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AVP: For the fans or maybe not
Seven years after the previous Alien movie, and fourteen years after Predator 2, Paul W.S. Anderson blended them together and made the Reese's Peanut Butter cup of the most popular alien monster movie franchises. Now, the Alien Vs. Predator comic series had been pretty popular since before Predator 2 came out, but this is the first time we see these two species duke it out on the big screen.
Now, this one was written and directed by the same guy who brought us Mortal Kombat and pretty much every last bit of the Resident Evil film franchise, so you may be adjusting your expectations accordingly. However, for me at least, this one seems to be one of the better-made movies that I've seen from Anderson.
But first, the story
[most likely some spoilers coming]
We start with a shot of the queen alien floating out in outer oh wait a minute it's a satellite Oooh, you tricked me, movie. Anyway, this queen satellite detects a heat bloom suddenly flare up under the ice of an antarctic island. Clearly something is going on there.
It turns out that satellite is owned by Weyland Industries, run by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen). Scans show a pyramid under the ice that is baffling the experts. Weyland puts together a team to drill through the ice and explore this underground structure. This team includes professional ice climber Alexa 'Lex' Woods (Sanaa Lathan), archaeologist Raoul Bova (Sebastian De Rosa), and Scotsman Graeme Miller (Ewen Bremner). Yeah, he's the guy showing pictures of his kids to our heroine - any chance he'll die?
There's also the tough and pretty Adele Rousseau (Agathe de La Boulaye), packing a gun for an archaeological expedition. When asked, she says "I'd rather have one and not need it than need one, and not have it." Yeah, any chance that gun won't get used?
They rush out only to find that someone had already tunneled down to the site within the last 24 hours. Yeah, that should probably have raised a flag in their mind, but whatever.
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Once at the pyramid (and how exactly did the ice move in and leave a complete bubble all around the pyramid?) they do some exploration, and unknowingly trigger the world's most severe security alarm. Somewhere deep inside the pyramid, a giant queen alien is pulled out of cold storage and revived.
Meanwhile, our team of lambs have wandered around, leaving one team in what they've identified as a sacrificial chamber, while the other team opens a giant sarcophagus containing three very high-tech weapons.
Yeah, you might want to get out of there.
Meanwhile three newcomers have been dropped from an alien ship up top. They quickly take out the team that has been left up there and head down to the pyramid.
Then, the pyramid changes configuration, separating our teams and causing a panic. And we say goodbye to the team in the sacrificial chamber. Surprise surprise.
The story moves forward with constant reconfiguration of the pyramid and periodic conflicts between the newly arrived predator trio, abnormally fast-developing xenomorph aliens, and what remains of our dwindling human population.
Finally, Lex decides that to survive this conflict, she must pick a side. She returns the weapon to the last surviving 'hunter' and the two of them head to the sacrificial chamber. After finding much of her team already dead, and putting Sebastian out of his misery, she runs alongside her new companion as he sets a bomb and books it out of there, to keep the 'serpent' threat from making it to the surface.
Up top, after the ice has caved in from the destruction below, they find that the queen alien has already made it up top and the final confrontation proceeds.
Since they're not on a space ship, the traditional shoot 'em out the airlock isn't an option, so our heroes chain the queen to a metal drum and drop her into the ocean. Okay, fine. she's out of the way for now. But I have to wonder whether that's a final solution here.
Anyway, in the final battle, the remaining Predator (called "Scar" in the credits) is killed. And afterward, Lex finds out that there was an entire ship of Predators cloaked just a few yards from where she is, apparently just watching.
(Seriously? They wanted to ensure that the alien threat wouldn't get out, and decided to do that by just watching the fight?)
Lex is awarded with one of the Predator's spears and the lot of them fly off. They're sure she can just call a cab or something to get home.
The final shot of the movie is of an alien chestburster popping out of Scar, with obvious predator traits. Looks like Scar's been seeing a xenomorph on the side.
