[The movie would] kill the validity of the franchise; To me, that was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf.James Cameron on Alien vs. Predator, 2006
The first half of the series is wrapped up, and that mean the good movies are behind us. If there is one thing to count on going forward, it is a downward spiral of wacky nonsense. Long gone are the truly memorable moments when Ripley is running through corridors and we are unsure of her safety. Long gone are the great comedic lines from Bill Paxton, and the funny screams from milk-blood Lance Henrickson. From the mid-point onward, we are awarded with attempts at a high action/low attention span arc in the franchise that will have you laughing more than crying over the corpse that is Alien. Now, onto Alien vs. Predator:
This film takes place almost like a “what if” comic book that Marvel has popularized through the decades. It’s not entirely certain whether it belongs to the same timeline as the rest of the Alien movies or not, but it takes place in the modern 21st century setting this time. In the story, we learn that every hundred years, there is a great power surge from below the Antarctic ice, emanating from an ancient pyramid. Outfitted by a modern Weyland company, a group of the world’s top engineers and scientists are sent to investigate. The discovery revealed to the team is that the ancient pyramid is the staging ground for Earth’s mightiest hunt: Predators engaging in bloodthirsty battle against the Aliens of our now tired franchise. A war for survival ensues between two monstrous alien species and hopeless humans caught somewhere in the middle.
Comic Book Fun
Originally, Alien vs. Predator debuted as a Dark Horse title in 1989. It was an attempt to bring the action of both the original Predator movie and second Alien movie together to create something to rival other titles. It had mild success, a cult following, and showed that bringing two very separate entities together can work with creative writing that fits. I have read some of these comics and they appear to be very 80s: big muscles and mild wit on pages accompanied by very pointy-lined artwork. Not really my thing, but the appeal was very reminiscent of the comic books that were out at the time (A la Uncanny X-Men and other dudebro comics that had weird artwork in the late 80’s).
Speaking of X-Men, the relationship between comic book IPs are extended further through the cinema of the early 2000’s. Failures of comic book movies in the past were coming away from people’s memories, and the genre came back in full swing between 1995 and 2006. With the massive success of Paramount’s Spider-Man and New Line Cinema’s Blade, Fox was seeing a need to blast out as many comic book-related movies as they could. They had the license to X-Men and others that would come out later, but they weren’t enough. Fox went back into the warehouse and, between the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, they dusted off their weirdly cobbled together monster franchises. The funniest part of all of this is how futile it must have felt to revive the comic book movies that were, at the time, completely crapped out in the early 90’s. What a Disney’s Star Wars Disney Marvel™© world we live in now.
Big Dumb Action
The first thing to note in this movie is the absolute action train that it takes you on. Compared to this, Aliens now looks like what the original movie looked like to it in years prior: incredibly tame. There are hulking predator monsters flying around and stabbing Xenomorphs in the face, and people are exploding every five minutes. This stuff usually puts me in a daze, and I forget where I am, but this movie was actually quite fun with the big dumb action. Once the initial headache has passed, it becomes something of a cheer fest whenever something dies on screen. It reminded me of when buddies and I would play violent video games and laugh when the player would rip people out of cars or commit crimes. The entertainment of this movie is reminiscent to what makes children giggle is what I’m getting at…like a fart in a hot shower.
What is most comedic is the speed at which things move when fighting throughout. This movie follows that really strange cinematic trope where large people move slower because of how much more massive they are then their opponent. What makes this weird is that predators, being roughly the dimensions of a 7’2” basketball player crossed with the beef of a Mr. Universe contender, are not really that big. They lack a substantial amount of armor which would honestly make them lighter than the clunky humans with all their cold weather gear on. But when we see Predators going against CGI monsters, they are almost moving like they are in slow motion. Xenomorphs are a nearly equivalent size, looking only shorter than a predator by mere inches. What it makes this more comedic is looking at the movement of the Queen Xenomorph in the end of the film. She moves faster than anything in the series so far, puppet queen or otherwise.
