Set in the early 21st century on Earth, Charles Weyland, an industrialist billionaire, leads an archaeological expedition in Antartica. Using thermal imaging satellites, Weyland believes to have discovered the ruins of an ancient pyramid temple that predates the Egyptian and Aztec pyramids buried under the ice. Once inside, the team finds the remains of humans with holes in the rib cage and the remains of facehuggers, meaning that the possibility of the temple being uninhabited is very unlikely. To make matters worse, a group of teenage Predators are coming to the temple to perform a coming-of-age ritual that involves fighting to the death with the aliens. Soon, it becomes clear that only one species is getting out alive.
/ Czech Republic
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
. Starring: Sanaa Lathan
, Raoul Bova
, Lance Henriksen
, Ewen Bremner
, Colin Salmon
, Tommy Flanagan
, Joseph Rye
, Agathe de La Boulaye
, Carsten Norgaard
, Sam Troughton
, Petr Jákl
, Pavel Bezdek
, Kieran Bew
. Music by: Harald Kloser
While most critics have dripped acid on Paul Anderson's "Alien vs. Predator," apparently due to prima facie objections to the very idea of a non-courtroom-drama with the word "versus" in the title, I was pleasantly surprised by AVP.
Is AVP as great as 1986's "Aliens"? Nope. But I think comparing AVP to "Aliens" is to employ the wrong standard. AVP is not competing with that film, in much the same way that "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" was not competing with the sensational "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." No, "Star Trek VI" was competing with the largely reviled "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier." Similarly, AVP is really competing with the oppressively dark, fundamentally unappealing "Alien 3" and the strangely goofy, utterly unexciting "Alien Resurrection"; the last Predator movie, 1990's "Predator 2," was released so long ago and did such middling box office that it hardly figures in the popular imagination anymore.
Some have complained about AVP's characters, arguing that they're mere sketches compared to the colorful, indelible personalities that James Cameron provided us in "Aliens," and John McTiernan gave us in "Predator." While true, it's worth pointing out that the original "Alien" "suffers" from the same "problem," so much so that a defensive Ridley Scott once said, "The characters in 'Alien' are as defined as they need to be, no more and no less." Just as the characters in "Alien" were largely, nay, archetypically defined by their professions and their professionalism (or lack thereof), the characters in AVP are defined by their jobs and the proficiency with which they do them.
Some have also complained that many of AVP's characters are dispatched too quickly. However, that's part of what makes AVP interesting. It's a real throwback to horror films of yesteryear, films that weren't afraid to toss virtually everyone to the wolves. Just when you begin to think, "Oh, Anderson's spent too much time developing this character, giving himher good lines and telling us stuff about hisher past, to just off himher," that person buys it. It's delightfully perverse, and it's what the horror genre has historically been all about.
Then there are the complaints about the film's storyline, with some asserting that it's too simple (e.g. humans find buried pyramid; humans enter buried pyramid; sht hits fan) and others arguing that it overshoots the mark (e.g. humans enter buried pyramid and discover that it's remarkably complex, revealing all manner of information about the origins of human civilizations, namely that the titular Predators, much like the Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey," made a marked impact on the future course of man long ago). But I had few problems with the film's premise. Even the rather silly, pulpy quality of AVP's grander narrative conceits didn't bother me that much. (Then again, such conceits didn't really bother me in "Stargate" either.) And the simpler aspects of AVP's plot were its strongest suits, for they grounded the movie in a kind of gritty, easily understood "reality," the kind of reality that was very effective in John Carpenter's better action movies, from "Assault on Precinct 13" to "Escape from New York." Yes, it's true that AVP never achieves the epic heights of "Aliens," the best film from either franchise, a film so complex and dynamic that it required a running time of 137 minutes to tell its tale. But "Aliens" was, and remains, an exceedingly special film. "Aliens" is the like the cinematic equivalent of one of those out-sized rock songs from the 1970s, such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"; AVP, at approximately 100 minutes in length, is more like a Ramones tune: short but sweet.
In fact, two of AVP's biggest problems seem to be the result of breakneck-speed sloppiness: 1. the Alien life-cycle is inexplicably abbreviated, with chestbursters making their nasty debuts in tens of minutes rather than tens of hours; 2. the Predators' long-range weapons (e.g. spears and throwing stars) are acid-resistant, yet their close-quarters matériel (e.g. wrist blades and body armor) are not.
Regarding Issue One: I've read that Anderson accounted for this in the film, explaining that the Predators had injected bizarre hormones into the Alien Queen they'd captured to seed their battlegrounds, causing the eggs she produced to contain embryos that matured far more quickly than usual. This expository material was allegedly ordered cut by Fox because they felt it needlessly slowed the pacing of the film. If true, Anderson must be given a pass by the legions of angry fan-boys who've ripped him a new one over this.
Regarding Issue Two: According to fan-boys familiar with the AVP comic books, this is explained therein thusly: the Predators must earn every acid-resistant armament they receive. So if the Preds in the AVP movie didn't have acid-resistant wrist blades or body armor, that's on them. But it's also on Anderson to have somehow explained this in his film. However, I'm willing to let Anderson slide here, as the best characters in AVP to have provided this explanation were the Preds themselves, a decidedly taciturn group of individuals.
All in all, AVP did its job. With the exception of a handful of (de rigueur) overly-jitterysuper-slow shutter-speed shots in otherwise well-made action sequences, AVP is a polished piece of work. Thanks to Anderson's direction, the ADI FX Workshop was forced to abandon the Mr. Hanky-looking design of the creature from "Alien 3," as well as the beastly, overly slimy appearance of the extraterrestrials from "Alien Resurrection," and provide the silver screen with its best looking aliens since 1986. Moreover, if you can't bring yourself to buy it when Sanaa Lathan's Lex throws in with and throws down alongside the last-standing Big Ugly Mother, nor get certifiably juiced when the Alien Queen finally extricates herself from Predator-imposed bondage and goes on an angry rampage worthy of a T-Rex in a "Jurassic Park" movie, then I'm afraid AVP simply isn't for you.
Review by robocop4 from the Internet Movie Database.