by David Cornelius
“Who do you think would win in a fight between Superman and Mighty Mouse?”
“Superman’s a real person. Mighty Mouse is a cartoon!”Just as the youngsters of “Stand By Me” argued this critical debate, so did the two kids in line in front of me at the multiplex. Only their argument was on “Alien Vs. Predator,” a film I was surprised to discover they were planning to attend until I realized it is not rated R, but PG-13. Yup, the Alien and Predator franchises, both R-rated gorefests, have been sanitized to a PG-13, partially in the hopes of getting a larger piece of the box office pie, partially as a sign the film has been dumbed down to a childish team-up.
"Boredom Vs. Stupidity."
Never mind, of course, that “Alien Vs. Predator” negates everything we’ve learned in the six movies leading up to this match-up; continuity be damned. The movie exists merely to be a fanboy fantasy, a showdown in the same alternate universe that let Freddy fight Jason, Frankenstein meet the Wolf Man, and Godzilla tear it up with King Kong. This is a for-fun-only movie, and fans complaining that “Alien Vs. Predator” makes no sense when placed against the timelines of the two series would only have a valid argument if the movie was worth a valid argument.
And believe you me, “Alien Vs. Predator” is worth very little fanboy argument time. The movie is a complete mess, a shambles of a story held up only by its own hype. It’s loaded with awful performances, laughable dialogue, limp action sequences, mediocre visual effects, and, worst of all, a showdown that’s entirely lacking in the kind of thrills promised by the title.
The plot. It’s October 2004 (again, no heckles from the “Alien” fans about how that’s a few hundred years too early for their featured creature), and slimy zillionaire Weyland (Lance Henriksen!) and his vague multinational corporation have discovered an ancient pyramid buried 2,000 feet below the ice in Antarctica. Looking to make a bundle in the fortune and fame department, Weyland hires your standard team of adventurers to investigate. There’s the spunky ace climber (Sanaa Lathan), the swarthy Italian archeologist (Raoul Bova), the dopey scientist (Ewen Bremner), and a whole lot of people whose names we never bother to learn because they’ll be dead by the one hour mark.
They probably should’ve figured something’s up when they arrive at the site to find a mysterious tunnel that seems to have been carved by a laser shot from outer space - but who cares about investigating that, right? Down they go, where they find a massive pyramid that (wait for it...) combines the architectual stylings of ancient Egyptians, Incas, and Cambodians, one culture for each side of the pyramid, obviously revealing that all three cultures originated from this point, where they once worshipped the Predator people yet had little use for any sense of design flow.
Them Predator people come back every hundred years to thaw out an Alien queen, get her to drop a few eggs, use some unsuspecting human dolts to help with the gestation process, and blammo! Instant ritual hunt between the two species. How the humans of 1904 got suckered in to this mess is explained; how the humans of every non-Antarctic expedition century before that got suckered in is not.
Things get very loud and very silly from this point out, as we encounter every script problem a wiser writer would’ve struggled to avoid. How to create a showdown between two vague movie creatures yet keep a human angle? How to keep this from being a series of bland action sequences? And how to figure out who will win?
Unlike last summer’s “Freddy Vs. Jason,” that last question seems to stump writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson here. Instead of making the battle fun on its own, as “Freddy Vs. Jason” was, Anderson decides to have the audience choose sides. The obvious choice, then, is that the Predators become default good guys - they’re just hunters, noble in their own deadly way, as opposed to the Aliens, who are blank killing machines. Plus, they look closer to human than the Aliens, so it’s easier for us to relate, I guess. By the final act, we’re stuck rooting for the Predators, leaving us with the inevitable scene in which the last surviving human actually teams up with the Predator, which turns the movie into the goofiest buddy cop picture you’ve seen since “Cop and a Half.”
“Alien Vs. Predator” has had a storied past, being in and out of development hell for over a decade. Various writers and directors have joined and left the project, which got its initial boost in fanboy hopes following a successful comic book series. The picture finally got rolling with Anderson on board, which offers two problems: first, sure, the film finally got made, but the concept is too stale, the expectations built so high that no movie could possibly meet them, let alone this junker; second, Anderson is in charge. Following a fun start with the guilty pleasure of “Mortal Kombat” and the intriguing “Solaris” rip-off “Event Horizon,” Anderson let loose his inner McG with such crapfests as “Soldier” and “Resident Evil.” In other words, when getting a popular, overly hyped picture off the ground, maybe Anderson isn’t the man for the job. Especially considering how he’s decided to put “Matrix” bullet-time effects into the damn thing - facehuggers leaping in slo-mo kinda misses the dark, brooding, haunting point of Ridley Scott’s original scarefest.Yes, kids, “Alien Vs. Predator” has been dumbed down beyond all recognition, creating a sour footnote to both franchises. Its tagline is sure to go down in Bad Movie infamy: “Whoever wins... we lose.” Allow me to be the 493rd critic on the planet to say that truer words were never spoken.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10370&reviewer=392
originally posted: 01/24/05 21:52:46