Playing into the tradition of other classic “versus” movies, AVP presents an uneven – yet rollicking – entry for fans of each franchise.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Runtime: 101 minutes
US Release: August 13, 2004; 20th Century Fox
Set in 2004, a team of researchers (and mercenaries?) explore a recently discovered pyramid hidden under the ice of Antarctica. Meanwhile, a clan of Predators are also traveling toward the pyramid. Through ancient cave hieroglyphics, it is revealed that Predators were once worshiped as gods by cultures such as the Aztecs and Egyptians. These would-be gods were not forces for good, however; they used human beings as breeding vessels for Xenomorphs. The likes of which are considered the ultimate prey. Now, the alien Queen has been awoken and begins laying all her gooey, lethal eggs.
AVP tells just the sort of adventure story you’d hope for. A little pulpy, the addition of ancient lore adds a nice wrinkle to the mythos of each franchise. Furthermore, the location of a time-forgotten pyramid provides danger itself; it is laden with booby-traps that work to isolate the humans from each other. All together, it is an interesting backdrop to watch the movie unfold.
What is less interesting, however, are the humans themselves. While the extraterrestrials are treated with great care (benefiting from a commitment to practical effects), the people suffer from shoehorned scenes and cornball dialogue. Have two characters trapped in a room together? Have them talk about their kids. The main character insists on turning around? Have members of the team unfurl guns to the contrary. Campy at best, hamfisted at worst, it all seems obligatory in the end. Sanaa Lathan, as the main character Alexa Woods, is the only one to rise slightly above the fray. Her interactions with the last Predator standing are somewhat nuanced; it is genuinely cool seeing them partner up.
Can you completely fault Alien vs. Predator for failing its human ensemble? Not really. The movie succeeds in enough other facets (such as atmosphere, action, world-building, and effects) to make this a worthwhile experience for fans of both Predator and Alien.
by Vincent S. Hannam