Archive

Posts Tagged ‘adapted from comic book’

Green Lantern (2011)

06/27/2011 4 comments

In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let all who worship evil’s might
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s Light!

Green Lantern is a superhero movie directed by Martin Campbell, based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by John Broome and Gil Kane. It stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, and Tim Robbins.

Millions of years before Earth was even a twinkle in the universe’s eye, a group of benevolent, immortal beings called the Guardians figured out how to harness the green essence of willpower. Placing this power into magic rings, they formed an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps, whose job was to patrol the universe and battle evil. One member of the Corps, Abin-Sur, defeated a fear-entity called Parallax and locked him away in a lifeless planet in the Lost Sector. An ungodly amount of time later, Parallax breaks free and attacks Abin-Sur’s sector, mortally wounding the Green Lantern and forcing him to run like hell perform a strategic withdrawal in order to warn the others. His ship crash-lands on an insignificant blue planet called Earth, and as he lays dying he commands his ring to find a successor. What it finds (and forcibly abducts) is Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. Hal isn’t sure about the whole superhero thing, but decides that this magic ring is really awesome, and being a member of the Space Police sounds really cool. Unfortunately, humans are a relatively primitive race in the galaxy, and the rest of the Corps isn’t so sure about this loud pink monkey wielding a Green Lantern ring. Fortunately, Hal will soon have the perfect opportunity to prove himself to the others, because Parallax is headed directly for Earth.

Oh, crap.

I was not very familiar with the Green Lantern mythos before watching this movie. All I knew, really, was that the Green Lantern was some sort of space cop with a magic ring, who was vulnerable to the color yellow. Which in my opinion is a damn stupid weakness to have. Fortunately the infodump at the beginning of this movie gets Green Lantern newbies quickly up to speed, introducing them to the mythos of the Corps, who the hell Parallax is, and why we should be rooting for this hotshot fighter pilot with more balls than sense. The vulnerability to yellow has been updated to a vulnerability to the essence of fear, which opposes the essence of willpower wielded by the GLC. This makes a lot more sense, because if you have something that manifests your own willpower into reality, the only real limitation is your imagination and self-doubt. (Incidentally, in an earlier iteration of the Green Lantern, the vulnerability was wood, which somehow manages to be even dumber than a vulnerability to yellow). To give Hal a bit of background, a flashback sequence shows that his dad was also a fighter pilot who died in a plane crash, and Hal has been following in his contrail ever since, striving for Dad’s level of fearlessness, and to offer a mortal face to the Parallax threat, a lab rat charged with dissecting the body of Abin-Sur is infected with a bit of Parallax juice and turned into a psychic insane Elephant Man who wants the sort of powers Hal’s ring gives him.

Overall, the special effects used to bring the Green Lantern’s mythology to life were exceptionally well-done, from the advanced alien world of Oa that serves at the collective headquarters of the GLC, to the nearly photorealistic alien beings that dominate the corps (of whom I believe only Sinistro was an actual dude in makeup – maybe), to the portrayal of the will-made-material powers of the ring, best demonstrated in a great sequence where Hal saves the passengers of a crashing helicopter by turning the helicopter into a racecar and summoning a giant green Hot Wheels racetrack to guide it away from innocents at a party. Hal’s Green Lantern armor was also well-done, offering a new take on the hero-dipped-in-rubber look that had crashed and burned with Joel Schumacher’s attempt at a couple of Batman movies, by adding Tron lines to make it clear that the suit is composed of Hal’s will. Best excuse for no zippers ever, and Reynolds was in good enough shape to pull it off. My only complaint was Parallax himself, a force of ultimate fear and corruption that regrettably resembled a demonic octopus made of feces.

If you like superhero movies, and your interests lie slightly outside the core group of A-listers that have been so popular of late, watch Green Lantern. It captures the spirit of the mythos without spiralling off into absurdity, and it offers an action-packed origin story that’s perfect for a summer blockbuster.

Iron Man (2008)

06/09/2011 1 comment

Hello, ladies. Look at Tony Stark. Now look at your man. Now back at Tony Stark. Does your man look like Tony Stark? No. Can he smell like Tony Stark? Well, maybe. Is your man the heir to one of the most lucrative weapons manufacturing industries in the world? Does your man have three summer homes and 26 expensive cars? Look down. Look up. Where are you now? You’re at a party, with the superhero your man could smell like. Anything is possible with Tony Stark.

