By Vic Holtreman
Short version: A lame attempt to cash in on both franchises, but if you skip the first half of the movie, the second half provides some worthwhile action.
I finally had the chance to watch Aliens vs Predator (or as it's affectionately known: AVP) tonight at a drive-in if you can believe it. It was that or Princess Diaries 2 (which my wife and daughter selected) so I was quite happy with my viewing choice. Here's a tip: Show up about 30 minutes late and you'll really enjoy this movie. Seriously.
Of the two images to the right, the top one is what makes this movie work. The bottom image is what makes it painful. I don't think I'll spoil much by letting you know that most everyone in the photo will be dead by the end of the movie... and let me tell you, that can't happen fast enough. They drag the movie like a boat anchor, and once it's free of them and concentrates on the Aliens and the Predators it takes off pretty well.
The basic story is a corporate satellite picks up a "heat bloom" in Antarctica. The satellite belongs to Weyland corporation (a nod to the awesome Aliens) and it is run by Charles Bishop Weyland as played by Lance Henriksen. If you recall, Henriksen played the android (named Bishop) in the aforementioned Aliens, which was created by the still existent Weyland corp. This is just one of a number of nods to the source films upon which this was based.
Anyway, Weyland determines that there is a huge pyramid at that location, 2000 feet under the ice. He has some sort of terminal disease that causes a lot of coughing and is helped by his breathing into something that looks like my cylindrical toothbrush travel container. He of course assembles a crack team of archaelogists and some other non-specific folks, along with experienced ice-trekker Alexa (played by Sanaa Lathan).
At this point the groan factor increases as we have some major over-acting and cliched lines. I wasn't sure if this was kind of a tribute to the original Predator (where for some reason, it worked) or if it was just bad writing/acting/directing. I'm pretty sure it was the latter.
Weyland wants to leave immediately, Alexa says they need weeks just to get ready and refuses to go (riiiiiiiiight). So we have the handsome archaelogist with a foreign accent, the father of two who's geeky but doesn't seem to realize it, and a blonde with a butch haircut who's bringing a gun because "it's like a condom: I'd rather have it and not need it, than not have it and need it". And no, I did not just make that up.
This was all major A1 level boring, but I got my first jolt of excitement when they cut to a ship in space, and eventually they do a Predator reveal. Cool. Next bit of coolness is when we see our first Alien, frozen and captured, being revived after a century of captivity and apparent death.
Our explorers find a perfectly circular tunnel that goes down to the pyramid "at a perfect 30 degree angle". No one on earth could have done this in 24 hours, so hmmm... whatever, lets just go down the tunnel. There was another little tribute here echoing the scene from Aliens where Bishop is being dragged across the deck at the end of the movie.
There's lots of exploring and getting split up so they can get picked off, and at some point an explanation is given for how and why both races are here. No point in my giving more detail than that. What I really didn't like during this part of the film was that I felt like I was watching two different movies that had been spliced together: a Predator film and an Alien film. Things just didn't mesh well here. At one point a bunch of characters pull machine guns out of their backpacks, gear, or whatever. I don't understand why they brought machine guns on an archaelogical expedition, and it's never explained.
Another odd thing was how fast the gestation of the Aliens happened here... in the original Alien it took about 24 hours for the face-hugger to fall off and then about another hour for the little fella to come out of someone's chest, and then a few more hours for the creature to become full-grown. In AVP this whole process seems to happen in about 30 minutes tops.
Paul Anderson, who wrote and directed, did put in some great moments with our two antagonists, it's just his people stuff that was awful. The first meeting between a Predator and Alien just brought a big fat smile to my face, and the ensuing battle truly fit the opponents. This was no cakewalk for either of them. It was brutal and they were pretty evenly matched: The Aliens' ferocity vs the Predators' fearlessness and skill. There were some great wins on both sides during various fight scenes, and I felt that they fit well as opposed to feeling that they were just trying to give each side a win, tit for tat.
If you're a fan of the Predator movies and think there's no cooler villain than those in the Alien series, just show up late, sit back, and enjoy the battle without the nuisance of speaking characters. Don't look for deep thoughts here, just check your brain at the door and enjoy the ride.