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May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


Killing Two Franchises with One Movie

Alien vs. Predator / Phillip Stephens

Film Reviews | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


It seems a little pretentious to come out of a movie and take umbrage with the ridiculous plot, lousy pacing, and deplorable script. Pretentious, that is, when the movie in question is a comic book-like crossover featuring two genre space monsters. Whenever juvenile schemes like these are hatched, it’s usually good practice to set aside your loftiest expectations and gauge the film on how well it entertains the crowd it was made for. That being said, the entire idea of gauging Alien vs. Predator in any regard is unnecessary because the movie is appallingly bad in almost every possible way.

The concept behind pairing up these two film series has been around for over a decade, spawning several comic books and video games that cashed in on the popularity of the original series. Purportedly, a film was never made due to studio in-fighting and the inability to round up any of the original cast or filmmakers, who probably wanted to retain some modicum of dignity by not involving themselves in a cosmic WWF grudge match. Wise move.

Anyway, 14 years after an Alien skull popped up among the catalogued trophies in Predator 2, here we are, and the outlook isn’t looking so hot. For starters, the director enlisted to helm this intergalactic cockfight is none other than Paul W. S. Anderson, who has no fewer than four horrendous genre flicks to his name (including Soldier and Resident Evil). Anderson promptly dooms the film from the beginning by amassing an ensemble cast of nobodies, of whom only Lance Henriksen is an original series player, and watering down the violence to suit a PG-13 rating in order to garner more profits from the kiddies. For two series based so strongly in nightmarish horror and violence, as well as the personalities of its cast and direction, this is a pretty grievous insult.

A plot at this point isn’t necessary, but Anderson manages to make it as asinine as possible anyway. Deep in the Antarctic, a satellite picks up a vast, undiscovered temple under the ice, and billionaire robotics specialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Henriksen, in a rather dumb and confusing reprisal) gathers a team of archaeologists, scientists, and drillers to explore it. The temple, it turns out, is a massive pyramid built by humans for their Predator overlords to duke it out with the slime-dripping Aliens in a rite-of-passage ritual. At least, that’s what the scientists discern by reading the comic book panel hieroglyphics on the wall and watching the monsters grunt. And, as luck would have it, the expeditionary team, who, for reasons known only to the screenwriter, are carrying automatic weapons, have shown up just in time for the centennial hunt. The humans are quickly beset by beastie battalions from both species and characters we couldn’t care less about are eviscerated into mincemeat. Once in a while, the two eponymous baddies will kung-fu fight each other in uninspiring CGI bouts.

It’s hard to imagine how this scenario, silly as it is, could be boring, but Anderson again manages to come through in spades. In spite of the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere, the action is never particularly scary or thrilling. The surprise appearance of either alien species can be seen from a mile away, but it’s a generally welcome change of pace from the ceaseless, insipid dialogue and goofy plot points. Still, the moments between action sequences, which are almost totally bereft of musical score, are nigh unbearable for their staleness and succeed in cutting the human angle of the story to pieces. We’re left to bemusedly observe the special effects, which, by default, are the only interesting aspects of this clunker.

Were this a standalone piece of sci-fi crud, the inherent disposability of Alien vs. Predator would have been a hell of lot easier to swallow. But, to Anderson’s misfortune, the concept behind the film has an impressive lineage of films, most of which are quite good, and graphic art that suffers at the hands of his lackluster filmmaking. Anderson has managed to craft such a brazenly terrible movie, that even the basest expectations for entertainment will be shattered. For shame!

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.



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