For the sake of brevity, I won’t regurgitate the plot of “Alien Vs Predator” too much. The story itself is simple enough: Predators trick humans to a pyramid in the Antarctica to be “impregnated” by a captured Queen Alien; at said pyramid, three Predators arrive for the hunt as their rites of passage. Things don’t go as planned, and the sole surviving human must team up with the sole surviving Predator to take on the multiplying Aliens.
The real stars, of course, are not the humans, who are introduced just long enough to get killed. Why Anderson would go through the trouble of assigning each one little quirks — the Italian guy wears a Pepsi cap around his neck and the Irishman takes pictures of everything — is a mystery since their life is moot to begin with. In the space of 20 or so minutes, Anderson manages to kill off all the human characters — more than 15 in all — save one.
Not that it matters, of course. “Alien vs. Predator” does just enough to satisfy the undemanding viewer. There are enough Alien and Predator battles to justify the title, but not enough memorable battles to justify the creation of a movie around them. Still, for what it’s worth, the battles are handled just well enough not to be a complete disaster. Which, if you were wondering, is what writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson) is best known for: doing just enough to avert disaster, but not nearly enough to achieve a level of excellence.
Because all the scenes take place at night or in the confines of the alien pyramid, darkness becomes a major obstacle. It doesn’t help that the editing is sometimes too erratic, and the first battle between the Predators and Aliens are all but lost in the succession of quick cuts and flashing Alien and Predator body parts. Unlike the Aliens and Predators of the ’80s, at least 80% of the alien battles in Anderson’s movie are achieved through CGI.
And how good is the CGI? As good as you can expect CGI to look, I suppose; although it’s intriguing to note that it’s nowhere near as flawless as the dinosaurs of Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park”. This is doubly troubling, considering that Spielberg’s dinosaur film came out more than 10 years ago. If anything, CGI seems to have degraded, not improved.
In particular, the final battle with the Queen Alien reeks of bad computer imaging. There is no weight or menace to the creature, which moves with overwhelming agility and speed — not unlike a T-Rex, in fact. Compare the realness of the Queen Alien in this 2004 version to James Cameron’s 1986 “Aliens”, and the differences are staggering. You sense the realness of Cameron’s Queen Alien; that bitch had weight, gravitas, and most of all, presence. Not so much in Anderson’s recreation.
For what it is, “Alien vs Predator” is, like most of Anderson’s movies, just good enough not to be awful. The pace is breezy and the film is over before you know it. There are good kills, even if the gore is severely limited due to the PG-13 rating. And there are some cute little moments to be had, such as the discovery that Lance Henrikson’s character’s middle name is “Bishop”; or the Alien emblems, prominent in all the movie posters of the “Alien” films, showing up as ancient symbols in the pyramids.
For summer fare, “Alien vs Predator” isn’t a bad way to waste 90 minutes. It’s certainly entertaining, and it does deliver what it promises — battles between its two marquee names. Can you really ask for more than that? Well, yes, you can, but that’s academic. And if you were wondering, Yes, Virginia, there will be a sequel, and it should be called “Aliens vs Predators”. Get it?
Paul W.S. Anderson (director) / Paul W.S. Anderson (screenplay)
CAST: Sanaa Lathan …. Alexa Woods
Raoul Bova …. Sebastian de Rosa
Lance Henriksen …. Charles Bishop Weyland
Ewen Bremner …. Graeme Miller
Colin Salmon …. Maxwell Stafford