The…Characters? Yeah I Think They were Characters
Characterization in this installment is worse than it has been up to this point. People in this story are so obvious and two dimensional that you can clearly call who will survive and who will not. Epic tough guy (Tommy Flanagan)? Yeah he’s going to die. Suave British guy (Colin Salmon) ? Yeah He’s going to bite the dust. Woman with a tough attitude AND short hair (Agathe de La Boulaye)? Well it was 2004 so they still didn’t know what to do with that in Hollywood, so kill ‘em. Those with no dialogue have much more characterization than people who talk in the entire movie. The last surviving Predator kills a tiny little chestburster in one scene and does a little shoulder shimmy like a tough guy after doing it. This was great characterization in this garbage movie because it tells me that this guy thinks he’s so badass after clearly getting his ass kicked by everything in the film up to that point. All of his friends had been murdered, and this clown is acting like he’s the best killer in the game. It made sense because these monsters are already established in their own movie series as thinking they are absolutely apex in the universe. Acting like a total chad in the events of this film is weirdly fitting, and I don’t think it’s for the reason that the writers and director intended.
The main character is the only one that gets more than just an elevator pitch of a backstory and motivations. She’s someone who has a dead dad story, which fuels her to continue being a safety advisor for mounta….you know? I actually do not remember her characterization at all. I’ve seen this movie at least ten times in my life and not once have I ever been able to remember her name or anything about her hours after watching. I didn’t want to lie and pretend to remember that her name is Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), so I’ve only mentioned it here after doing some searching.
The one true character that I know and love is that of Bishop Weyland (Lance Henrickson). He returns for this movie, but as the human businessman that owns and operates the Weyland company. He’s not quite to the level of comedic yelling like in Alien 3, but he is the welcome return of the silly company man that puts everyone in danger for incredibly weird reasons. Weyland sets off the entire plot by assembling the team and telling them they have to investigate the movie’s setting in just days. It was really funny to look at how the series truly hasn’t matured or developed their Weyland-Yutani characters, keeping them as cartoon weirdos that will bankroll something in the billions as long as they can pursue some agenda.
The movie kills him off in a strangely altruistic sacrifice however: he tries to burn a Predator with a flamethrower to buy the two remaining survivors time to escape. What makes this weird is again the seemingly unintentional way the character dies from the writer’s perspective. He sacrifices himself for others yes, but only after being passed off as pathetic or weak by the Predator. It sees that he has movie cancer and decides he’s harmless, setting off Weyland to be reckless to prove he’s a fighter. It really doesn’t serve anything other than reminding us that he very well was the progenitor of the Weyland motto of the future: “Just die for silly reasons like a cartoon villain, I guess.”
The Xenomorph’s Drip(ping spit)
The look of the Xenomorph is probably at its best this time around. 2004 truly set the standard for the blend of CG along with practical bodysuits as far as Xenos are concerned. Both Predators and aliens seamlessly transition between the two forms of special effects, but the Aliens have much more time as CGI on the screen, which looks really good. It’s still obviously very fake and I much prefer the real costumes. It’d be a big fib if I didn’t bring this up as I have in the rest of the series. With the better CGI on hand, the movie does a better job showing them as more bug-like or monstrous.
One detail in the looks that I really enjoyed was that there was a seemingly important leader Xenomorph. There was one alien that was able to take down two of the three predators in the movie, and it was given an identifiable mark for us to track it throughout. In the fight with the second Predator, it is enclosed in a shrinking razor-wire net which cuts a checker mark pattern in its head. This was a neat touch for the design of the aliens in this world.
A Closing Thought
Usually I would talk more about a story, but I don’t think it will do anything for anyone. There are two reasons for this: I don’t personally think that a story matters when action is supposed to take the mainstage in this action movie porn, and I am not entirely sure that what I saw had a story. There is a background of Predators forcing ancient humans to sacrifice themselves to birth Xenomorphs to fight, and this is supposed to have been happening all throughout history. It’ll start to make your head hurt trying to make sense of this plot with the other movies because neither franchise in this collaboration ever mention anything like this in their film canon. For this reason, I have chosen to accept that this movie doesn’t matter and is only included because I hate myself.
Final Verdict: 2 out of 5 (or, the amount of times I laughed watching this)
This movie is a bad one. I remember loving the action when I was a child, but no one can truly be perfect. I promise that I have aged much better than this film, and now have made a full recovery from dumb child brain. The movie looks nice and feels like it should be a movie, but it will make your head hurt if you think while watching, and I can’t help but to think that is a bad thing. Much like other movies I have discussed and which I am inclined to watch for reasons beyond myself, I would say this is a movie to throw on when you want to take a nap. There are exactly three scenes that are funny for reasons no intended and two characters that were funny for the same reason. Hopefully they…didn’t…make a sequel…right?
Oh no…oh no no no…