Iron Man is a superhero film directed by Jon Favreau, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Stan Lee. It stars Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jeff Bridges.

Tony Stark is an engineering genius, rich playboy, and currently the head of Stark Industries, a military contracting company he inherited from his father. While his father’s old partner Obadiah Stane takes care of things stateside, Stark travels to Afghanistan to demonstrate the new Jericho missile, only to have his convoy attacked by terrorists on the way back to base. Stark is injured in the attack and taken hostage by a group called the Ten Rings, where he finds that a fellow hostage, Dr. Yinsen, has installed an electromagnet in his chest to prevent shrapnel from entering his heart and killing him. Raza, the leader of the Ten Rings, tells Stark that he can buy his freedom by building them a Jericho missile. Doubting Raza will keep his word, Stark instead builds a suit of powered armor that runs off an arc reactor he builds to power his electromagnet. During the course of his escape, Stark discovers the Ten Rings has weaponry built by Stark Industries. Shaken, he vows that Stark Industries will no longer manufacture weapons. However, he thinks his suit is neat and just needs refinement, so being a good little nerd he hacks away at the design in his workshop. When he discovers that more Stark Industries weapons have been delivered to Ten Rings, Stark realizes his new calling – to use his suit for good to atone for the destruction that Stark Industries has caused with its weaponry. Little does he suspect that someone close to him has other plans for his powered armor…

I will admit that when I first saw Iron Man, I wasn’t as familiar with this particular Marvel character as I was with, say, Spider-Man or the X-Men, and with most of these established characters there just too much continuity across too many alternate universes to justify trying to dredge up everything with their name on it. Fortunately, the movie offers a crash course in all things Tony Stark, and quickly gets the viewer up to speed, as befits a retelling of his origin story. He is at once arrogant and loveable, a charming rogue who had never needed to take any responsibility save publicity stunts and hobnobbing with the beautiful people. Fortunately, when reality slaps him across the face, he rises to the occasion, proving that under the fun-loving playboy lies a genuinely good heart. While the Ten Rings portion of the plot seemed to be banking on the Afghanistan War, the writing was tight enough that the terrorists never stumbled into Sterotype Land, making them seem like a genuine threat. Back on American soil, it was fun watching Stark’s personality simply bounce off the people around him, particularly in his interactions with his long-suffering assistant Pepper Potts, who acts in turns as a secretary, potential romantic interest, and mother figure to the wayward Tony. Their relationship is deeper than mere professionalism, but while they tease with romance nothing ever seems to come of it.

The story is exciting and action-packed, offering a first look into this budding superhero that never feels forced or artificial. Each event flowed naturally into the next, from the introduction of our disgustingly wealthy hero to his transition into a force for good, without sending him spiralling too far into brooding Batman Land. The plot was a lot of fun to watch, especially as he is tinkering with his original suit, trying to improve it, even as he tests of the various weapons and propulsion systems send him careening into walls. His first flight in the iconic red and gold suit offers shades of Icarus’ first flight; Stark enjoys the hell out of his newfound freedom, even as he learns about the suit’s critical weakness (which, like Icarus, he discovers by trying to fly a high as he can). Stark makes a fun, enjoyable superhero, in stark contrast to his DC counterpart Bruce Wayne. Iron Man fans will also notice a lot of nods to the various comics stories, like the proposed cover story that Iron Man is a bodyguard to Tony Stark, as well as early warning signs of his alcoholism.

Whether you’re a longtime reader of the Iron Man comics or a newcomer who really digs superheroes, I highly recommend Iron Man. Tony Stark offers a fun-loving superhero to the mix that you wouldn’t mind partying with, in between him saving the city.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)


In any dating situation, one can expect both sides to enter the relationship with a bit of baggage – it’s part of having a past. Sometimes this baggage affects the impending relationship, sometimes not so much. Scott Pilgrim has just met the girl of his dreams. Naturally, she has baggage. Too bad all her baggage has superpowers. That’s okay, though. Scott Pilgrim knows kung fu.

Or something.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a comedy film directed by Edgar Wright, based on the independent graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It stars Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, and Ellen Wong.

