Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Release Date: August 13th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Actors: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe de La Boulaye
greatly disappointing 5th film in the “Alien” franchise (also the third in the “Predator” series), “Alien vs. Predator” makes a mockery of the intense and ruthless sci-fi creations defined in the previous, highly successful productions. Far from the macabre masterpieces of 1979 and 1987, this new mishmash of comic book lore and wildly nonsensical fanboy subplots deteriorates the awe of the creatures themselves, while also serving as an insult to the viewer and a blasphemy to filmmakers Ridley Scott, John McTiernan, and James Cameron. This is to be expected, however, from a movie rated PG-13, in part, for “slime.”
A group of scientists, engineers, environmental experts, and adventurers are pawns in a diabolical rite of passage when they journey to the middle of Antarctica to explore an ancient ziggurat-like pyramid. A handpicked team is assembled by industrialist billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) and led by survivalist Alexa Woods (Sanaa Latham). The tragically unprepared platoon ventures into an icy trap 2000 feet below the surface, where extraterrestrial humanoid Predators purposefully lure pray toward alien eggs so they can duel the offspring within the labyrinthine corridors of the icy monolith. To complicate matters further, the booby-trapped pyramidal structure changes shape every ten minutes, with sliding walls and rotating pillars designed to separate the party. What follows are some of the mildest scenes of action and violence imaginable.
One by one, the human fodder is ushered into lonesome passageways and claustrophobic tunnels to meet off-screen demises that audiences can only assume are horrendous. The character development is rather pointless, especially considering how fast the body count rises; generally, just after viewers are acquainted with some personal aspect of a character’s life, that persona is disposed of. A spattering of action sequences is well-choreographed and, at rare moments, the shape of a man in a rubbery monster suit is permissible (through lighting and other obscurations). But when Predators swing aliens around their heads like lassos, it’s easy to forget that such creatures once existed in the nightmarish premises imagined by famous surrealist H.R. Giger and Oscar-winning visual effects artist Stan Winston.
Although the historical implications in the story are mildly amusing, there is a certain blandness to the hunt and flight, diluted by the decision to purge almost all of the mature content. Director Paul W.S. Anderson is surprisingly timid with such influences, considering his repertoire contains harsher fare like “Soldier,” “Event Horizon,” and the “Resident Evil” films. It’s nearly laughable when Alexa has to join forces with a desperate Predator (even though this is the major premise of the “Aliens vs. Predator” graphic novels and books, and a significant amount of the production design follows previously illustrated concepts). Despite sharp computer animation and enjoyable practical effects (though rarely both at the same time), the Aliens and Predators have never looked so ridiculously harmless.
Ultimately reduced to mere frolicking animals, the otherworldly antagonists are routinely un-scary and un-cool. Even the Alien Queen is nothing more than a rip-off of “Jurassic Park’s” T-Rex. It seems that after Sigourney Weaver finally gave up the lead role resolutely, Twentieth Century Fox still wished to capitalize on presold audiences (for “Alien: Resurrection,” execs assumed interest would be lost without Ripley). When will it all end? Probably never, considering that box office receipts fuel sequel after terrible sequel in any franchise.
– Mike Massie