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Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Over the centuries, an ancient race of alien hunters known as Predators have travelled across galaxies, seeking out the most dangerous prey on which to hone their hunting skills. In the last two Predator movies, the most dangerous prey they have chosen has been on Earth, in the form of the cunning, dangerous beast called humans. Dark Horse Comics would set up the xenomorphs of the Alien franchise as another chosen quarry, an idea which the books and comics of the Alien vs. Predator print franchise would take and run with after a scene at the end of Predator 2 showed a xenomorph skull in the trophy case of a Predator ship, to the tune of a book series, several comics crossovers, 37 licenced video games, a trading card game, a tabletop miniatures game, and even a set of action figures (which rocked, BTW). Now the crossover goes back to its film roots with the movie Alien vs. Predator.

Alien vs. Predator, also known as AVP, is a sci-fi action movie co-written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars Sanaa Lathan, Lance Heriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, three dudes in Predator costumes, and lots of CGI Aliens.

It is the year 2004. When a satellite detects a mysterious heats ource beneath the ice of Bouvetøya, an island one thousand miles north of Antarctica, wealthy industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Henriksen) gathers a team of experts to investigate the heat source and claim it for Weyland Industries. Among them are Sebastian de Rosa (Bova), an archaeologist, Graeme Miller (Bremner), a Scottish explorer with two kids and no survival instinct, Maxwell Stafford (Salmon), Weyland’s assistant, who bears a passing resemblance to the Old Spice Guy, a group of mercenaries in case shit gets real, Chuck Weyland himself (Henriksen), who appears to be suffering from an unspecified degenerative lung disease, and Alexa Woods (Lathan), a guide specializing in icy terrain. As they’re preparing to go to the site, a Predator ship shows up and blasts a path straight through the ice in preparation for their hunt, leaving a shaft which the human explorers find, briefly comment on, and apparently dismiss as harmless, using this helpful pathway as a direct line to the site, a step pyramid from an ancient civilization that combines elements of Egyptian, Aztec, and Cambodian cultures. As they’re exploring the pyramid, one of the dumbass mercs activates something that starts up a chain of events leading to the hunt, like waking the trapped Queen Alien in the bowels of the structure, shocking her eggsac to stimulate egg production onto a device that carries the eggs up to the potential hosts waiting above. Then the Predators show up, and things just keep getting worse and worse, until the rapidly dwindling group of human survivors are forced to choose a side in a war that has spanned centuries…

This movie had promise. It really did. With the momentum of a huge franchise behind it, with tons of material to build from, it could have been something epic. It, uh… wasn’t. It did try, though. I will give them that much credit. By setting it in 2004, it offers half an explanation for why Weyland-Yutani would be interested in the Xenomorphs during the original Alien movies, and introduces us to one of the founding members of that company (… I think) in the form of Charles Weyland. It also built on the premise that Predators have been hunting here for centuries, by having an ancient human civilization worship them as gods, offering themselves willingly as hosts for the Great Hunt, during a time when Antarctica wasn’t under a mile or so of permanent ice. This all makes sense in the Predator franchise. The introduction of Aliens into this engineered hunting ground also makes sense, as Xenomorphs make a logical Ultimate Prey for a ritual adulthood hunt..

Now for the bits where the gears of the two franchises don’t quite mesh. First: Preds like to hunt in hot environments, as established in the previous two Predator movies. Unless those hunts were just “whatever” hunts, it doesn’t make sense for a heat-loving species to go back to a hunting ground locked under permanent ice, which even heated is still cold enough for the human protagonists to need protective clothing. Second: the Alien gestation period is too damn short. The first movie established about a day on the face, another day in the abdominal cavity, and then OHAI. The humans were in the pyramid for a few hours before shit went down. Unless the Preds figured out a way to accelerate this as well (and it’s not like they needed to), the timeline doesn’t fit. Third: Antarctica is really annoying to get to. Unless Weyland knew for a fact that other companies were bearing down on the site as they spoke (and he didn’t seem to know any such thing, he was just speculating), they would have had plenty of time for Alexa to train the team properly to get them ready. If they had, probably 75% of all the carnage wouldn’t have happened. And why the Hell is Alexa allowing Weyland, who is hacking up a lung half the time, to go with them to Antarctica? None of this is made clear, so it all falls together into a clumsy pile of plot points. On the topic of redeeming qualities, through, the CGI Aliens looked passable, the Predators looked great, and the Queen herself looked positively badass.

So… good idea, good concept, clumsy execution. This could have been such an awesome movie if it had been longer and they had time to iron out all the wrinkles, but in the end it looked like they just tried too hard. Rent it for completeness’ sake, but don’t make any special effort to acquire it.

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