We all know the franchises. We all know what they’re capable of and we’ve had strong opinions on them both over the years (and their varying degrees of quality). The easter egg from 1990’s Predator 2 (when Danny Glover spied a Xenomorph skull on the predator ship) sent nerds everywhere into a speculative seizure. In a straight-up fight – who would win??
In the Year 2004 some genius decided to put them both together and find out…….
(Spoilers all up in your face!)
The result was an action film that should have changed the face of Science Fiction Horror. Hot on the heels of Freddie Vs Jason, AVP (Alien vs Predator)’s premise is simple enough : the Weyland Corporation has detected a heat source below the Antarctic ice. And it’s pyramid-shaped! Charles Bishop Weyland assembles a host of experts and mercenaries to investigate what could be the most significant ruins ever found. What they find there is a lot of dry ice machines and bad computer graphics. Little do they know that an Alien queen resides in the depths of that pyramid and 3 Yautja are on their way there to hunt Xenomorphs. “Whoever wins… We lose.”
There’s a lovely feeling of fuzzy 80’s nostalgia when we see the Weyland Corporation at the beginning of the film. It’s also a feeling of hope. This film has the potential to change cinema.
Fifteen minutes into the film and they’ve already set up the dynamic and strong female lead Alexa (Sanaa Lathana, Blade’s mum) as an arctic guide with integrity and a charity to support, the expert Italian beefcake Sebastian (Raoul Bova) and the goofy sidekick Graeme (Ewan Bremner, Spud from Trainspotting) whose imminent death is telegraphed every time he mentions his kids or family back home.
The film also features Sands (Limitless, series), Chibs (Sons of Anarchy), Coach Wolf Stansson (D2, Mighty Ducks) and a character i can only refer to as Budget Vasquez. The choice to cast Lance Henriksen (the actor who played Bishop in Aliens) as Weyland is a nice touch as it ties back to that franchise. A move that is ultimately useless as this film is not canon to either franchise. Thinking now about Weyland’s character and his place within this story makes me think about a Walt Disney. Thousands of years from now when Disney literally own the air we breathe there might be a look-a-like Android trying to fight off aliens…..
From an editing/pacing standpoint, scenes are inserted in paint-by-numbers fashion. There is a briefing scene (which was later ripped off in 2012’s Prometheus). A mobilisation scene with a speech and a lot of people shouting “DO THE THING!”, “LETS GET MOVING!” and “GO GO GO!” for no reason. It’s got the bonding scene between 3 of the main characters.
It’s easy to get lost in the background of this film, especially the lines thrown in under the radar. (For instance when the team stops before the whaling station the dialogue runs ambiguously : “Hold it guys ! Shut it down ! Keep those engines running!”
Spud does an excellent job of derping his way through every scene while Alexa and Beefcake swan off to ram the exposition down the audiences throat, with Beefcake being a Mary-Sue when it comes to the history of cultures, hunting, aliens, hieroglyphics, astronomy/astrology, language…. Everyone in this film is an expert on every subject including Budget Vasquez (who only gets a mouthful of words throughout the whole movie) and the guy who looks like he’s a stunt double for James Spader in Stargate.
And that exposition is chewy. Plot progression is delivered about as subtly as Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball. When a red shirt says “A storm is coming” then you better believe that information will be important.
And that is one of the biggest tells regarding this film : The characters. I’ve neglected to call Alexa the protagonist because that implies she would’ve had some depth or interaction with the plot when in fact we learn more about Weyland throughout this story. Alexa is as robotic as her Amazon namesake. But not in the performance – there was no effort to write the character in any other way. The same with every character in the film. No depth. Nothing for the audience to actually care about. Their deaths are literally meaningless and they are nothing but cardboard cut-outs to be knocked over.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the film was self-aware and played up to it. Ideally if there was a red-shirt standing somewhere in the back of the room saying “do you really think you should be touching that? Seriously dude, what the fuck?”
Inconsistencies are running wild throughout the feature, not only with established rules of previous canon (Dont get me started when it comes to alien gestation periods), the passage of time, perspective and the films own dictated information. For instance Alexa was assigned the task of getting the team from the boat to the pyramid and then is suddenly in charge of the expedition.
Visually the CGI and practical effects are inconsistent in quality. The Predators are built like linebackers and the Xenomorphs are built like rubber. The moments of CGI lend nothing to the fight scenes and only highlight the absurdity of the costumes (Not to mention the Wilhelm-esque whip sound FX during one of the major fight scenes). The exception to this being the alien queen which looks stunning. They promptly undo that positive point with questionable miniature work during the egg laying sequence.
The ending lets this film down the most. The whole ‘Adventures of Human and Yautja’ angle is just. too. much. and at one point I honestly thought they were going to kiss. And then we’re teased with sequel-bait in the form of the Predalien.
The comics. The novels. This film craps on all of it! The only truly enjoyable section of the film is when Beefcake is expertly mansplaining the history of the Yautja and we get to see thousands of Xenomorphs swarm a hunter. Or the very subtle nod to five-finger fillet that Weyland performs with a pen.
AVP is disappointing. The concept is fantastic but it was flawed in its inception. It’s all build up with no payoff. Certain elements of the comic translated to screen but obviously barely survived the rewrites despite it being based primarily on the novel.
PG13 was not the way to go with this one guys. Thank goodness Robocop vs Terminator is still pure. Next time lose the Face-Hugger bullet time.
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