Sunday, March 30, 2014


The long-awaited crossover everybody was asking for.

Which turned out to be the worst possible thing to happen to both franchises...

Want more Alien/Predator-related reviews? Check the following!!

Movie: AVP: Alien vs. Predator aka Alien vs. Predator or simply AVP 
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson 
Release date 2004 
Genre Sci-fi/Action/Adventure film 
Country USA/UK/Canada

After a decade long hiatus for both 20th Century Fox series, leaving the audience left with mixed reactions-received sequels in Alien Resurrection and Predator 2 (it had been in fact 17 years since we last saw a Predator face Danny Glover) respectively, the studio decided now was a good time to bring back both creatures... in a crossover film!

Fact is work on a 5th Alien was stalled for years. James Cameron showed interest in coming back, only as a writer/producer. And with help from Ridley Scott motivated enough to come back on the director chair, they had been working on an Alien prequel. A film that would finally show where Aliens came from, prior to the story on LV-426.

Problem is Ridley Scott was seeing things way too big for the studios. And instead on focusing on that project, decided to go for a much cheaper approach.

After years of development hell, an Alien vs. Predator project seemed like the simpler film to go forward with. They had tried getting Roland Emmerich to direct it in the 1990s - a man no stranger to big epic disaster films. So when a new opportunity presented itself they decided to get Guillermo del Toro in the early 2000s (but he declined and went on to direct Hellboy instead).

The idea was certainly full of potential.

Based on the crossover spin-off franchise that was started first and explored in the Dark Horse comics as early as 1989(!). Which had been in turn hinted via an Alien skull trophy in Predator 2 in 1990.

But turning it into a crossover movie like we rarely get to see nowadays on the big screen? That was something else entirely.

Enter Paul W. S. Anderson. Who was able to sell his vision of said film on a budget much more modest than a follow-up to any of the two series would ever cost.

Anderson was a decent "studio director", always able to compromise his ideas for whatever studios would require. He has no particular style or tone. But he certainly is one bad writer in my eyes. I truly personally believe the best films he made were good despite his involvement. Mortal Kombat was a lucky product at the time, while his best film to date in my eyes, Event Horzion, was a once in a lifetime occurrence. And the problem is that he nowadays always takes on writing duties in most of his films now...

The story takes place in in our good ol' 21st century and, to much surprise, on Earth (what were they thinking?!).

It's 2004. A private satellite has detected some heat signatures coming off from a remote location in the Antarctica.

We meet industrialist billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland, founder of Weyland Industries who decides to mount a team of scientist to go investigate some structures deep beneath the ice which appears to be an ancient pyramid that might just predate both Egyptian and Aztec civilization.

He assembles this ethnically-diverse team of archaeologists, linguistic experts, drillers and mercenaries under the supervision of a guide, Alexa Woods.

We get some wonky backstory for a couple of them.

They arrive at this old abandoned whaling station.

That is precisely when a Predator spaceship arrive on the scene at the exact same time...

The team find human skeletons with their rib cages ripped apart... Uninhabited you say? Very unlikely.

The installation comes to life. An Alien Queen is woken up and starts producing eggs. Those three young Predators arrive on the scene...

And that is when all hell breaks loose as they get caught in a battle between those two iconic sci-fi legends...

How could they mess this up?...

The film is a huge Alien/Predator patchwork, taking elements from various sources, and it feels like it.

AVP was clearly inspired by the very first Aliens vs. Predator comic book series, what with our main surviving female protagonist teaming up with the last surviving Predator to stop the Aliens from spreading all over the place. Only, set on Earth and in the present.

While it would certainly have won at taking its inspiration more literally from the video games (both of them)....

AVP was written by Anderson himself, Alien series creator Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, based on O'Bannon's own Alien creature and the Thomas Bros.' alien monster from Predator.

The plot of the film was actually based on an early script of the very first Alien, which was heavily inspired by Erich von Däniken's 1968 pseudo-scientific book Chariots of the Gods?. According to the lore, the original version of Alien 1 featured the crew of the Nostromo finding an ancient pyramid in space, discovering the creators of mankind to be alien creatures... while battling off one of their deadlier spawns, the Xenomorph creature. von Däniken's book while entertaining, is an highly questionable piece of fiction relating how ancient religions, technology and civilizations was built with the help from alien being which were viewed as "Gods". It's an hilarious theory on life on Earth. Anderson simply decided to go back to the source material which had inspired Alien years prior.

The real problem is that Paul Anderson's film tries to be a bit of everything from all past Alien/Predator episodes, all tied into one. It never settles properly for a tone, unlike the uneven Alien³ by David Fincher or Alien Resurrection by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which even if not on par with the classics at least went for their own unique direction. AVP tries be a horror/thriller/action/science-fiction film all rolled up in one.

