the film before being quickly dispatched.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson and actors Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan. They plug along gamely seemingly oblivious to the narrative mess that is this movie. Anderson owns up to his film geek credentials by pointing out references to other Alien and Predator movies. They all have fun joking with each other in an engaging way that is almost better than watching the film itself.
Also included is an audio commentary by visual effects supervisor John Bruno and creature effects designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. This is a technically-oriented track as they talk about how certain visual and creature effects were created. Anyone who likes to listen to these kinds of details will find this track informative.
There are three deleted scenes totaling two minutes and include a little bit of Predator humour that was rightly cut.
Also included are two trailers and a gallery of the comic book covers to Dark Horse’s Alien vs. Predator series.
Alien vs. Predator was not worth the wait and fans of the comic book will feel cheated. The film starts off slow but once the Aliens and the Predators start pounding each other the weak script and clumsy plotting fades mercifully into the background. It’s a shame because both of these alien races are ripe for countless story ideas that subsequent sequels have not been able to capitalize on effectively. All we are left with is a good looking, paint-by-numbers movie.