Mar 24, 2015

Review: AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Alien vs. Predator was one of those movies that unfortunately spent much of its time in development hell. The whole idea of combining the Alien and Predator universes actually originated from a 1989 Dark Horse comic. Despite the popularity of the comic which spawned video games, novelizations and more, it took Paul W.S. Anderson literally pitching the idea to Fox executives before anything was actually done. The meeting went so well in fact that the project was pretty much greenlit on the spot.

Understandably there was some groaning from people involved with both franchises, though mostly from the Alien side of things. Ridley Scott, James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver weren't very pleased with the idea since they had their own "Alien 5" in development that was eventually reworked into Prometheus. Part of their negativity was to protect their own work of course, but I can completely understand their point of view. AVP sounds like studio laziness at its worst and who could forget Freddy vs. Jason which was released just a year earlier in 2003? I'd certainly like to anyway.

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Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Produced by: Gordon Carroll, John Davis, David Giler, etc.
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Music by: Harald Kloser
Running time: 109 minutes
Production company: Davis Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, UGC-Fox Distribution, Gemini Film, etc.
Country: United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, etc.
Language: English
Budget: $60,000,000
Box office: $172,544,654 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe de La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard, Liz May Brice, Glenn Conroy, Karima Adebibe, Sam Troughton, Ian Whyte, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Petr Jákl, Pavel Bezdek

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Synopsis


A Weyland Industries satellite detects a strange heat bloom below the surface on the island of Bouvetøya, not far from Antarctica. Through thermal imaging, it's discovered that there's a pyramid deep underground. Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), founder and owner of Weyland Idustries wants to claim it as part of his legacy. He gathers a team composed of an archaeologist (Raoul Bova), a chemical engineer (Ewen Bremner), a bunch of mercenaries as well as a guide (Sanaa Lathan) to lead them. Expecting to make history, far more lies in wait for him and his team.

Review


Alien vs. Predator actually opens one hundred years earlier in 1904. On the same location where our heroes find themselves in 2004, a man in a whaling station is being chased by something unseen. I wonder what it could be? What I can tell you is that pretty much right away, AVP sets itself up for failure with cheap jump scares and an inability to create any kind of intrigue. We're talking about two of the coolest sci-fi franchises being brought together and this is the best three minutes or so that Anderson could put together to start a movie? Still, a few minutes don't make a movie so things could improve. Right?

Sadly that's not the case at all. Apart from Lance Henriksen and Colin Salmon I guess, every single actor could've been replaced and I wouldn't have noticed anything different. The characters of Alien vs. Predator are painfully cardboard and impossible to care for. Should I care when they're turned into living hosts for the Aliens or toast by the Predators? I'd sure like to but Paul W.S. Anderson's script makes that impossible.

Alien vs. Predator's biggest strength is without a doubt the special effects. Part of the reason for that is due to Anderson's insistence on using suits, puppets and even miniatures whenever possible. The Aliens and the Predators look pretty good and the sets are pretty top notch too actually. The CGI definitely gets a bit iffy though when the Aliens and Predators are fighting though and there's way too much CGI blood. I got no problem with blood mind you. It's just that I'm a squib guy and CGI blood pretty much never looks good.

While I was impressed with the effects for a movie that's now eleven years old, editing is a whole different story. The many fight scenes that break out in AVP range from unwatchable to incomprehensible due to its many fast cuts that render the action into some kind of tornado made of slime, flesh and noise. It's far from pretty to look at and I suppose a big reason for that is due to the film's extremely short post-production period. AVP only had four months while most films heavy on the special effects can take between six months to a year to complete. Corners clearly had to be cut I guess.

The story which explains the origins of Predators and Aliens being present on Earth is alright I suppose. A little silly perhaps, but it's passable overall. I can't forgive how the Predators in particular are treated though. You're really going to tell me that a "teenage" Predator that's trying to earn his stripes is going to forge an alliance with another human? That's like us allying ourselves with ants because the tigers are getting out of hand. I don't see it happening and it's also pretty embarrassing to see "Scar" (Ian Whyte) running around with Alexa (Sanaa Lathan) if you ask me.

Speaking of which, this might seem petty, but I also have to severely question whoever signed off on the idea of having the Predators roar like tigers. I'm not kidding. Besides the famous "insectoid" sound effect that's been there since Predator, all I heard was what should be coming out of a tiger's mouth. I can't say if the sound crew did any sound mixing or not, but what they came up with sounds anything but otherworldly when it really should. Why they didn't just reuse sounds from Predator and Predator 2 is beyond me.

There are a ton of other little problems with Alien vs. Predator that I'd like to talk about, but for the sake of brevity I'm going to focus on the big picture here. AVP isn't scary, it isn't tense and the action scenes are unwatchable. While I applaud Paul W.S. Anderson for actually getting a project like this greenlit, he's completely failed in making AVP a cool movie which was its number one mandate in combining two mega-huge sci-fi franchises like.

Rating


4.5/10

Related Reviews:

 

AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007) 

Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
Alien³ [Alien 3] (1992)
Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Prometheus (2012)

Predator (1987)
Predator 2 (1990)
Predators (2010)