Predathon Part 3: ‘Aliens VS Predator’
We interrupt our coverage of the standard Predator canon to side step into a spin-off series, the film adaptations of Aliens VS Predator. This long awaited and highly anticipated team up had developed a following through comics and video games. It would’ve been stupid not to get a film out of it at some point.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Ian Whyte
Plot: In the year 2004 a pyramid is discovered underground on an island of the coast of Antartica. Industrialist Charlies Bishop Weyland launches an expedition to explore it only to find themselves in the middle of a Predator initiation ritual where they hunt Xenomorphs.
Review: So there’s this director named Paul W.S. Anderson, and we need to talk about him for a moment. He’s one of the niche group of directors who get hired when the studio has a brand to monetise but don’t really give a shit about quality. Although none of his films have cracked 50% on Rotten Tomatoes they tend to bring in a reasonable box office. He’s competent. Among his works is this film, the Resident Evil film franchise, the Death Race remake, stuff like that. When he’s working with something of little substance, like the Mortal Kombat film adaptation, his style is suitable. When merging together worlds established by the likes of Ridley Scott, James Cameron and John McTiernan, however, he may not do the franchise justice.
If you’re satisfied with simply seeing these two characters on screen at the same time, bumping in to each other a bit, then this movie will fulfil that desire. If you want a good movie, however, you’ll be out of luck.
Anderson is something of a Michael Bay light. He doesn’t have the ambition or the budget, but gosh is he going to try. The result is some excessively needless changes that rub me up the wrong way. The Predators were always big, usually played by the 7’2″ foot tall Kevin Peter Hall, but these ones are sometimes shot to look closer to 10 feet tall. The queen alien is absolutely gigantic compared to the previous depictions and just looks a bit silly as a result. The film is packed with nonsensical moments that are designed for impact rather than logic, such as Weyland giving a presentation while standing behind the people he’s speaking to. The life cycle of the alien has been reduced so they go from egg to facehugger to implanted embryo to newborn to fully grown adult in the space of 30 minutes (judging by the shifting pyramid thing). It’s silly.
By the way, why is Lance Henrikson in this? Why is he playing a character named ‘Charles Bishop Weyland’? Yes, Weyland-Yutani is a major part of the Aliens franchise and those films do feature an android named Bishop who was played by Lance Henrikson, but how does this all fit together? There’s nothing to link this film to previous appearances of Predators on Earth even though it’s been established that there are government agencies monitoring their activity, and no mention of Weyland himself having encountered Xenomorphs when they turn up in the far future. This is a continuity mess.
So, our hero is an Antarctic explorer Alexa Woods, a ‘Tough Chick’ who leads the team of scientists and tough guys to the pyramid under the ice. This team of unmemorable characters have names like ‘Stone’, ‘Bass’, ‘Klaus’ and ‘Boris’ and their entire personalities are built around a single trait. One takes photos, one is an archeologist, etc. There’s little to distinguish any of them or make us care.
Over the course of a full hour the convoluted ‘plot’ is explained with endless exposition during which nothing much else happens. Predators came to Earth and taught ancient races how to build pyramids in exchange for hosts to birth Xenomorphs so they can hunt them as part of an initiation ritual. The human team who find this ancient pyramid wind up being the hosts but because they fucked around with the Predator’s toys there’s a chance the Xenomorphs will win and run amok on Earth. Now it’s up to our heroine to save the day by teaming up with the one surviving Predator.
When the Xenomorphs and Predators fight it’s got some good, if unimaginative, sequences. What works best is when the movie relies on the tried and true parts of the franchise, bringing almost nothing new to the table. But it’s such a small part of the film that it all feels like a wasted opportunity. If you’re pitting these two beloved monsters against each other you need to dedicate more of the your screen time to it.
The climatic moments revolve around a human and Predator becoming team-mates and besties. It takes very little effort for them to decide to work together and even less for them to be able to communicate with each other. Then they ride a bobsled to victory and happiness!
With the exception of the Aztec stuff, which is interesting and well executed, the bulk of this film is determined to remind us of the films that came before. We have repeated lines of dialogue (censored for the PG rating), props and camera shots. The problem here is that if you’re putting Paul W.S. Anderson at the helm you don’t want to remind us of significantly better film makers.
The action is far and few between, the horror and gore is missing, the characters even less present and all the tension and suspense is replaced with jump scares. One of the jump scares involved a penguin.
In short, this film took the world’s most awesome set-up and half-assed it, expecting us to be satisfied with the title of the film alone.
Rating: THREE out of TEN
Coolest Part: The penguin. It got the best response during the screening.
Rating the Predators: This doesn’t even give the second film a run for it’s money.