Scott Pilgrim (age 22) lives in Toronto. He is the bassist for the band Sex Bob-Omb, and has just begun dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (over the protests of all his friends), who shares his love of video games and really digs his music. Then he meets Ramona Flowers, an American girl with technicolor hair who has been appearing in her dreams. Suddenly his entire world revolves around wooing Ramona, leaving Knives in the dust – and then he learns about Ramona’s little baggage issue – seven evil exes whom he must defeat in order to gain the right to date Ramona. They’re, like, a League of Evil. And they all want to annihilate Scott. In the meantime, Sex Bob-Omb hopes to sign a record deal with a major producer, and Scott has to cope with issues surrounding his gay roommate Wallace. And… a really weird movie ensues.

I’ve never read Scott Pilgrim, so this movie was essentially my first taste of this world, and the presentation left me pretty confused. On the one hand, Pilgrim himself seems like an average guy with very few social skills, a garage band, and a slightly complicated love life. That plot alone, would make a decent slice-of-life drama. And then there’s the video-game stuff that ensues surrounding the Seven Evil Exes, with sequences that come out of nowhere like the final boss rush of a beat-em-up game and don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. The battles with the Evil Exes are highly stylized, more so even than the rest of the movie, suggesting that they take place in a Calvin and Hobbes-esque view of reality rather than in what we would call reality. The only characters that manage to ascend beyond the rank of one-dimensional cardboad cutout are Scott himself, whose character development is portrayed in the context to racking up points and coins with the defeat of each ex, and Ramona herself, who remains mysterious even as we learn more about her and her checkered past.

The presentation of Scott Pilgrim’s world was often distracting, with certain sound effects manifesting visibly, comic-book style, and a minor running gag wherein a foulmouthed character’s salty language is obscured by a black censor bar over her mouth and a sound effect obscuring the words themselves. These effects, coupled with the fantasy-laced fight scenes that come out of nowhere like random encounters in an RPG and thereafter play out like battle in Mortal Kombat, culminating in an explosion of coins (seriously – where the hell do the coins come from?) and the occasional powerup (one of which becomes crucial to Scott’s ultimate victory) from each defeated foe, made this movie seem like the independent comics equivalent of Ang Lee’s Hulk, laced liberally with comic book tropes for good measure. The main plotline was decently interesting, with Scott fighting Ramona’s past in order to be part of her future, but it often drowned in the gallons of special effects surrounding it.

I tried very hard to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, what could have been a good story was ultimately lost in the ludicrous amount of shiny used to present it. Fans of Scott Pilgrim might enjoy it, but I found it to be schizophrenic and spectacular, without a strong enough storyline to back it up.

300 (2007)

04/25/2011 3 comments

There are macho movies. And there are manly movies. Then there are those movies that are so laced with testosterone that they are very likely to impregnate any unprotected females who watch it. When Frank Miller sets out to make a graphic novel, he seldom takes half-measures, and this pseudo-historical account of a bunch of buff, half-naked warriors defending their nation against the Persions is no exception. After all…

This is Sparta.

300 historical fantasy film based on the graphic novel of the same title retelling the Battle of Thermopylae. It was directed by Zack Snyder, with Miller riding along as executive producer and consultant. It stars Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, and Rodrigo Santoro.

Dilios, a warrior of Sparta, relates the story of King Leonidas to an unseen audience, telling of his gruelling boyhood under the Warrior Code of Sparta to his ascension to the throne. Leonidas is a born badass. Naturally, when a messenger comes to Sparta on behalf of the god-king Xerxes and demands that Sparta submit to Persia, Leonidas basically tells him to blow it out his ass and kicks the messenger into a pit. Knowing that this display will incite war with Persia, who boasts an army ten million strong, Leonidas visits the Ephors, whose blessing he needs before the Spartan council will go to war. The plan he proposes will force the numerically-superior Persians into a bottleneck at Thermopylae, thereby eliminating their advantage. The Ephors refuse, as their oracle decrees that Sparta must not go to war during a religious festival. Fine. Leonidas is not just going to lie down and submit to the Persians, regardless what the Ephors say. Why? Because he’s Leonidas, dammit. He gathers 300 of his best men and head off to Thermopylae anyway to cockblock the Persians, unaware of the corruption stewing within his own city. And badassery ensues.

When I watched 300, I knew that it was based on historical events, though they were passed through the filter of a narrator who knew his audience and wasn’t about to let the facts get in the way of a rollicking good story. Add to this the Frank Miller filter, and you’ve got a tale whose historical content is more in line with Clash of the Titans than Saving Private Ryan. That’s okay, though, because it looked really awesome. A few characters and storylines were added to Miller’s material to offer a bit more depth and conspiracy to the narrative, and this decision did help break up what would otherwise be about an hour and a half of muscular, half-naked Spartans beating the everloving hell out of muscular, half-naked Persians, and offered a glimpse of what might have been happening back in Sparta while King Leo was at Thermopylae kicking ass and chewing gum. The stylized presentation of events didn’t detract from the movie at all – Miller had researched the Spartan lifestyle and how Greek warriors preferred to be portrayed, and the finished movie was very much in line with this. I call it the Testosterone Filter.

