Synopsis: The deadliest creatures from the scariest sci-fi movies ever made face off in Aliens vs. Predator. The incredible adventure begins when the discovery of an ancient pyramid buried in Antarctica sends a team of scientists and adventurers to the frozen continent. There, they make an even more terrifying discovery: two alien races engaged in an all-out war. And whoever wins…we lose.
Watch the ultimate movie monsters fight it out as never before in the Unrated Edition – with a re-cut extended version of the film not shown in theaters.
eyelights: the pyramid. the casting coup of Lance Henrikson.
eyesores: the CGI xenomorphs.
“They’re not hunting us. We’re in the middle of a war. It’s time to pick a side.”
‘Alien vs. Predator’ is a long-gestating motion picture based on a Dark Horse Comics property that was initially launched in 1989. It was a monstrous success at the time and many spin-offs were produced since, including many other comic series, novels, toys and video games. It was even hinted at in ‘Predator 2‘, when a xenomorph skull appeared in the alien hunter’s trophy room.
For years, the motion picture adaptation was one of the hottest unproduced properties in Hollywood, with a script floating around since 1991. There was a consistent buzz coming from the fanbase but it was never greenlit, perhaps due to the failure of both individual franchises and because of studio politics. It would take until 2002, when writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson pitched his own idea for ‘AvP’.
His script, which he co-wrote with Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shussett (the writers of the original ‘Alien’), is not only based on the popular comic books, but also on Aztec mythology and the writings of Erich von Däniken, author of ‘Chariots of the Gods?’. It takes us to Antarctica, site of a newly-found pyramid build by the alien hunters that we know as Predators thousands of years before.
Antarctica was chosen because it’s the harshest and most alien environment on earth, but also because it takes our protagonists away from populated centres, as Anderson didn’t want anything taking place in his film to come into conflict with the original films. He tried to tie his picture to them in myriad ways, including the inclusion of the billionaire head of Weyland Industries.
Charles Bishop Weyland is played by Lance Henriksen, who played Bishop, the android in ‘Aliens‘. Anderson’s genius casting coup establishes that the future Weyland-Yutani would model some of their androids based on their founder – which makes sense, as corporations aren’t exactly known for their humility. Plus which it landed the film with much-needed experience, authority and gravitas.
In ‘AvP’, Weyland’s satellite monitoring system has picked a heat bloom in Antarctica, and his experts believe that it’s emanating from a pyramid 2000 feet beneath the surface – the first pyramid ever built. In ill health and concerned with his legacy, the billionaire decides to round a team of experts from around the globe to mount an expedition to brand his name on this history-changing find.
Naturally, things don’t go as well as planned: this pyramid holds a few horrifying secrets.
Secrets that kill.
The first time that I watched ‘Alien vs. Predator’, I saw the theatrical version, which was released with a PG-13 rating – the weirdest thing for a picture based on two gruesomely violent and/or scary franchises. There have been rumours that the studio made some last-minute edits to make it a wider release, but there are counter-claims that it was always intended to be PG-13.
Who knows what the truth is.
All I know is that I kind of enjoyed myself this time around, having watched the Unrated version – while I was sort of bored and unimpressed with the other one. Was it because I had just watched the gawdawful ‘Predator 2’ the night before? Or is it just that the ‘Unrated’ version is slightly better? Even this has been cause for some debate and online chatter from the series’ fans.
Personally, I think that the Unrated version benefits from improved pacing and that the story is a fair bit more coherent (an extra seven-eight minutes of plot and character development can make a significant difference). It’s no brilliant motion picture, but at least now its weaknesses didn’t detract from my enjoyment – even though there were still a significant number.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
There are a number of elements that I do like, though. For instance, I like that our main protagonist is a woman. It’s to be expected in the ‘Alien’ series, I suppose, but Anderson purposely picked someone who wouldn’t remind people of Ripley. And Sanaa Lathan was relatively credible in the part, although she didn’t look especially fit – for an adventurer. At least she had the attitude.
I really enjoyed the setting and set design. Unlike some people, I’m not a big fan of pyramids, but I quite liked the look of this one. A lot of time was spent into putting all sorts of details into every part of it, which made it look impressive. You would be hard-pressed to not be awed in real life. The lighting also helped because it added an aura of mystery around it – and a sinister touch as well.
Given how large the pyramid is, and how complicated it would be to keep track of who is doing what where, I also appreciated that the filmmakers devised of a way to situate us: by showing us a 3D map of the building from both the expedition and the alien hunters’ perspectives. It’s usually pretty quick, but it’s enough for the purposes of the piece – this isn’t National Geographic, after all.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Speaking of the pyramid, I was pleased with the way that the filmmakers kept the hunt going. Since ‘Alien vs. Predator’ mostly consists of pecking off its human cast one-by-one and watching xenomorphs and alien hunters beat the crap out of each other, the filmmakers had to find ways to separate the human victims – otherwise, they’d all be in one room and get swarmed. What they did was to make the pyramid reconfigure every 10 minutes, so that they invariably got separated from each other and from their hunters. I adored this plot device: it reminded me of ‘Cube’, except done with a greater budget. It was fun to watch all the parts move as they did, like a big moving puzzle.
And, although the way Alexa gains the respect of the main alien hunter is somewhat questionable, I really liked that he made her a shield out of a xenomorph skull and a spear out of a xenomorph spine. Très cool. Very primal. It doesn’t answer the question of why the xenomorph blood and guts didn’t burn her arms off when she picked those up, but presumably the hunter was an OCD clean freak and sanitized them first.
I also had a good chuckle at the final twist, even if it was predictable. But it’s moronic: the alien predators would obviously have a scanner on their ship to ensure that they don’t bring aboard any dangerous microbes or critters; this should have been prevented. Anyway, as further proof of how stupid this twist is, the alien hunter had been impaled by the Queen – which would have presumably killed the xenomorph inside. Not that she would have attacked, as they usually leave hosts alone. Still, it remains a cool idea. I just wish that they had thought it out more, is all.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
All this to say that, even though it’s not Masterpiece Theatre, I kinda sorta enjoyed watching the Unrated version of ‘Alien vs. Predator’ (unlike the Theatrical version, which bored me senseless). Sure, it was flawed. But it was also entertaining. And it had a few interesting ideas thrown in to boot.
Granted, it could have been done better. Granted, after 15 years of promise, it’s a let-down. But it’s better than many other ‘Predator‘ or ‘Alien‘ movies. And, all things considered, that ain’t half bad. Now, I highly doubt that I’ll race to see it again, but I’d watch this waaaay before ‘Freddy vs. Jason‘.
Or ‘Predator 2‘, for that matter.
Date of viewing: December 15, 2014