Laurence Fishburne (Hannibal)
Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3)
Alice Braga (I Am Legend)
Walton Goggins (Django Unchained)
Oleg Taktarov (National Treasure)
Danny Trejo (Eyeborgs)
Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Sanaa Lathan (Blade)
Raoul Bova (The Tourist)
Lance Henriksen (Hellraiser 8)
Ewen Bremner (The Mummy)
Colin Salmon (Arrow)
Tommy Flanagan (Gotham)
Joseph Rye (BAtman Begins)
Agathe de La Boulaye (The Girl)
Carsten Norgaard (The Man In The High Castle)
Sam Troughton (Vera Drake)
Aliens Vs. Predator should have been one of those movies that had fanboys and fangirls swinging from the rafters with glee. Teaming up this pair of Fox’s finest franchise characters almost seemed like a no-brainer, especially after it was hinted at in Predator 2 and after Dark Horse Comics proved that there were plenty of cool stories to be told by combining the continuity and history of the two storylines.
Unfortunately, Fox punked out and released a watered down PG-13 film to theaters in hopes of cashing in on the fan base that was developed over the four Alien films and the two Predator films – all of which were R-rated movies. You don’t need violence and gore to make a good movie, we all know this, but if you’re not going to deliver on that front you should at least deliver an interesting and/or suspenseful story. Sadly, we don’t get either. That’s not to say the movie is awful, it’s just very mediocre and it left a lot of people wanting a lot more from the film than what it delivered.
The movie takes place in the present day and it revolves around a man named Charles Bishop Weyland, the head honcho behind Weyland Industries, a world leader in the field of robotics (anyone familiar with the continuity of the Alien series will easily make the connection between Henriksen’s character here and the part he played in Aliens and Alien 3). Weyland and his team have just discovered an ancient temple located deep beneath the ice of the frozen tundra in Antarctica, and they mean to dig down there and check out what it has to offer.
In order to make this happen, Weyland assembles ‘the best of the best’ for his expedition. First and foremost he recruits the reluctant Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) to act as their guide, but he also brings in a Scottish chemist named Graeme (Ewan Bremmer), an archeologist named de Rosa (Raoul Bova), and a few other handy sorts, namely Adele Russeau (Agathe de la Boulaye), Thomas Parks (Sam Troughton), and his personal ‘go to guy’ Maxwell Stafford (Colin Salmon). Together they head out into the cold and start digging, setting up their above ground base in the remains of an old whaling station.
Once the crew starts working, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t a normal archeological expedition. It doesn’t take long before a few of the more disposable members of the team start getting wasted and it turns out that are here for their ceremonial right of passage. Every one hundred years they thaw out an alien queen and get her egg sack pumping out as many of the nasty little buggers as she can so that they can send in their hunters so that they may prove their worth in an actual hunt. Weyland and his team have just happened to arrive on the day of this event, and it’s going to take all they’ve got to make it out alive because, as the tagline goes, whoever wins, they lose.
The best part about this movie, aside from the ever-cool Lance Henriksen, are the visuals. The pyramid/temple that was created as the main set is an interesting place to put the characters and the setup for the action that occurs is a pretty good one. The biggest flaw in the film is that the script just piles in way too many characters for its own good and as such, it’s hard for us to care about anyone in the movie. There’s plenty of style, but very little substance and as such the movie plays out with about as much heart and soul as a run of the mill slasher film. While the CGI scenes stand out a little bit and are a bit soulless, the animatronic effects and the make up effects that aren’t done on a computer are pretty solid and look quite good in the movie.
There are some moments in the film that stand out – the face hugger and alien incubation/birth scenes are still creepy and wholly unnatural, and some of the fights between the various creatures that inhabit the temple are nifty. There’s lots of footage of various characters tooling around in the dark corridors of the building trying to find a way out only to be chased down and made mince meat out of and while these aren’t all that original, they’re reasonably tense at times. Again though, when you don’t care about the people being chased, the catch just isn’t as sweet. The scene where the alien queen first appears is also quite dramatic and more than a little eerie.
Steven Pasquale (Rescue me)
Reiko Aylesworth (Lost)
John Ortiz (Fast & Furious)
Johnny Lewis (Felon)
Ariel Gade (Envy)
Sam Trammell (True Blood)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Robert Joy (The Hills Have Eyes)
Chelah Horsdal (When Calls The Heart)
Gina Holden (Flash Gordon)
Tom MCbeath (Bates Motel)
Ty Olsson (Izombie)
Rekha Sharma (Dark Angel)
Rainbow Francks (Stargate ATlantis)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Francoise Yip (Smallville)
AVP-R is fast, bloody and cruel. In this unrated version (101 minutes) the gore quotient is pretty high – worlds better than the first AVP – and to its credit works to give us characters with stories and not just characteristics. Best among these stories are those of an errant ex-con and his at risk younger brother, and it’s a nice concession to those of us moviegoers not weaned on videogames. But clearly, we’re not looking to AVP-R for character development, are we? We’re looking for action, acidic blood, and plenty of tension-filled, scary, luscious looking set pieces. Those we get, in spades.
Problem is (and this is a universal complaint) most of this bloody action is impossible to see. Ebony skinned Aliens and Predators running around in unlit spaceships, woods, sewers and such makes for difficult viewing. Adding insult to injury, an Alien-kill spews acidic blood all over a power station, and soon all the lights in the entire town go out, and then it starts raining. What we’re left with are a handful of rain soaked glinting surfaces on a cloudy, moonless night. If that’s not bad enough, most all of this violent action is filmed in jittery medium-to-tight close-ups, with lightning fast editing. So now what we get are unlit, unidentifiable details of unrecognizable anatomy and architecture zipping by unfocused in a fraction of a second. It’s so over-the-top impossible to see it’s almost like an artistic challenge.
So we must, if we can, focus on the positive. Even if we can’t see it, the brutal alien carnage is plentiful and cruel. Children are put in peril and slaughtered at whim. Pregnant women are subjected to the vilest of treatments, and chest bursters are born in litters. Oh yes, there’s also the hybrid ‘PredAlien’ and a fistfight in the deep end of the swimming pool. Someone is bucking for genre greatness, but not quite making it.
Living in the shadow of Alien must be tough, and James Cameron is the only director who’s had any success of it (not that Alien3 and Alien Resurrection aren’t good …) because Cameron simply made a solid Cameron movie with Ripley and the Aliens. Pretty much everyone else just tries to ‘put their stamp’ on the creation of Ridley Scott et al. That creation was just seven simple yet utterly realistic characters in peril. Each successive film has suffered bloat and pretension to one degree or the other, and AVP-R is no exception. As the opening sprawl of AVP-R is whittled down by outer space chaos, the movie begins to return to – if not the form of Scott’s masterpiece – at least something more akin to Cameron’s ordnance assault (in fact the movie cops liberally from both films, as well as Alien3). It’s pretty exciting, brainless fun.