Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alien vs. Predator (2004 Review, 3rd review of 5)

        From 1990-2004 the Predator series was put to rest and only had two movies prior, it seemed like a great series was taken before it’s time. Then suddenly in 2004 we got a new Predator flick under the direction of “Resident Evil” director Paul W.S. Anderson. The only film of his that I really liked was “Mortal Kombat” but I didn’t care for any of his other films, especially “Event Horizon”.  But regardless, I was really excited to get a new film in the series and not just another stand alone Predator film but a crossover into the Alien franchise titled “Alien vs. Predator”. The original AVP comics were a huge hit from the “Dark Horse comics” company and that Alien skull seen at the end of “Predator 2” made it seem very likely that this film would be made. Now I’m a sucker for crossover monster movies and have seen just about all of them including “Frankenstein meets the Wolfman” 1943, “King Kong vs. Godzilla” 1962 and “Freddy vs. Jason” 2003 and I must confess that of all of these monster crossover films, “Alien vs. Predator” might just be my personal favorite. So as Michael Buffer would put itLet’s get ready to rumble!      

    The first thing to mention is that this is not a continuation of either the Predator or Alien series, it’s a reboot to a standalone series, which is a great idea, that way we don’t have to worry about things like continuity and they can add things to the genesis of these characters that wouldn’t have worked in either of the other two franchises. The story begins with the discovery of an ancient pyramid in Antarctica of all places and a team is sent in to investigate. Our new lead heroin is played by the beautiful Sanaa Lathan (who you may recognize from “Blade” or “Contagion”). I’ve definitely seen better characters but she holds her own just fine and is a relatively tough female lead who manages to be strong while still keeping her femininity in check. Another note worthy star is Lance Henriksen who’s reprising his role as Charles Bishop Weyland from the Alien franchise and he can certainly hold his own in this film. The rest of the characters are cardboard cutouts but to be fare, there at least nice people that you can slightly care about as opposed to all those jerks in “Predator 2”. Throughout the film we get a few nice little nods and inside jokes. For example, the title opening is a recreation of both title openings from the first "Alien" and first “Predator” movies. There’s a scene in a room where some people are watching “Frankenstein meets the Wolfman”, which was the first crossover monster movie ever made. Also in this scene, if you look over at the right TV stand, you’ll see the same bobbing chicken that was on the dinner table in the first Alien movie.

       Back to the plot, we have a cool little flashback of the creation of this mysterious pyramid and we learn that thousands of years ago the Predators found this planet and taught humans how to build civilizations and temples, and the humans began to warship them as gods, which is an interesting contrast to the first Predator film. In that movie we learn that natives spoke of these creatures as demons and now we learn of an ancient culture that viewed them as gods. In return for helping humans build and adapt they also demand a sacrifice every couple years, they then use the human sacrifices to breed the alien creatures so there young can hunt them down and then be honored as warriors in there clan. Now in present day, this expedition team is being used to breed more aliens so that a group of three young predators can hunt them down and achieve honor amongst their fellow hunters. It’s a crazy set up but it still works in favor of both creatures and it’s a good excuse to get them to fight.

      It’s awesome to finally get more than one Predator on screen and their helmets, costumes and weapons are really awesome in this film. I especially love this one Predator that has a helmet that looks like the Punisher. The Predator space ships also look so much cooler than they did in the last two films. The facial esthetics now manage to show more expression in the creatures face but they just don’t look as scary as before, cant quiet put my finger on it but it feels like there’s something missing there. My only minor complaint about these predators is that they do get killed off really fast, but I suppose that’s understandable considering that there young rookies and not fully matured warriors. One of the biggest complaints from fans is that the last surviving predator makes a temporary alliance with the leading heroin and I can understand why this would bother fans because it just doesn’t click with the creature but in all honesty, the only thing going through my mind was how awesome it would be to team up with a predator in battle.  

     Now I had been a fan of Predator before I had seen this film but I had never seen any of the Alien movies before I saw this movie, I was really young at the time and to be honest, they frightened me. I had never seen anything like a creature laying an egg in some one’s body, then bursting out the stomach and then growing into this monstrous creature. There’s one Alien in particular with green scars on his head, so he can stand out as an Alien leader, which is a cool idea but he doesn't really do anything, he’s just there in the group of aliens and gets killed off with the big group of aliens at the end of the film. The alien queen was awesome, basically, she’s a giant super sized alien and even more than a match for an armed to the teeth predator.

   The creatures and effects were brought to life by “Amalgamated Dynamics Inc.”, the same company that did the creature effects in “Star Ship Troopers” and “Spider-Man”, for the most part the production looks really cool. The Predators are once again people in costume and I love that the aliens are robotic puppets. When it comes to CG creatures they only exist in a computer but puppets are actually there with the actors and it makes the creatures feel more real and sense there puppets they can do things people in costumes can’t accomplish. The set designs and props are fairly impressive for a film with this kind of budget, it all looks very state of the art. The location itself is very effective, it’s great that this takes place in Antarctica because it’s the most alien location on the planet and a fare setting for the creatures. The pyramid itself is a very claustrophobic environment and it keeps re-configuring itself, making it even harder for the humans to find their way out. The music by Harald Kloser is also fairly good and helps give life to the action.

      Unfortunately, just like the first Predator movie, the set up and build up is the best part of the film while the payoff is really hit and miss and it’s more disappointing this time because this film promises to be a huge clash of titans. The first battle between predator and alien is awesome, these two destroy there surroundings and tare the shit out of each other. They really take advantage of this location and it’s always such a treat to see two classic monsters fight. However there aren’t that many more matches between the two, it’s mostly just the humans fighting the aliens with predator occasionally slowing the aliens down. The fights also tend to suffer from too much shaky camera and the battles are a little too short. In the end, it does leave you wanting a lot more, especially with all the build up that you had to sit through. That’s not to say the film is devoid of entertainment, because it is fun at times and the climax is really entertaining with the alien queen getting loose on the surface and chasing down our lead hero’s. 


      After the battle concludes, our lead heroin is approached by the elder predator that was seen at the end of “Predator 2” and he gives her a Predator staff, as if to say “We honor you as our equal”, which is great. At the end of the film we learn that an alien got inside one of the predators and has given birth to some strange alien/predator hybrid, setting it up for a sequel, which I’ll talk about next time.

      When I first saw this movie, I loved it, but I’ve gotten older and after finally watching the original “Aliens”, I find myself liking this film less and less. Overall, it’s just a dumb, fun monster movie, it’s not meant to be great and for what it is, I still think it’s entertaining. It’s not a film I watch often but if it shows up on TV than I don’t mind just sitting back and watching it. One thing that can be said for this film is that there was at least some small effort to be a good film but it didn’t make it all the way to greatness and is just trashy entertainment. I give “Alien vs. Predator” 3 stars out of 5. Will round two fare any better? Well, a review for “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” is up next. 

     To Be Continued....                 

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