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Alien vs. Predator (2004) October 20, 2009

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2004

It is not easy being a fan of 1970s and 1980s science fiction films, especially these days. Too many times memory of great films is ruined by Hollywood’s uninspired and often unimaginably bad sequels, remakes or prequels. In some rare occassions a single title can offend more than one science fiction movie fandom. One of such examples is ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, 2004 film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.

The film is prequel to two classic genre films that introduced memorable science fiction monsters – ALIEN and PREDATOR. Idea of a film that would combine those two was one of the more popular among science fiction fandom two decades ago. In 1990 first glimpses of those two films sharing the same fictional universe appeared as production design details in PREDATOR II. This was followed by popular video games and comic books. Many attempts to use this concept for a new feature film didn’t materialise until 2004.

2004 is the year when the plot begins. Satellite belonging to corporation owned by wealthy industrialist Charles Weyland (played by Lance Henriksen) discovers mysterious large pyramid-like object buried under the ice at Bouvet Island, 1000 miles north of Anctartica. Weyland quickly assembles team of mountaineers, archeologists and other experts to investigate. The expedition enters pyramid and discovers that it was built by ancient human civilisation worshipping strange creatures descending from heaven. The worship included human sacrifice in the form of victims being incubators for chest-bursting alien acid-bleding monsters or “serpents”, which are later hunted by alien hunters as some sort of their rite of passage.

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR was savaged by critics, and that shouldn’t have been much of surprise. Paul W. Anderson, director who was also credited with screenplay, built his film more on the video games than on previous great works of Ridley Scott, James Cameron and John McTiernan. Furthermore, decision to use PG-13 rating made ALIEN VS. PREDATOR look like less realistic and cheap version of previous films. But the worst problem is in script. Aliens and Predators are already established as characters in previous films. Unfortunately, the audience that expects their formiudable presence has to wait before they are properly revealed and instead has to deal with weak, underdeveloped characters whose ultimate fates – which are rather predictable – don’t attract much sympathy from audience.

The film is almost unbearable until the real showodown – between Aliens and Predators – begins. Anderson then uses some of his skills, as well as CGI, to make few interesting and spectacular fight scenes. Those scenes, however, end relatively quickly, just as the film, without making ALIEN VS. PREDATOR more than merely watchable. “Surprise” ending that points to a inevitable sequel, however, only completes the generally negative impression.

Basic premise of the script – inspired by the works by Erich von Däniken – was interesting, and opened more opportunities for film to be something more than cheap genre entertainment. Those opportunities was wasted, just like the cast that would have made wonders in different films. Sanaa Lathan tries very hard, but ultimately fails, to fill Sigourney Weaver’s shoes in role of tough female survivor. Others, like Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bouva and Ewen Bremner are tragically underused due to their characters being cliched and forgettable. Such disappointments, considering what Hollywood does to its legacy, weren’t so unexpected, so this is main reason why ALIEN VS. PREDATOR isn’t as bad as its critical reputation might indicate.

RATING: 3/10


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