Alien vs PredatorFirst off lets start by saying that anyone expecting the tension of Alien or the intrigue of Predator, or a combination of both is sadly out of luck. Alien vs Predator is a different creature all together. This film takes the two popular xenomorphs and sets them in the present. As a result the film slots into the chronology after the two Predator films but before the Alien series.
There are a few references and in-jokes for fans of the previous six films to enjoy throughout, the presence of Lance Henriksen as the CEO of Weyland Industries, Charles Bishop Weyland, being the most obvious. But overall, other than the two creatures, AVP can be classified as a waypoint between the two sets of films.
Set on Earth in the year 2004, Charles Bishop Weyland(Lance Henriksen) an industrialist billionaire, forms an archaeological expedition to go to Antartica. Having picked up a massive thermal projection over the Antarctic using thermal imaging satellites, Weyland discovers the ruins of an ancient pyramid buried deep under the ice. The pyramid predates the Egyptian, Cambodian and Aztec pyramids by a few thousand years.
Weyland calls upon Alexa 'Lex' Woods (Sanaa Lathan) an experienced climber and artic guide to lead a disparate group of scientists and security across the ice and into the pyramid. Once inside, the team triggers the pyramid's primary function - a ritual proving ground, containing a mightily angry Alien Queen, for young predators who have slipped into the pyramid behind the group. The group finds a sacrifical chamber with several ages-old human skeletons inside. The skeletons died from holes in their rib cages (no prizes for guessing), the room gets locked tight and the battle commences.
The film is nowhere near as subtle as Alien, lacking the time and setting to establish a bond between the characters and the viewer. As a result, with the exception of Lex, no time is spent on character development, which in a film with such an illustrious history is unforgivable. Instead we get several classic film archetypes, the explorer, the scientist, the tough guys, the archaeologist and the old, domineering company CEO. None of whom we care about in anyway, watching unaffected as one by one they meet their doom.
But, just when you hanker for the climax, something strange happens, the film improves. Not markedly but Anderson begins exploring the themes and ideas fans wish he’d approached from the start. In a situation incredibly similar to the classic graphic novel of the same name, Alien vs Predator starts to test the waters of inter-species coexistence. So whilst the film is all but over there is hope should the franchise be given another chance as Lex and a Predator combine in attempting to prevent the Aliens from causing more damage than they already have. In doing so we are given a brief glimpse at the hunter-culture of the Predators and start wondering about what might have been.
The lack of interesting action in the Human-Alien-Predator triangle is highly disappointing, none of either creature’s attributes are explored with any skill, leaving us with a set of vicious but dour set pieces not aided by a terrible setting. It is only too late that the film realises we aren't interested in a few cheap bangs and tries to save itself. Unfortunately this highlights the uncertainty of the film - is it a story-telling thriller or an out-and-out action film? It doesn't know and neither do we.
Overall the film isn’t bad, it’s just not terribly good. Sanaa Lathan is moderately convincing as the lead character but this is mostly due to her having a lot of screen time and the best scenes of the film. Lance Henriksen as Weyland is highly disappointing, given no time to impose his presence, watch the Millennium series to see how influential he might have been, the character seems to be there purely to satisfy fans with an ‘appearance’, which is sadly all it is. The rest of the cast are, for the most part, nameless, faceless fodder for the main course that simply isn’t up to scratch. Neither of the creatures of the main title convinces in the way the director uses them, and the film is summed up by it’s own catchphrase "Whoever wins we lose", we being the audience. A wasted opportunity.
Reviewed by Owen Jones © 2005