Alien Vs. Predator

Then there’s Alien Vs. Predator, a belated hybrid sequel that attempts to revive two flagging franchises. It fails. It’s disheartening after two Predator and four Alien films, plus numerous comic books, it all comes down to this, a flaming bag of dog poop that smells worse every time director Paul W.S. Anderson steps on it.


More than twenty years of moon dust has settled on the two franchises. Predator booked its last vacation in 1990, while the face-huggers of Alien: Resurrection last gestated in1997. If anyone thinks Alien Vs. Predator is happenstance, look back at the final scenes of Predator 2, when Danny Glover’s New York cop lays witness to a Predator trophy case. Among the souvenirs is an Alien skull. Funny joke at the time, not so funny when you realize what Anderson has done with it.

Instead of delivering a full-throttle, no-holds-barred grudge match between two of the universe’s most deadly killing machines, Anderson slops up a generic monster mash completely devoid of suspense, thrills, logic, and most important, genuine horror. As a director who cut his teeth on hard-R science-fiction and horror films (Resident Evil, Event Horizon), Alien Vs. Predator feels like an abbreviated vision.

What distinguished the Alien and Predator films from their B-movie predecessors were their unrelenting creatures and vicious, sadistic violence that propelled the audience into visceral mind- trip. Aside from that kid in school who ate a bad cafeteria burrito, up until Alien no one had seen what happens when a parasitic creature bursts through your chest. The original Predator upped the ante, manufacturing new and interesting ways to dissect a human.

So why, after years of waiting with baited breath, do we get this watered-down Alien Vs. Predator, a film made and rated for 14-year-old boys who will probably find most of this insulting and silly. Why make and market a film to people who weren’t even DNA when the originals were released, and who have since seen them uncut on cable or DVD? Who exactly are they protecting?

Teenagers, who always seem to find a way into R-rated movies? Investors, who believe making a PG-13 film gives them more bang for their buck? Or fans, who will undoubtedly feel betrayed and dismayed that what was once defining and cutting-edge has become nothing more than artifice? Anderson’s plot has promise, but it’s a promise he can’t keep.

While scanning the globe for new mineral deposits, billionaire industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) is intrigued when his satellite uncovers a hot spot underneath Antarctica. Further investigation unveils a pyramid buried deep under the ice. After quickly assembling a crackerjack team of scientists, adventurers, and security personnel, Weyland (whose ties to the Alien franchise are well known) descends into the pyramid.

Team leader Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) and chief archaeologist Sebastian De Rosa (Raoul Bava) realize that they have literally stepped back in time, when aliens taught humans how to build pyramids (presumably by watching Stargate). De Rosa can literally read the writing on the wall (what rugged, handsome archaeologist worth his Ultra-Brite smile couldn’t?), and the news isn’t good. They have stumbled upon a Predator training camp, where a captive Queen Alien is being forced to breed eggs and offspring as prey.

Filled with constantly changing chambers and revolving rooms, the team members become separated, forcing them to go one-one-one with their non-human hosts. Talk about having a bad day. If aliens aren’t hugging your face and bursting through your chest (a process expedited for time), they’re turning you into Hamburger Helper. Which would be fine if the action were on the screen and not relegated to reaction shots.

The naiveté that greeted Alien and Predator is sadly missing here. Characters do and say the dumbest things. Anderson tries to replicate the dynamic of Alien by putting a woman in charge, which feels like an act of desperation rather than an homage. Sanaa Lathan is tough, but she’s no Ripley.

She’s like Lara Croft without the smarmy smirk. Bava carries the lead weight of the script on his broad shoulders, the voice of reason forced to utter extremely unreasonable dialogue. The performers in the rubber alien suits are lucky. They don’t have to keep a straight face.

Like the little quirky Canadian thriller The Cube, the remainder of the film finds our reluctant heroes trying to escape the maze before becoming toast. Oddly, we’re rooting for the Predators.

PYRAMID SCHEME

The hunt is on in Alien Vs. Predator

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR

Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremmer, Colin Salmon. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Rated PG-13. 101 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $2.00



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