Ah, "Alien vs. Predator." Scary. Riveting. Intelligent. Sadly, it is none of these.
Paul W.S. Anderson, the genius behind such films as "Mortal Kombat" and "Soldier," combines two of Hollywood's most lucrative franchises (okay, "Predator" only spawned one sequel) into a PG-13 action movie that lacks the thrills, the characters and the sense of isolation those classics instilled upon the audience. As can be expected from the director of "Resident Evil," "Alien vs. Predator" is a video game put onto the big screen, where characters die by the handfuls and we don't care, the Predators are larger than seen before and even the setting, an underground Aztec pyramid, changes its configuration every ten minutes like an annoying maze.
"Alien vs. Predator," compared to some of the garbage I've watched recently, is entertaining enough, but just barely. You need to watch the movie with someone else to truly enjoy the stupidity of the event, as it is much more fun to point out the plethora of absurdities to someone else than to yourself. There are enough scenes where the aliens spew acid blood and the Predators use their neat gadgets to keep the audience attentive, but, unfortunately, Anderson fails to include anything that made the originals what they are.
Sanaa Lathan is pretty and by no means a bad actress, but compared to Signourey Weaver, she pales in comparison. In the "Alien" franchise, Weaver withstood gruesome attack after gruesome attack, always alone even when with other people. Those films were dark and, while the aliens are probably the scariest ever conceived on screen, benefited the most from their claustrophobic settings. The scariest scenes in the "Alien" movies were when the characters had those motion sensors and they knew the creatures were coming, but still they couldn't see or hear them. "Predator," of course, was more action-based, but it too basically featured one man against the monster and there was some simple intelligence to that.
Unfortunately, "Alien vs. Predator" is PG-13 and nothing more than a relentless action movie, not a blend of action and horror. Fox clearly had revenue in mind when they told Anderson to make a gore-less version, and the restraint shows. There is no feeling of suspense or terror, and this is because we don't care for any of the characters. Sure, we strike up a simple bond with Lathan, but other than her the characters are so poorly developed it's impossible to feel for anyone else.
On top of that, "AVP" is filled with idiotic moments that show just how little time was spent in the preparation for the film (which is strange considering fans had been clambering for this movie for ten years). It's the little things that made the movie unintentionally funny. First off, it's too cold to snow in Antarctica, yet it does in the movie, nor do we get to see the cold breaths of the characters as they stand outside in the coldest place on Earth. As the research team (which of course comes fully prepared with guns for no apparent reason) begins to explore the temple, they keep using flares - why not just use a flashlight? As time progresses, they stop using the flares and turn over to flashlights, floodlights and glow sticks. The funniest line in the entire movie happens after one of the characters drops a glow stick down a long chute into another room. Later, the characters enter that room and Lathan says, "We must be directly below the Sacrificial Chamber." Well, isn't it obvious since that same glow stick is lying in the middle of the room? There are also times when the characters wipe away spider webs from the walls to read the inscriptions, which of course one of the characters can decipher perfectly and guess the entire history of the Aliens and the Predators within a minute. The special effects don't help, either; while cool for a computer desktop, the special effects do not even look remotely real, and Anderson also uses a series of slow motion shots, including one classic moment where he slows down the film to show the face clingers flying through the air.
"Alien vs. Predator" is not as terrible as one would expect, especially if you were prepared to laugh at all the absurd things contained within. As mindless entertainment goes, you could find worse, but had some real thought been put into the script and direction, Fox actually could have had a good movie on their hands. As is, the movie is unintentionally funny, but I guess that's part of the charm.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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