Judging by this title, we are dealing with a story about 1 (one) Alien facing off against 1 (one) Predator. Maybe the Alien dripped acid blood on the Predator’s invisibility machine, so they start getting up in each other’s face or something. It is hard to predict what would cause them to fight, but it is easy to predict the outcome. The Alien wins because the Alien is hands down cooler than the Predator. Sorry Predators, just tellin it like it is. Of course, the title could also mean the actual movie ALIEN is facing off against the movie PREDATOR. In that case ALIEN will be defeating PREDATOR for tension, atmosphere, originality, and artistic legitimacy, while being roundly defeated in the oneliner and gun size departments.
But the title ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is misleading. It is actually MODERN DAY HUMANS + SOME CGI ALIENS AND TEENAGE PREDATORS. It turns out that the ancient Predators built a pyramid in what is now Antarctica and it’s still there under the ice. Once every 100 years exactly, a Predator ship comes down, sets loose some Alien eggs and has their Predator boys fight the Aliens as a rite of passage. Maybe they are from the south of Predator planet and this is their equivalent of deer hunting. Or Texas football.
You learn alot of new things about the Predator culture from this movie. Number one, they have a pyramid. Number two, they look fat when they have all their armor on. These teenage Predators would make pretty good bouncers, but not the greatest movie monsters.
The movie stars Sanaa Lathan (Blade’s mom), Ewen Bremner (JULIEN DONKEY BOY) and unfortunately Lance Henriksen (everything). As always, Mr. Henriksen does a good job and adds depth to the movie (taking it from negative depth to just about sea level). But I say “unfortunately” because it’s a crying shame he has to say yes to a project like this and, worse, that this is probaly one of the better movies he’s gotten to do in recent years. (Not including ABOMINABLE.) It’s a crime that a guy with as much talent and unique presence as Lance Henriksen is stuck being what I call a Paypal actor, meaning it seems like you can just go onto his websight and order him using Paypal and then he has no choice but to show up on your set and do your movie.
What makes his inclusion here worse than in some of the more inept movies he’s been in is that, by being in the same world as ALIENS, it kind of pisses on his legacy there. As most of you remember, Henriksen played Bishop, the heroic android ripped in half by the Alien queen in ALIENS. In ALIEN 3 he showed up again as the leader of the Weyland-Yutani corporation, the Bishop robot supposedly having been modeled after him. But the crazy way he ends up dying, with his ear bending back as his head splits open, always made me think he was lying and he actually was another robot. Most people don’t seem to interpret it that way, but I still stand by that version of ALIEN 3 events. Still, I gotta call bullshit on the idea of Henriksen playing “Charles Bishop Weyland” of the Weyland Corporation, an adventurer in the year 2004 who discovers the Predator pyramid.
In fact, the movie already lost me when it opened and told me it was 2004. That means if you accept this movie into your life then you have to reinterpret the original ALIEN so that instead of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time Ripley and friends were intentionally sent to the distress signal by the Company because their eccentric founder had discovered Aliens and Predators beneath Antarctica hundreds of years ago. Sorry asshole but I’m not reading that corny bullshit into ALIEN thank you very much.
This Weyland guy is an unlucky bastard though, because the day he goes to the pyramid happens to be the one day that happens only every 100 years when the Predators come down from space to hunt Aliens in the pyramid. These explorers know that everyone mysteriously disappeared from the nearby whaling town one day but for some reason it doesn’t occur to them that it was exactly one hundred years ago to the day. That’s just bad luck, man. Or poor planning. Who was in charge of this expedition, Rumsfeld?
If you can get past the insult of the premise and the present day setting, the movie is more competent than I expected. This is a director whose best work is fucking MORTAL KOMBAT, so the level of mediocrity here is actually pretty impressive. Maybe it helps that I was warned there would be bullet time shots of facehuggers and Aliens jumping through the air. I was surprised there was no dance music. It’s shot pretty well. But other than the crappy parts it just doesn’t have an identity of its own. They came up with this pyramid concept to connect the two alien races, then after that there’s nothing else to surprise you. It’s internet amateur hour type writing where they just rehash the types of things we’ve seen in the other sequels instead of trying to figure out a new story to tell. If it was just a setup for them to fight each other that would be fine, but the movie is mostly about the humans, and I honestly have already forgotten who the different characters were and what their personalities were supposed to be. You have no reason to give a shit about them. Sanaa is I guess supposed to be the Ripley character, because she survives. She’s a good actress but she’s not good enough to make something out of the nothing they gave her here.
