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?