Alien Vs. Predator Review
Note: Although it's never actually spelled out, the way I understand it, Charles Bishop Weyland in this film was the Weyland of the Weyland-Yutani corporation that is first referred to in Alien. He supposedly made his fortune in robotics and because Alien takes place in a distant future from AVP, it is assumed that the android Bishop in Aliens was created in his long-dead maker's image. One problem though - in Alien³ Henriksen shows up as the real Bishop to bring back the surviving alien. That's not possible...
When billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) sees a mysterious heat bloom on one of his satellite images, he believes he's found an ancient pyramid buried beneath the arctic ice. He puts together an expedition team of the world's best archeologists, scientists and adventurers and heads to Antarctica to investigate. Upon arriving, they find a pyramid buried 2000 feet below the frozen surface. It's a maze-like structure of chambers that are influenced by Cambodian, Aztec and Egyptian cultures - it's also a veritable death trap with collapsing floors, booby-trapped doors and walls that shift to seal rooms making any type of escape nearly impossible. In one of the chambers they discover an Alien Queen - released from stasis her sole purpose is to lay eggs every 100 years. Those hatched eggs are used as prey for coming-of-age Predators in a deadly rite of passage to prove their warrior skills. The horrified expedition team soon realise they've been lured to the pyramid to provide human incubators for the newly-hatched face huggers and as the battle between Aliens and Predators rages on around them, they must fight for their lives and find a way out.
In 1979, Ridley Scott created a brilliant sci-fi/horror film called Alien. The story dealt with the crew of a commercial towing vehicle who intercepted an SOS signal and set down on a planet that was home to deadly alien creatures, one of which they reluctantly brought back onboard. Exquisitely-paced and brilliantly acted, it quickly became a classic and made an overnight star of Sigourney Weaver. It was followed by three sequels of varying quality: 1986's Aliens, a film directed by James Cameron and considered by many to be the best in the franchise; 1992's Alien³, the controversial and much-maligned film directed by David Fincher, and the 1997 Jean-Pierre Jeunet effort Alien: Resurrection which received lots of panning by critics and fans alike and was the weakest of the bunch. In 1987, another franchise was born with John McTiernan's Predator. It was the story of commandos on a rescue mission in a Central American jungle who are hunted for sport by an extra-terrestrial warrior cloaked in invisibility. It became a cult classic and spawned an inferior sequel with the Stephen Hopkins-directed Predator 2.
Ten years in the making, Alien Vs. Predator is the highly-anticipated cinematic pairing of history's two most iconic monsters. Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) wowed the suits at Twentieth Century Fox with his script and after assembling a special effects dream team that included veterans Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. who did the creature effects for films like Alien³ and Starship Troopers and John Bruno (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), they began filming the train wreck known as AVP. The cast (bar Henriksen) is unremarkable, the film is full of unnessary exposition, the ending requires a major suspension of disbelief and Harald Kloser’s (The Day After Tomorrow) music is a far cry from the late Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score in the original Alien, but the film does look good and some of the special effects are seamless - a combination of CGI, animatronics and guy-in-suit were used by the special effects team.
Lance Henriksen (Alien) was the first actor to be cast after meeting with Anderson personally. Impressed with the writer-director's encyclopaedic knowledge of both franchises and his fanboy love for the films, he agreed to come onboard, giving the project some much-needed casting continuity. Henriksen gives an understated performance as Charles Bishop Weyland, a multi-billionaire whose health is failing as he embarks on one last adventure. Sanaa Lathan (A Raisin in the Sun) does a good job as Alexa "Lex" Woods, but she's no Sigourney Weaver. Ellen Ripley was a brilliantly layered character and Weaver gave her a softer maternal side that complimented the take-no-prisoners Rambolina persona - Lex, while a strong female character, lacks Ripley's complexity and survivalist instinct. Raoul Bova (Under the Tuscan Sun) plays archeologist Sebastian De Rosa. The Italian actor spends most of his time onscreen explaining everything and Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) provides comic relief as chemical engineer Graeme Miller. In both the original Predator and its sequel, Kevin Peter Hall played the predator. This time around, the lead predator (named Scar) is played by Ian Whyte, a former UK pro basketball player who stands an imposing 7ft1in tall. Colin Salmon, Carsten Norgaard, Joseph Rye, Agathe de la Boulaye, Tommy Flanagan and Sam Troughton round out the cast and there isn't a stand out performance among them.
I saw this film as soon as it opened and at the time of the showing, there were no early reviews anywhere online. One can only speculate the filmmakers knew they were in trouble and wisely chose to cancel advance screenings before word of mouth got out to affect opening weekend box office numbers. A lot of the trademark violence and profanity from the proceeding films has been sacrificed to the PG-13 rating. The fight scenes cut away when anything good is about to happen and the only real violence is to the humans and that's implied off-screen rather than shown. An impatient Anderson also speeded up the growth cycle of the Aliens - where it once took days for a face hugger to grow into a chest burster then into an adult alien, it now only takes minutes. The tweaking the special effects crew did to the look of the monsters was a bad decision, especially in the case of the Predators. They wanted the Aliens to have the sleeker, darker look they had in the original film and on that count they succeeded, but they managed to make the Predators look less threatening. Their weaponry has improved and they are able to use their heat vision to spot a face hugger in a human host, but they are light years away from the brilliant killing machine in the original Predator. Anderson wanted to mix elements of the previous films with present-day technology, so the face huggers now fly across rooms in bullet-time. Not surprisingly given his previous work, he shows little interest in character development and as a result, when the humans are killed one-by-one we never really care. Anderson has said in numerous interviews he wanted to do the franchises proud because he was their biggest fan - unfortunately, fanboy love doesn't guarantee a good film.