“…putting the franchise to bed.”
Arguably science fiction’s most eagerly anticipated battle is hitting shelves across the UK this month with the release of AVP: Alien vs. Predator. A movie, which takes the two most iconic extra-terrestrial bad-asses ever created, and hurls them against each other in a fight to the death. Bad news for mankind. We’re trapped in the middle so, “whoever wins...we lose”. It's been 8 years since the Aliens last bothered poor Ripley, and 15 since the Predator tried to gut Danny Glover like a fish.
The meat and 2 veg: A sudden rise in heat alerts people monitoring Antarctica that something is buried deep within the ice. The Weyland Corporation, run by CEO Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), get together a crack international team to investigate what appears to be a giant pyramid structure deep under the surface. This team of explorers, led by hardy outdoors type Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), set out in the hopes of making history. Instead they find themselves in the middle of a war between these two sci-fi legends. Ooops. Turns out that the pyramid is home to the right-of-passage ritual in which teenage Predators are sent to prove their manhood. The enemy is (naturally) the Aliens, primed, psyched up, and ready to slaughter having been recently laid by a captured Queen and gestated in a nice warm Weyland Corporation employee.
Newcastle born writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson is a massive fan of both franchises, so perhaps he overworks them rather than ignores them. Unfortunately the end result shows, what appears to be, a lack of acknowledgement for the films that came before. A Predator in the snow? I thought they only appeared in hot climates. “But we gave them more armour to keep them warm” cries Mr. Anderson. Yes, and changed the Predator costume in the process, alienating the fan-base further. The list of these “errors” is legion and, as the film is made for the fans, should have been better considered and not shelved within the blanket remit of trying to improve on what wasn’t broken. Oh, and where’s the gore? This wasn’t the director's fault, we’re lacking this essential Alien/Predator trademark because of the studios. Aiming for the PG-13 was a mistake for the fans and the rumoured directors cut has yet to surface.
The film has a really nice use of CGI, using guys in suits (in the majority) instead of computerised effects gives it a certain “je ne sais qui”. Mixing this with the obsidian black temple, hiding the classic black Aliens of the first James Cameron film, and some impressive and beautiful Czechoslovakian set building (inspired by Mr. Anderson, who has always been a visual director). To be honest, this movie’s worth the price of admission for the art direction alone, massive caverns and labyrinths woven with a nice of Von Daniken mythos and buckets of cross cultural symbology are pretty damn pleasing on the eye.
There are some nice, if a little condescending, “making of’s” and commentaries on the DVD. The “extended edition” (as it’s called) defiantly ads to the movie, I’d now not consider watching it otherwise, giving us extra opening scenes and scattered goodies throughout.
Basically, AVP is probably a good sci-fi film, but not a good sequel. I liked the extended edit more than I though I was going to and I feel somehow that this has rounded off my sci-fi DVD shelf by finally putting the franchise to bed. Anyway, it was free. I didn’t want to like it as much as I did. Aliens and Predator come with a lot of baggage. Would any film have been truly worthy of the name and the history such a brand affords? In all honesty, perhaps not, but AVP does step up as being brave enough to give it a try and for avoiding being the computer graphics toy advert and “no brainier” that it could have been. In short, buy it if you know nothing about either franchise and need a good sci-fi/adventure romp to fill a miserable rainy evening. Buy it if you’re a completist or a fan (but hide it at the back and don’t admit it to your friends).
Movie: 2.4 out of 5
Extras: 4 ot of 5