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Monday, October 8, 2012

Alien vs Predator (2004)

Has Paul W.S. Anderson saved the Alien franchise? Does this film suck on a galactic scale? The answer to both these questions is no. Instead we get an abbreviated action film that rushes to the end just when things might be getting interesting.

The biggest failing this film has is in its characters…because there are none. Paul W. S. Anderson claims to have studied the previous film religiously, but some how he forgot that the success of the good ones relied on the audience giving a crap if the people we’ve been watching die or not. In AvP we barely give a damn about the main hero and you gleefully wish for a quick death to most of the others, who could only be generously called “walking exposition”.

The film starts out ripping off Jurassic Park as some millionaire rounds up experts by promising to fund their private projects, if they’d just help him out for a few days. The millionaire is Charles Bishop Weyland, played by Lance Henrickson the films sole attempt at character continuity for the franchise, and he’s discovered a pyramid buried under the ice way down in Antarctica. Our stalwarts heroes don’t know it but there just being lured to this pyramid by a group of predators that are secretly orbiting earth. And when the expedition arrives on site the find that someone has already drilled a whole through the ice to the pyramid, and from the trajectory of the blast it probably came from space. With out a second thought to the implications of this the team crawls down the shaft to the pyramid below. During all this the predators above have awakened a frozen queen and she’s now spitting out eggs. Meanwhile our intrepid explorers find a sacrificial chamber where the victims appear to have died by something bursting out of their chests, so the audience now knows where this is going. While stumbling around they activate ancient machinery that turns the pyramid into a maze that shifts it’s layout every ten minutes. Soon face huggers are leaping and people are dying. And then the predators arrive.

Well that’s all I’ll reveal of story because…well because that’s just about all you get anyway. From that point on it’s just a bunch of running around with a maybe a moment or two of ridiculous exposition, broken up by an attack by an alien or a predator.
One of the greatest offenses for me is the needless acceleration of the alien’s life cycle. Now Ridley Scott never laid out exactly how long it took to go from face-hugger to full grown alien, but in AvP it’s in under twenty minutes. I can only guess the reason for this was to make sure the film stayed under its ninety minute running time. And will somebody please tell these action directors that we are sick of seeing people out running fireballs!

Now, for what I liked about the film. The aliens looked fantastic and moved great. The predators themselves while not quite in stature with Kevin Peter Hall of the original, they still looked pretty good. And when these two creatures went toe to toe with each other in full out battle fury, well it was damn fun to watch.

So in conclusion I would place this film just above Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, and put it on par with Predator 2, but they still have a long way to go before they approach the quality of the first two Alien films or the first Predator. I can recommend this film to people who are curious to see what an alien fighting a predator would be like, but if you like a good narrative driven by interesting characters you might want to see what’s playing in the theatre next door.

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