We don't go to see movies about dueling alien species for deep themes and intricate character development, but a little sympathy would be nice. I didn't feel any sympathy for the characters in 'Alien vs. Predator' because they were all unlikable clichés: The Heroine, The Hero, The Nerd, The Tomboy, The Gruff Leader, et al. These carbon cut out characters we've seen in hundreds of other films are all assembled together by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) in 'AvP' to venture into the Antarctic, where they uncover an ancient pyramid recently discovered by Weyland's multi-million dollar satellites hovering about in space.
The movie is based, of course, upon the iconic 'Alien' and 'Predator' films the rights to which are both owned by Fox Studios. The concept for the project originated with 'Predator 2' (1990), when a cop (played by Danny Glover) ventured into a Predator spaceship. There, in the 'trophy room,' was the distinct skull of an Alien.
This small in-joke reference (similar to that of Freddy Kruger's claw appearing in the 'Evil Dead' sequel) sparked a phenomenon of fans speculating as to the meaning behind the very brief big-screen insinuation. And due to strong requests, the two fictional species were finally united together for a string of comic books, videogames, novels and action figures in the early-'90s. By the year 2002, 'Alien vs. Predator' had become one of Fox's most profitable off-screen franchises. So, it was only reasonable to demand a film be made. By October 2003, production was underway, with sets in Prague being assembled.
And the film's director, Paul W. S. Anderson, has always excelled at set design. In 'Event Horizon' he perfectly captured the dark essence of the 'Alien' series; with 'Resident Evil' he managed to mimic the Gothic structure of all great zombie movies. But, to be honest, that's about it. He's never been any good at three other vital elements of film-making: story, characters and direction. 'Alien vs. Predator' - a project that took 14 astonishing years to bring to the big screen (longer than 'Freddy vs. Jason') - doesn't do much to change this.
Yes, his set design here is fantastic (it's no surprise that a great amount of pre-production work went into creating these enormous surroundings). The pyramid is buried deep within the wastelands of the Antarctic (2,000 feet, actually), which provides us with some great cinematography and stages.
The plot could have used extra work, though. After venturing deep into the pyramid, the team of scientists soon realizes that the pyramid is - surprise, surprise! - actually the home of an alien hive. And furthermore, a pack of teenaged Predators -- on an annual 'manhood' hunting ritual -- are there, too, and they begin to draw the humans into their fight, using them as bait.
The movie's cast is comprised of many newcomers and they are all unimpressive. Sanaa Lathan ('Out of Time'), as Alexa, the heroine, is rather annoying. Raoul Bova, playing the hero Sebastian, is the most likable of the characters, but even then, he's simply no Arnold.
Furthermore, the dialogue is completely lame. Sure, 'Predator' had lame dialogue too ('Knock, knock!') but at least it was funny and delivered with charisma. This movie unfortunately takes itself way too seriously. I've heard many people quote lines from 'Predator' over the years ('I ain't got time to bleed!' being a popular one). I can't imagine anyone ever *wanting* to quote dialogue from this film.
Even Henriksen seems like he's just in it for the paycheck. (His character, Charles 'Bishop' Weyland, is the billionaire who according to 'Alien' mythology -- creates the Bishop androids seen in 'Aliens' and 'Alien 3,' which are modeled after his own image.) Is it any coincidence that the only returning cast member from either series of films happens to be the same actor whose career has devolved into straight-to-video duds recently?
However, kudos must be handed to "'AvP's' creature effects artists (mainly Tom Woodruff, Jr.). I had expected lots of CGI, but there are also many close-ups of the Predators and Aliens played by thankless actors in suits (and some good IL'-fashioned animatronics). Kevin Peter Hall (the original Predator) passed away shortly after the release of the film's sequel, but Anderson has comprised an acceptable team of replacements (most of the actors being some seven feet tall!).
That, and the set design, and one or two OK action sequences, makes 'AvP' adequate for 'regular' cinema-goers expecting nothing more. If you're just looking for the average Saturday night blow-'em-up action flick, you could certainly do worse. But, for any true die-hard fans of the films, this movie continually disappoints and worst of all, due to its restrictive PG-13 rating, the fights (which take place all too often and rapidly become boring) are all over the place. We are not 'allowed' to see anything, which hinders the flow of the film. There was more violence than I had expected, but still not enough. (For the record, 'AvP' is the only film from either of the two series to ever receive an under-R rating.) After negative test screenings, Fox Studios decided to go against the will of the film's own director and brutally chop the movie apart so that it could fit into a more marketable age demographic. (So, the awkward flow in many of the sequences cannot be entirely contributed to Anderson's directing skills.) The day the official rating was released, fans across the world united online to protest it. I can't say I blame them.
I had personally been looking forward to seeing this movie for quite some time now, being a fan of both 'Alien' (1979) and 'Predator' (1987). Yet I tried to view 'AvP' unbiased, and judge it on its own terms, as a movie, and not particularly a sequel. It was a difficult task, but the truth of the matter is that the film as a stand-alone project is still not particularly enthralling. With its shameful rating, poor acting, awful writing and mediocre direction, 'AvP' disappoints the fans at every turn, and will probably leave non-fans feeling a little wishy-washy. Fox has taken two of their greatest franchises and turned them into a joke. 'AvP' is nothing more than typical action fare which, all considered, isn't much of a compliment at all.
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