Despite the wall-to-wall asskicking that one would naturally expect from this movie, the setup and some of the filler did offer chances to get to know the Spartan characters, and provided a coherent introduction to the Spartan way of life to an audience that might not have a military history background. Leo et al were taught to fight and be strong from an early age. Men who died in combat were honored, as were women who died in childbirth. Queen Gorgo herself was beautiful but hardly a retiring queen, stepping up to directly garner support for Sparta going to war against the Persians while her husband and his 300 closest friends were fighting the good fight at Thermopylae. Men born crippled or deformed were considered lower than human – fitting in a society where you were expected to fight or die. The Persians were also depicted as subhuman monsters, a frequent complaint as it smacked of racism, but consider the narrator – a Spartan Warrior trying to convince the rest of Greece to unite against The Enemy. In that respect, Dilios’ account of Thermopylae was informative propaganda – look how hard our king fought against Those People who want to take everything we have and enslave us! Incidentally, I found David Wenham an amusing casting choice for Dilios, considering I’d seen him previously as the decidedly noncombatant comic relief inventor Friar Carl in Van Helsing.

If you want to see a manly movie, featuring manly warriors fighting a manly battle against manly enemy forces, I recommend 300. What it lacks in realism, it easily makes up for in impressive visuals and an exciting, action-packed story plucked from the pages of ancient history.

The Mask (1994)

04/16/2011 1 comment

Jim Carrey has always been a spaz. From his frenetic stand-up comedy routines to his chaotic stint as a member of the In Living Color troupe, he had already been labelled a human cartoon. Then in 1996, he starred in a movie that showed people how big a spaz he could be by turning him into an actual human cartoon.

The Mask is a superhero fantasy comedy film directed by Chuck Russell, based (generally) on the comic book miniseries of the same title by Dark Horse Comics. It stars Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, and Richard Jeni.

Stanley Ipkiss is a loser. He gets no respect at work, he is a shy closet romantic, and he is regularly bullied by everyone around him. His only friends are his Jack Russell Terrier, Milo, and his co-worker Charlie. One night after being denied entry to the elite Coco Bongo Club and getting stranded in a broken-down rental car by the harbor, Stanley finds a wooden mask floating in the water. On a whim, he takes the mask home, and puts it on as a joke – and the mask tranforms him into a wild, chaotic trickster with reality-bending powers, manifesting as a live-action version of a Tex Avery cartoon character. While his life seems to be turning around now that the Mask has been unleashed, it is also going to get him in trouble with two groups: The police, who are investigating the Mask’s robbery of the bank Stanley works at, and gangster Dorian Tyrell, who had been planning to rob that same bank just before the Mask hit it, and who owns the Coco Bongo Club. Now Stanley finds himself trying to keep a very odd secret from those who would use the Mask for evil, while keeping his natural Jim Carrey-ness on a leash.

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The fact that Carrey’s portrayal of a human cartoon needed only minor CGI enhancement makes the movie that much funnier, but at the same time it offered a glimpse of his ability to play more subdued roles (well, relatively subdued). While Carrey as Stanley was more or less Just a Normal Guy, there were hints and twitches of Not Normal here and there, which only served as foreshadowing of what the Mask would be like, which was, personality-wise, Jim Carrey as a reality warper. Cameron Diaz also fared well in her first movie role as The Hot Chick, starting out as a love-interest/plot device before developing into a genuine character who actually serves a role in the climax beyond the Damsel in Distress. The other characters are borderline caricatures, from the annoying landlady to the bullying boss to the jerkass mechanics, but it works here, since they have to keep up with Jim Carrey in a comic book universe.

Once I heard that the movie had been adapted from a comic book series, I did pick up a couple issues of The Mask to compare. The comics (being from Dark Horse) are a lot darker, and the Mask is more dangerous and sociopathic than just a fun-loving trickster. Here, though, he’s a bit more audience friendly, making the Mask only as dangerous as its wearer, even as it unleashes new heights of hyperactivity that Carrey had previously only dreamed of. The Mask effects were excellent, earning the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects (it lost to Forrest Gump) and perfectly translating cartoonish superpowers to a live-action medium. Honestly, I think only Carrey would have had the energy to play a character like this.

