by John W. Herbert
After years of development and rejected scripts, the long awaited merging of two of 20th Century Fox’s biggest sf franchises finally arrives, with Alien vs. Predator.
Something has awakened in a temple deep beneath the Antarctic ice. A millionaire businessman has assembled a team of international experts to dig through the ice and to claim and explore the structure. Unbeknownst to the explorers, the temple was built by the race of intergalactic hunters known as the Predators. They’ve been using the temple for eons as a rite of passage ceremony for young Predators – they have captured an Alien queen that they are using as breeding stock for use in the ceremony. Kill an Alien, be a man. Well, a manly Predator, anyway.
Unfortunately for our gang of human explorers, as they enter the temple (whose interior walls rearrange themselves every ten minutes to confuse the prey) they are about to become dinner.
This is by no means the worst Alien movie I’ve seen, nor is it the best. But it is a thoroughly satisfactory B-move monster flick. The action is fast and quick (and so is the movie, clocking in at a brisk 100 minutes), and there is a certain fascination to seeing these two movie monster kings duke it out. The characters are competently acted yet cookie-cutter, the script is interesting without being very engaging, the special effects and make-up are adequate and expensive but not cheesey. The temple’s moving walls are an obvious gimmick to crank up the tension. And while it does work to some extent, the clockwork precision of the walls moving every ten minutes seems to be replaced by the walls moving only when it serves the script. But having Lance Hendrickson in the film is also a nice shout out to the previous Alien movies and helps keep at least some semblance of continuity to the other films.
The DVD has a dearth of special features. It has one marked Super-Bowl Promo. Silly me thought it was a special Super-Bowl trailer for the film. But no, it was just an advertisement for the Super-Bowl. A short prologue has been re-inserted into the film that certainly doesn’t hinder the film, but doesn’t particularly help it and just as easily could have been one of the few deleted scenes in the special features. In fact, three extended scenes and two commentary tracks are the only extra features on this bare-bone discs. I suspect an Unrated cut will be released sometime soon. (In fact, here’s a double-dip alert: a two-disc, full-blown, special edition version has already been released in Europe. A North American 2-disc version will be released this fall.)
The film implies that the Predators are a far-fling culture… they could even have created the Aliens for their initiation ceremony. As such, you could view AvP as a cautionary tale of technology out of control as the Aliens threaten to overrun the temple and the world. But that would be a real stretch beyond the reach of this film. This film doesn’t enhance either franchise to any great degree. It’s fair to say that in terms of development, the Predators come off a little better than the Aliens, but that’s not saying much. Perhaps the best that could be said is that neither franchise suffers at the hand of this film. So grab the popcorn, and enjoy the ride. There’s worse movies that you could be watching.
(originally published in Neo-Opsis #6, reprinted in Under the Ozone Hole #17.)