Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Retro So You Won't Have To: Alien Vs. Predator

 I know that you've seen it around, sometimes on sale even, and you've thought to yourself "self, I know that nobody speaks highly of this movie, but dammit, it has aliens AND predators, and Lance Henriksen, and even though Paul W.S. Anderson's only watchable movie is that remake / sequel Death Race, I just want to kick back with some beers and see what all of the hoopla is about."* Folks, let me tell you that even though Prometheus has taken Alien Resurrection's place as "franchise punching bag" for dubious reasons, that's only because Alien and Predator fans banded together to collectively ignore AvP and AvP:R (for Requiem, not just for the "R" rating). This is for the best, but if I need to help keep you away, I will...

 So, here's the reason you see Alien vs Predator (AvP) and its sequel in the "bargain" bin so often, why it isn't included in the Alien Anthology or the... well, there isn't really a Predator boxed set yet, but it is the first film's 25th anniversary this year. Anyway, they sit out there in the $5.99-9.99 price range because nobody wants them. It's not even an issue of having seen it once and then not needing to see it again, because halfway through the movie my friends got up for a cigarette break. The poster's accidentally appropriate tagline says it all: "whoever wins... we lose." Boy do we ever...

 Okay, let's go ahead and wipe out any possible positives: Yes, Lance Henriksen (Aliens) does appear as Charles Bishop Weyland, who runs the Weyland corporation in 2004** but is dying of... cancer? (Sorry, I went to look that up and it's not clear on IMDB or Wikipedia.) Anyway, one of his satellites finds a thermal image of what appears to be a pyramid structure on an island north of Antarctica. He assembles a team, they go down to find out that Predators use the temple for "rite of passage" rituals where they keep a Xenomorph Queen in captivity and fight its offspring. Weyland dies. Spoiler. Also, he briefly plays the "knife" game from Aliens with a pen while on the way to the island.

 AvP isn't really about Weyland so much as it is about guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), who manages to befriend one of the Predators so they can fight the xenomorphs and defeat the queen in a scene that reminded me of the T-Rex chase in Jurassic Park. Then they have a tender moment where more people in the audience than just the Cap'n and friends were yelling "kiss!" to the screen. Also there are some other scientists, archeologists, and Spud from Trainspotting. Most of them die.

 While there is an "extended," "unrated" version of the film, it's still pretty much the same toothless version that played in theaters with a PG-13. Anderson brings to AvP what he brought to Resident Evil, which is to say lots of dark scenes with uninteresting characters saying stupid things, and a Xenomorph, Predator, or Facehugger will jump out and something stupid will happen. I feel bad giving so much crap to "What Script?" Anderson, because when you see him in interviews he's clearly a guy excited to be making the movies he makes, and he has a real enthusiasm that makes you want him to succeed. But he almost never does, and AvP is not the exception (as I said, that's Death Race, which is exactly the kind of "dumb" that he needed to reach for).

 It's been 8 years since we paid money to see Alien vs Predator (no relation to the comic book) and in all that time I've only seen snippets of the movie since, usually on TV. It's the kind of movie that can play on the Syfy Channel because they don't need to cut anything. It's just a sort of bland, by the numbers horror / action movie that adds nothing to the Alien or Predator series. It does end with a chestburster coming out of the Predator who missed his shot at making out with an Earth chick, so you get to see a Predalien. I'm told that it's in the sequel, but I couldn't be bothered to watch it. I think I did you enough of a favor watching the first one. It's not worth even five to ten dollars, or even a rental. You're better of watching Death Race. Actually, you know what? I'm not even going to dismissively recommend Death Race instead of AvP - you'll have more fun watching Death Race, so see that instead.

 * That's what I would think to myself. Does everybody not have that thought process?
 ** Interesting tidbit for people who hope the AvP movies don't count in Alien continuity: technically speaking, Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland appearing at a 2032 TED talk would be old enough to be the son of Charles Bishop Weyland and according to the Weyland Industries timeline, he would have been 14 when Alien vs. Predator took place. So AvP is still "canon." Sorry.

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