Our writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson tried to appeal to both the Predator and Alien franchise... Yet ended up completely ignoring both! AVP manages to get everything wrong from the timeline of both series (Aliens on Earth? really? what will our surviving heroine tell to the world..?), to the way Predator interacts and react, to the Xenomorph's incubation time...

Not only are most of the rules established not respected, but also being the first film in the series not a hard R-rated horror science-fiction to this... PG-13 popcorn flick! This means no gore - the fault is probably more on 20th Century Fox's part - and butchering tension for cheap trills and "action movie" slow-mo.

Some classic lines are back but ruined thanks to the PG-13 rating.

Making a crossover between two well established franchises shouldn't cost less than the combined cost of both franchise!

The film spends a half hour trying to build up this whole unlikely scenario. I'm perfectly fine with that... if it had actually been used to develop any of these so-called characters. Instead we end up with a bunch of stereotypical cartoon characters we don't care about.

The proper crossover only happening at about one hour into the film. And even by that point we only get like two major fights, with several smaller ones in-between.

The film stars Sanaa Lathan doing what she can with whatever she was given, along Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan and more!

Also Lance Henriksen is back to the franchise in what is probably the worst possible idea ever imagined. Tying this old man Bishop to the series not only convulsed the entire series (the bishop in Aliens and whatever he was in Alien 3) but added more confusion to an already questionable film. Here, the very founder or what would become Weyland Yutani Corporation's ancestor. At least, that way Lance Henriksen became the second actor to have been killed by a Terminator, an Alien and a Predator on screen, following Bill Paxton.

Ian Whyte played the Predator here, since original stuntman/actor Kevin Peter Hall died in 1991.  

The best aspect of the entire film is without a doubt how both monsters look on the screen. Thanks to a smart use of puppetry, costumes, practical effects and CGi.

While good FXs and a somewhat-original setting (although miles from what should have been requested from both series), the awful creature design sort of ruined the execution. Not counting the bad acting and pacing..

A great concept, but badly executed.

The huge Alien Queen and dinosaur-esque take on the Aliens is a big departure.

And let's not even mention the ever-ridiculous additions to the Predators such as the giant mounted wrist blades or their shuriken - if it sounded kickass and radical on the paper, that's even more reasons why it should have stayed, on paper.

For this entry in both series, the score was this time composed by veteran Harald Kloser. I expected so much more from him... An awful generic score can both make or destroy a film. It's even more important in my eyes when it's such a studio product. Sadly it has barely anything to do with either franchises, from the random epic cues that would be more at place in a light hearted epic adventure to the generic beats we get during the fights... A disaster...Miles from any of the previous creepy/eerie atmosphere of the Alien saga, without any of the Predator's rythm. Too generic to leave any lasting impression.

And it could have been much more worse.

Paul W. S. Anderson originally thought about setting it in a city, like New York (good thing they saved it for the sequel... right?... right??). But at least he saw the problem with having Aliens running in the streets...

The setting served as a nice hostile environment, probably the most alien-looking place on Earth. Which is a shame, because that's the only alternative to, you know, actually setting it in space!

AVP ended up killing any hope of a 4th Alien film for years. James Cameron and Ridley Scott project was quickly canceled and forgotten about (only years later would Scott resurrect it via Prometheus).

Originally Anderson planned to have Arnold Schwarzenegger return as Dutch at the end.. if he would ever lose the election for California's governor. Talk about a consolation prize!

In the end, AVP turned out to be a huge unexpected success which gave 20th Century Fox the final confirmation to launch and support these sort of "lackluster films" projects based on well established proprieties. Trying to polish and sell these sort of cheap blockbuster flicks with barely enough budget, but with enough CGi FXs added in post and some visual polish they could make their revenue back in no time (also, see Fantastic Four, X-men 3 or Die Hard 4).

Overall, it's a pretty bad film.

Sure it has some nice special effects, and it's great to have both the Alien and the Predator back on screen nowadays after so many years. But it's also such an awful film... That's no price to pay for nostalgia, go back to the classics!

The monsters just look plain bad, their new designs completely off and wrong.

The film is dull and generic. Awful pacing, generic characters and bland music score.

Good thing the whole thing is easily forgotten...

The film was later extended on home releases, via an "Unrated Edition". And what does this version offer? Well, for one, don't expect a Director's Cut as past Alien films. Rather this is a more simplistic and pretty straightforward extension. With only a few added useless scenes and some digitally-added violence in the form of fake CGi blood. But it also adds back the film's originally-intended opening scene taking place in 1904. Probably the only good idea found in this entire AVP film. It doesn't add much but it's a nice throwback to the Predators' long history with hunting on Earth. The rest if entirely forgettable, but it's the common available cut of the film nowadays.

All in all, avoid it!

I give it:
1 / 3 UFOs!

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