By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe de La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard, and Sam Troughton.
In 2004, Alien vs Predator left an important mark on the shield of geek culture. A meticulously placed xenomorph head within the walls of 1990’s Predator 2, many series of comic books, and fourteen years later, the backbone of Fox’s two successful running franchises were finally ready to butt heads. Under the direction of Paul WS Anderson (Resident Evil), Alien vs Predator was unleashed on audiences expecting a colossal fight involving their two beloved creatures. A misfire to the tenth degree, I knew from the first shot of our ‘heroine’ Alexa (Latham) climbing a snowy mountain and talking on her cell phone that the movie didn’t have a chance.
The reason I say Alien vs. Predator (sorry, I refuse to use the too cute for its own good acronym AvP) is an important staple in the history of geek culture is because I feel it is the first film of this generation to try to help fans of past monsters relive their past (and better) moments. Anderson knows all of us have seen those films, and wants us to know that he has too. There is a Lance Henriksen sighting, a chest burster, and even a poster of Alien 3 on the temple floor. The thing about these types of acknowledgements for past glories is that I’ve seen those films. What I am going to Anderson’s film to see is something done right with those franchises he apparently loves as much as I. And Anderson is clearly not up to the task.
Alien vs Predator’s story is based on an early set of comics and consists of an archeological expedition that goes horribly wrong when the team stumbles upon a Predatorial ritual. I am just going to stop there, because the film’s script is nothing short of terrible and not worth getting into. It is pretty pathetic how many clichés Anderson’s script hits upon, including one of the scientists on the dig that is apparently reading a copy of the script to the audience. He knows ALL about what is going on; down to the actual hunting ritual the Predators organize every 100 years as a rite of passage. It is a miserably lazy piece of writing, not helped by the fact that the actor portraying the character completely hams it up in an annoyingly unwatchable way.
The thing that really got to me while watching Alien vs Predator was the sad fact that I was watching characters that looked like the characters I love, doing things that I don’t recognize. Anderson wants so hard for us to believe Alexa is the second coming of Ripley from the Alien series. But in a turn of events that I will once again blame more on writing and casting other than performance, the woman carries no presence. Henriksen sleepwalks through his role, as he seems to know the sole reason he is here is to give the Alien franchise a bit of recognition.
Speaking of the xenomorphs, they are part of the only compliment I am willing to give Alien vs Predator. Even though it takes WAY too long to finally happen, the only slightest bit of enjoyment I got out of the entire film was when the two creatures eventually clash. The fights are delectable to contemplate, and are also complete guilty pleasures. There is every piece of machinery and tactics that these two fandoms have gotten familiar with over the years, and probably my favorite addition to the proceedings was when the Predator tore off a xenomorph’s head and used it as a weapon. Very clever.
It should be pointed out that there is another aspect of Alien vs Predator that completely hurt it, and that is the PG-13 rating the film was labeled with upon its release. The film’s rating isn’t completely to blame for the film’s piss poor quality, because the rating is a byproduct of the movie’s overall predication. But by giving the movie a PG-13 rating and urging a younger audience to watch it, you are completely missing that element of danger you feel watching any other film in either franchise. And I don’t want to hear from people who tell me the film did the comic justice because, as with all adaptations, I feel the job of a director is to take the book and put its best qualities onscreen. When I look onscreen and see fully clothed hangings of Predator prey and a chained up Alien Queen, my heart completely sinks. This is a film that was not only mismanaged and misjudged. It was misdirected.
I recommend staying far away from Alien vs Predator, because if you are a die-hard fan of any franchise involved (as I am with the Alien franchise) it will enrage you just how much slimy garbage is thrown at you. Poor storytelling and characters were never a part of the first two Alien films. But make no mistake about it; Anderson’s script should have been on the other end of the Alien’s tail before going in front of the cameras.