In the end, The Mask is a fun homage to Tex Avery cartoons and an exploration to the limits of Jim Carrey’s sheer hyperactivity. It really doesn’t pretend to be much more than that, and it doesn’t need to be. I highly recommend it next time you’re looking for a good comedy – just sit back and watch the chaos unfold.

30 Days of Night (2007)

04/11/2011 1 comment

Welcome to Barrow, Alaska: the northernmost point in the United States – so far north, in fact, that there’s a span of about a month where the sun don’t come up at all. Ordinarily that don’t bother most of the locals; those that don’t like it head south for sunnier climes and the rest just hunker down like the hardcore Alaskans they are. This year, though, things are a little bit different, as the prospect of a thirty-day dark has brought some hungry visitors to Barrow, and they’re not feeling too neighborly…

30 Days of Night is a vampire horror film directed by David Slade and based on the comic book miniseries of the same named by IDW Publishing. It stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, and Ben Foster.

As the quiet Alaskan town of Barrow prepares for its annual “thirty days of night” in the middle of the polar winter, Sheriff Eben Oleson notices that someone is taking great pains to isolate the residents, sabotaging the town’s communications and transport. When Eben’s soon-to-be-ex-wife, Stella, misses the last plane south, it looks like she is going to be trapped there for the long night as well, which makes things awkward between the two of them as they try hard to avoid each other in a town whose current population is about 200 people. Eben discovers a twitchy stranger in town is stirring up trouble, necessitating his arrest and jailing. the stranger is far from upset about this, saying that death is coming, and he seems to be under the impression that death is gonna help him out for all the good work he did on its behalf. Eben thinks the guy is just a loon until the sun goes down for the last time, and some other newcomers attack the local telecommunication center and power supply, leaving the town dark and completely cut off from the outside world. As Eben investigates, he and the other locals make a horrifying discovery: a pack of vampires has descended on the town, taking advantage of the long period of darkness to feast on the blood of the living. Now, Sheriff Oleson is in the middle of a desperate fight to save the remaining townfolk and last through the darkness, hoping to make it until the sun rises again…

Now, anyone with a decent working knowledge of world geography knows that above the Arctic Circle the sun doesn’t seem to behave like it does in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. There’s a stretch in the middle of winter where the sun doesn’t rise. At all. In reality it isn’t as abrupt as it is in the movie, with a stretch of days where it just gets a little twilight-y without actual daytime, during the period depicted as full dark in the movie. The real-life Barrow is quite a bit more populous, boasting about 4,000 people with State PD rather than a local sheriff, and the airport doesn’t shut down in the winter except during storms. That’s the trouble with naming your fictional setting after a real town – the facts get in the way. But hot damn if the concept doesn’t make a neat vampire story. The vampires look like human-shaped sharks rather than merely pretty, predatory humans, and they’re ruthless and vicious and gigantic douchebags to their food source simply because they know they’ve cut off every avenue of escape. In the comic they get one hell of a smackdown from a master vampire who wants to keep up the Masquerade that this bunch are so happily wrecking; not so here. The solid black eyes and the mouth full of sharp fangs are chilling and psychopathic, and the extreme measures they take to make sure that absolutely nobody gets out is so brutally ruthless that I actually found myself a bit afraid of them. Those eyes have no soul. These vampires will eat your face, and enjoy it.

As far as the human cast goes, Josh Harnett fares well as Eben Oleson, but the other locals seem to fade into the background as potential vampire snacks, even his soon-to-be-ex who, while pretty handy in a pinch, never offers any clues as to the reasons for their split. The other humans are largely forgettable, and all in all the vampire sharks are more interesting than the townfolk. The dialogue felt a bit hackneyed at times – not so much a problem with what was in the script so much as the delivery. While the plot was mostly engaging, in the end most of the characters felt less like real locals in a real town way up in Bum Frapping Egypt, Alaska, and more like what they were – largely disposable characters in a vampire movie.

While the concept of vampires above the Arctic Circle had promise and the vampires themselves looked great, uninteresting characters and slightly odd dialogue made this more or less a conventional vampire movie in a new and interesting setting. While overall it was engaging as a vampire movie, unfortunately I think the comic miniseries did it somewhat better. Vampire fans should enjoy it, though. Rent it sometime.

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.