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"Alien vs. Predator"

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
Written by Paul W.S. Anderson.
Starring Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova and Lance Henriksen.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  8/12/04


I loved "Alien."  I loved "Predator."  On paper, the idea of pitting the Alien vs. the Predator is genius, isn't it?

I have heard good things about the comic series inspired by the war between the two movie characters, but when the movie was announced, I was very skeptical.  What would the human element be that keeps the properties together?  The thing that makes the movies "Alien" (and its superior sequel "Aliens") and "Predator" so strong is the human element in these pictures; the camaraderie in "Aliens", especially, drives the action/horror to its limit and gives us a very satisfying film.  With this in mind, I was wondering how the filmmakers would introduce a connection to why we even care that predators and aliens are duking it out on planet Earth.

In "Alien vs. Predator", a scientific expedition led by Charles Weyland (Lance Henriksen) to a distant point in Antarctica brings everyone involved close to big trouble:  it seems that an underground pyramid is being used for a hunting ground by these strange, camouflaged super warriors that look a lot like the things that Schwarzenegger fought against in 1987.  The humans also realize that this pyramid is a hive of sorts for the exact same bastards that Sigourney Weaver fought off of her ship in...well, some future time hundreds of years from now.  Shit's gonna get hectic!

The humans, who are led on their expedition by the world's top arctic guide, Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan, "Love and Basketball"), seem to realize just a bit too late that they are in over their heads, but for the audience, we know right away that nearly all of these folks are going to get it bad.  Director Paul W.S. Anderson (still hasn't made a great film, but he knows kills, as evidenced by "Event Horizon" and "Resident Evil") does set up the film well even if his script is Pinocchio-wooden in the early going.  For a PG-13, this feels like a good mix of action and horror; there are a few times where the music is removed to make things extra-tense, so don't take your squeamish girlfriend to this one.

"Alien vs. Predator" seems to know that it can't take itself too seriously, so we get a couple of great in-jokes (easy ones if you've seen "Aliens") as well as little nuanced things like the similarity of some of the kills to past movies.  In fact, I was probably the only guy in the theater howling when Colin Salmon gets it; he dies in roughly the same fashion he was killed off in "Resident Evil", and I was loving that Anderson made the kills so similar.  Also, there are some great bad cheese moments at the end...but, I don't want to give that away if you plan on seeing this thing.

The no-name cast gets the job done, and they do their job of dying off quickly and not getting in the way of a good time.  The effects work is solid, and because so much of "Alien vs. Predator" takes place in the dark, it masks a lot of the things that would have been tough to do had the film taken place in an urban environment, instead of an underground ice fortress.  Pacing makes the film fly by, and Lathan does the heroine bit quite capably if a bit understated.

But, all of these things don't change the fact that I saw this for free, thanks to my friend Tricia, and on the way home even I had to admit to myself:  "Alien vs. Predator" is not a very good movie.  It does a lot of the summer blockbuster things well, in terms of entertaining a packed house.  But, will you ever want to see it again?  No.  I don't think that fans of the comic series or of the past movies will feel like the experience was THAT gratifying; the violence isn't as violent as it was in any of the previous films ("Predator 2" was bad, but at least you got the visceral piece of it), so you feel cheated, like the studio put on the kid gloves to give you a piece of entertainment.  The first 15 minutes of this flick had people in my audience visibly agitated; it starts off bad, and it even stoops to those pandering shots of a team of highly trained experts gathered to complete "one last mission" even though you know that none of these "experts" has a shot in hell of making it out alive.  After a while, there aren't that many humans left to even pass the time with bad dialogue, so the human connection in "Alien vs. Predator" is much worse than in any of the other flicks.

If you can see this for $6 on a big screen, do it.  You'll laugh and you'll enjoy the effects work.  If you can't see this for $6 on a big screen, don't see it at all; on a regular ol' TV at home, "Alien vs. Predator" will fall flat on its face.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09