Alien vs. Predator
Homer Simpson once declared that alcohol was the source of, and the solution to, all his problems. 20th Century Fox might have something similar to say about diehard fans of the Alien and Predator franchises, who have waited 15 years to see these sci-fi beasts duke it out onscreen, ever since the two biggest space monsters of the Reagan era were first pitted against each other in a Dark Horse comic book. Frustrated by all the delays, hardcore Alien and Predator fans have stirred up some pretty bad buzz over Alien vs. Predator, yet they are also the most likely to brave the bad buzz and check the film out for themselves.
The reason for all the bad buzz? First, fans were put off by the news that, while earlier films in the Alien series were directed by stylish innovators and technical wizards like Ridley Scott, James Cameron and David Fincher, this new film was assigned to Paul W.S. Anderson, whose best-known films to date, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil, are little more than cheesy video-game flicks. Then, fans were annoyed to learn that this film would tone down the violence—and presumably dumb down the political, sexual and philosophical subtexts of the earlier films—in order to earn a teen-friendly PG-13 rating, whereas all four Alien films and both Predator movies had been intended for adults and were given hard R ratings. And finally, the studio refused to show the film to critics before it opened last Friday, which is usually a sign that the film in question is going to stink.
Fortunately, entering a movie with low expectations sometimes makes for a better viewing experience. Alien vs. Predator is certainly not the worst movie to come out this summer—I would argue that Thunderbirds and Van Helsing were duller and more exhausting to sit through—and there are times when the new film pays just enough respect to its source material that you can almost taste the good movie that it might have been.
To bring these two franchises together, one has to somehow address the fact that the Alien films have a somewhat female identity and tend to deal primarily with feminine issues—maternal instincts, the fear of rape—while the Predator films reflect a more macho emphasis on killing for sport and being initiated into a warrior culture. The film version of Alien vs. Predator, like the original comic book, unites these sensibilities to some degree by telling the story of a woman who fights to save herself from the Aliens and, in doing so, wins the respect of the Predators.
The woman in question is Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), an intrepid mountaineer who takes satellite phone calls even when she's dangling from an icy cliff. Alexa is one of several explorers hired by a billionaire named Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) to explore a vast, ancient pyramid with a huge, modern-style power source that his satellites have discovered under the ice in Antarctica. ("Weyland" is the name of the evil "company" that will make life difficult for Ripley years later in the Alien films, and "Bishop" is the name of the good android that Henriksen played in two of those films.) In this pyramid, the explorers discover a sacrificial chamber, where human victims used to be "impregnated" with Alien embryos every hundred years so that the Predators could begin their ritual hunt (it's confusing; you'll have to see the film to fully understand). And amidst the runes, symbols, and artifacts, Weyland's team finds some rather high-tech weaponry, which prompts one man to exclaim, "This is like finding Moses' DVD collection!"