Dot dot dot
Okay, that was a more detailed synopsis than I usually give. But what about the movie itself?
Paul W.S. Anderson is a master of fanboy moments. The fans have wanted to see these two species at each other's throats for a while now, and there are several moments here that are more cool than practical. There are also many visual allusions to previous franchise movies: whale bones that look like alien tails and back ridges, shots that perfectly match iconic shots from previous movies. Fun stuff for fans.
But some of the action sequences are a bit too hard to fully enjoy. They're either filmed too darkly, too close, or too confusing. They still have a few great shots here and there, and could have been very exciting, but it just gets a bit hard to make out at times.
I did like what the movie did with the character of mister Weyland. It would have been too predictable and convenient to characterize him as a ruthless, discompassionate businessman. Instead, he's motivated and determined, but not heartless. He's a businessman, but a good man.
On the other hand, I heard someone criticize the choice of Lance Henriksen by saying that it ruins the continuity of Alien³ where we learn that the Bishop android of Aliens was based off the look of a human still alive during the events of Alien³. Well, it's conceivable that Henriksen's character on Alien³ is actually a descendant of this mister Weyland, and when you consider the Back to the Future movies, this is hardly the first time an actor has played his own ancestor. (Also, see Tremors 4 and the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Borderland".)
What it does do is ruin the continuity or Ridley Scott's Prometheus, since we clearly see the xenomorph we all know and fear present on earth right now.
(Oh, and with Henriksen's appearance, he becomes only the second actor, after Bill Paxton, to portray characters that have been attacked, and likely killed, by an Alien, a Predator and a Terminator.)
AVP - Trailer
What about the monster(s)?
In this instance, there isn't really much new information presented about the Predators. Some of the weapons are a bit more extreme, but that's style, not substance. We do get to see one Predator decide not to kill mister Weyland because he can detect the disease that is already killing him, but that's not particularly new.
The aliens, however, appear to be able to go from facehugger to fullgrown warrior in about twenty minutes. Excuse me, what?
Beyond that, the only new element here is actually just the mixture of both species on the screen at the same time. And it's pretty cool in general. You really don't need to do much to make that concept look desirable. But Anderson's direction, at times, just makes it hard to follow.
In general, though, they're not exactly scary monsters now. There are jumps and surprises, but not so much real scare. Partly that's because this movie is designed to be more cool than horror. But part of that is simply that we know these monsters too well now.
What about that rating?
Some have felt that the idea to take two R-rated franchises and make a PG-13 movie was a betrayal of both franchises. I say why? What gives those franchises their R rating is not what I like to watch them for. I accept that they're common elements of the genre, but I'm happy to see the gore and swearing drop.
Around the time of the film's release, there was a story going around that Paul W.S. Anderson had claimed the movie was filmed with an R rating in mind but cut to get a PG-13 rating at the last minute. Original AVP writer Peter Briggs has said that was false and Anderson has said in interviews that the film was released to theaters exactly how he had intended it to be seen.
And you can't really fault them for it. I don't want to get cynical, but this movie actually brought in more box office money than any of the Alien movies, any of the Predator movies (including Predators which came out later) and even more than its own sequel, AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem. (That is, admittedly, in unadjusted dollars. Of course when adjusting for inflation, it still beats out all Predator movies and the second AVP. And when comparing the return on investment, it handily beats Predator 2 and the last two Alien movies.) This one movie, that many are happy to overlook, is still one of the most commercially successful of all three franchises.
And I can live with that.
where does that leave us?
The movie is enjoyable, but not great. It's fun, but at times hard to make out. But even just the idea of these two species duking it out carries this one pretty far.
I enjoy it and I can overlook the movie's general faults when I'm in the mood for it.
But what do you think?
Personally, I give this one a respectable 7 / 10.
AVP: Alien vs Predator is rated PG-13 for violence, language (including one F), gore and horror imagery.