For the last part of the movie, Sanaa actually teams up with one of the Predators, and they fight side-by-side. It’s alot like LETHAL WEAPON only instead of an anti-semitic guy with a mullet they have an alien with dreadlocks, and Danny Glover couldn’t do it because he was already in PREDATOR 2 so they got Sanaa Lathan. And instead of cops they are in a pyramid. I guess it’s pretty different. Anyway, I kind of liked this idea of a human and Predator teaming up and I think it fits with the end of PREDATOR 2 where Danny Glover earns the respect of the Predator race by killing one of them. In that one they gave him a musket as a symbol of his Predator-cred. For Sanaa, the Predator actually prepares a spear made out of the Alien’s tail and a shield made out of its head and Sanaa has to carry that disgusting shit around and luckily it doesn’t seem to have any acid blood on it.
The only problem is, Sanaa must feel like a phony, because she really doesn’t do enough to earn their respect. Yes, she kills an Alien, but these are those “we’ve already done three sequels so who gives a shit anymore” easy-to-kill Aliens. In fact, she does the deed on accident by falling backwards and holding the Predator’s magic space spear of untold power. Really, the Alien pretty much impales himself. If anybody should earn the Predator’s respect for killing an Alien, it should be the Alien itself. I don’t care if she’s Blade’s mom, Sanaa didn’t do shit.
But if she had really earned it it would’ve been an idea I could get behind. I think Ripley could’ve earned it. I know Beatrix Kiddo could’ve earned it. I think the gal in THE DESCENT could’ve earned it, if the Predator had been in that cave and seen her crawl out of a puddle of blood and beat a weird underground fucker to death with a bone. He probaly would’ve proposed to her right there. You know what would’ve been cool I think would be if the Predator was there when Jamie Lee Curtis cut off Michael Meyers’s head in HALLOWEEN H20. Because think about it, in PREDATORS 1-2 these Predators felt that man was the ultimate prey. So if that’s the case then holy shit what about an evil unkillable man wearing a William Shatner mask? ANY Predator would love to have that head in his spaceship trophy case. So in exchange for the head maybe he would’ve hung out with Jamie Lee Curtis and together they could go hunt down Freddy and Jason so he could add the mask and glove to the trophy case. Think about it man, what does Predator-vision look like IN THE WORLD OF YOUR NIGHTMARES? The possibilities with this crossover shit are endless. Is Chucky human enough to show up on heat vision? How would a fucking Godzilla head look tied to the top of a space ship? I bet that would impress the girl Predators.
Shit, I never thought of that. What are girl Predators like? Do they have to cook all this shit the boy Predators bring home? I’m not trying to say girl Predators belong in the kitchen, but you know, this macho hunting shit is pretty stereotypical for men. They probaly watch Predator football too. I’m sure at least some of them make their women cook, say, a Jesse the Body Ventura head when they bring it home. Make a nice stew or something. Whatever Predators eat besides beef.
Man, I guess we don’t really know what’s up with Predators, do we? Are ALL male Predators hunters? Or is this just the subculture that tends to vacation on earth? Are they like paintballers? Or are they respected members of society? I mean if that whole planet is dudes with invisibilty machines climbing around in trees spearing each other, you wouldn’t think the race would last long enough to develop such high quality space ships. If they have space ships they must have cities. Imagine one of those fucks walking to work in Predator City carrying a briefcase. Would he be showing off his skull collection to his co-workers? I don’t think so. I think these are rednecks we’re dealing with. I don’t know for sure. Unless there is some sort of Predator Jeff Foxworthy we can consult with it’s hard to really know.
Anyway, could’ve been (even) worse, but definitely shouldn’t have been made. After all the care over the years to hire interesting, visionary directors for all the ALIEN sequels, there’s no excuse for this shit. The only thing you can really figure is they hired Paul W.S. Anderson (fucking RESIDENT EVIL) thinking it was Paul Thomas Anderson (BOOGIE NIGHTS, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, etc.). This is just like that other George Miller who didn’t direct MAD MAX, but did the Steve Guttenberg picture about a dog riding on a dolphin’s back. You know Hollywood greenlighters, you have alot of responsibility to live up to there, you’re our last line of defense. You need to start checking IDs more carefully to make sure this never happens again.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.