Revisiting the Reviled – Two Legendary Monsters Collide With a Whimper in ‘Alien vs. Predator’

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It’s impossible to talk about Paul W.S. Anderson without getting into the realm of vulgar auteurism. An extension of the Auteur Theory, vulgar auteurism looks at the directors like Anderson that specialize in action fare free from pretense, themes, but a focus on precision action craftsmanship. As much as I’d like to think that Anderson and his brethren are the next generation of John McTiernan or John Carpenter, the work itself doesn’t prove that. While I have gaps in my viewing of the Paul W.S. Anderson filmography, there’s no way I can subscribe to the belief of Nick Pinkerton, who claims that Paul W.S. Anderson is a more masterful filmmaker than Paul Thomas Anderson. Judging solely by 2004’s Alien vs. Predator, Anderson isn’t a totally incompetent hack, but his action chops aren’t as solid as some would suggest.

Both the Alien and Predator films are popular R-rated franchises that initially crossed over in comics, toys, and video games. Both produced by 20th Century Fox, a crossover film was long thought imminent when viewers spied a glimpse of an Alien skull in the Predator’s ship in Predator 2. After years of proposals and anticipation, Alien vs. Predator would become a cinematic reality after a failed attempt at a fifth Alien film. There was just one catch – the crossover of two R-rated franchises would be the first PG-13 entry for each franchise. Another first for an Alien film, it would be set in a modern setting on Earth, however, they did place the events at an isolated whaling station in Antarctica. Though it was a modest financial success, Alien vs. Predator left fans of both franchises wanting, and the R-rated sequel from the Strause Brothers, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, wouldn’t satisfy their desires either.


Tonight on Ancient Aliens.,,

Anderson made a name for himself in doing video game adaptations – the first Mortal Kombat movie and 3 of the 5 Resident Evil films are his doing – and he brings that sensibility with him in trying to merge two popular film franchises. The confluence of these two creatures of terror have been going on since the dawn of civilization. As a matter of fact, the battle between these two is the reason we have civilization. Using the type of inane beliefs as espoused on Ancient Aliens, Alien vs. Predator inadvertently undermines what made each property so great – encountering beings we don’t understand. Failing to bring these creatures into an element of mystery and awe leaves the film with mounds of glaring questions. For example: If the Predators visit Earth to battle Aliens in order to earn their killer street cred, why would a Predator attack a group of soldiers in the mid-‘80s? It’s the kind of backwards writing that always fails (*coughs* The Phantom Menace!).

While the sets are crafted well and the film does have a number of practical miniatures and costumes in attempt to keep the CGI to a minimum, the film is shot in near-darkness and the artistry is rendered all but invisible. Of course, Anderson does nothing to aid the adjusting of your eyes by editing fight sequences at such a rapid pace that space and time blur together in an epileptic fit of awful. When the screen isn’t filled with darkness and random cuts it’s filled with a never static camera, always turning and swooping in moments where people talk about their kids. The camera movements in these moments add nothing to the feel of the film. It’s not there to punctuate a sequence or a moment, it’s a pointless stylish shtick.


Another tic of the film is repeated fan service, cheap references that only serve to remind you of an earlier, better movie. The entire purpose of the film’s boilerplate tough woman lead is an attempt to echo Ripley from the Alien films. The character of Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) speaks in a know-it-all vernacular, and it’s never in doubt who the sole survivor will be. Casting Lance Henriksen as Charles Bishop Weyland, the founder of Weyland-Yutani, the Company from the Alien films, only exists because Heriksen played Bishop in Aliens. Because you saw Aliens, the even make Weyland stab around his fingers with a pen. Don’t bother to think about how a company would make a robot with all of Weyland’s features hundreds of years in future after he was killed and his body evaporated in a nuclear blast. As seems to be Anderson’s trademark, these endless callbacks to memorable moments from better movies have all the hallmarks of cheap video games. The ending, where a hybrid Alien-Predator appears, is just the fan service kicker.


Gimme a @#$#* Break!

Say what you will about the Alien films, each installment is different from the next. For better or worse, these films have never attempted to cash in on familiarity. That’s what Alien vs. Predator does from start to finish. Without any mystery, an engaging story, interesting characters, or memorable action, that’s all it has. There’s no reason that this film should exist except a studio had two well-known properties just sitting around. It could just as well be some yahoo yelling, “Did you ever see Aliens? What about Predator?” for an hour and forty minutes. Though there are some who find the hidden charms in the work of Paul W.S. Anderson, they will always remain hidden to me. I’ll never forget when this film came out, a friend had asked me, “Have you seen Alien vs. Predator yet?” His voice had an excitement to it, an optimism. “No, have you?” I asked. “Yeah, it’s really good,” he assured me. After attempting to make out the moving images projected on a screen for 100 minutes, I called him immediately when the movie ended. He just laughed. That laugh will haunt me forever.



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