Director: Paul W. S Anderson
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremmer, Colin Salmon
Plot: A team of archaeologists stumbles across a temple that houses captive Xenomorphs, which are hunted every 100 years by Predators as a rite of passage.
Versus movies are often met with the roll of eyes. They rarely work out. Just look at Freddy vs Jason. We are always just instantly reminded of an over-achieving B Movie picture, like the 1960s King Kong vs Gorilla, or even worse – the coma-inducing Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. Versus films are a cheap way of rebooting a franchise with a fresh spin, yet colliding it with another beloved movie series. On paper, it sounds like a fanboy’s dream product. No one has quite realised yet that this is actually a fan boy’s worst nightmare.
But let’s be fair: as far as versus movies go, Aliens Vs Predator is one of the better ones. The joining of the two franchises actually makes sense in its own way. I can happily believe that both the Predators and the Xenomorphs can live in the same fictional universe (Predator 2 boasts a background skull in a Predator trophy cabinet that could be theorised to be a Xenomorph’s), and it makes sense that the Predators would be drawn to the dreaded Aliens, seeing as they are never anything less than a life-threatening challenge whenever they are exposed to something they want to kill. So yes, I can get on-board with a movie where the Predators have their own Xenomorph hunting range on planet Earth. Other sides of the story are harder to believe, yet Paul W. S Anderson will never be known for his intelligent plots or universe. No, we have come here for some glorious over the top action sequences, all the while paying homage to our beloved franchises. And Anderson, if nothing else, delivers on that promise. He mimics the pacing of Aliens with a group of red shirts led by a strong female lead and an appropriately creepy Henriksen wandering cluelessly into a labyrinth, until all hell breaks loose and the body count begins mounting up at an alarming rate. There are some good visuals with a group of characters trapped in an alien ventilation shaft, the claustrophobic setting really giving the monsters a chance to show off their nastiness. A death with the Predators’ retracting net will haunt you when the movie has ended. And then there is the Alien Queen. While some might be a little unsatisfied that the Alien Queen has been reduced to a CGI punch-up with the heroic Predator, it does give the movie the finishing kick that it needs.
Of course, the movie collapses in other areas, namely the characters. There is not one human in this movie that will impress you. Sanaa Lathan is given the job of kick-ass woman who is smart and agile enough to give the Aliens and Predators a run for their money. However, she is very clearly a Ripley step-in, so she never becomes a fully-formed character. You almost can feel the writers sighing at the fact that Sigourney Weaver’s character is impossible to write into the prequel. And if the lead hero does nothing for you, then no one else will either. A love interest is defined only by his Italian accent and is strangely devoid of any personality traits. Ewen Bremmer has always had the ability to make me want to drown him at the very sound or sight of him, and he does nothing to change that here, bringing pointless slapstick to two series that definitely should not be associated with slapstick. It is frustrating, because, deep down, we know that they are all red shirts. That quirky scientist fellow or Colin Salmon’s gruff mercenary are only in this story to be killed off later on in surprising and shocking ways. We’re not idiots and we know this! However, we would like the writers to actually play the game and attempt to disguise the fact. There is no point caring for anyone here, but the writers never give us the opportunity to accidentally like anyone. With Aliens, we found Bill Paxton endearing against our better judgement. Here, every supporting character is so by-the-numbers, the movie never escapes this sense of laziness. The only interesting person is Lance Henriksen, as we know that Bishop in the Alien series must have been based off of his person. We begin to see the beginnings of that evil corporation that haunts the Alien movies, here depicted as little more than over-zealous curiosity, but it is bound to evolve into something darker.
Luckily, when your human cast are failing to engage us, Anderson allows us to forget them and just focus on the two real stars of the movie: the Alien and the Predator. Who would win in a fight? That is the timeless question the Sci-Fi and horror fans have been asking each other for decades. The film’s strongest suit is that, by the end of this movie, the answer is still somewhat vague. The discussion still rages on. The Predator lovers point out that this movie does feature a lot of Aliens being mown down, so the Predator is obviously the better monster. Hold on, the Alien fans scoff. Humans can do that too, as we have seen with the second Aliens movie. When the Predator takes on a Xenomorph one-on-one, without his weapons, the fight is a lot closer. It makes that punch-up in the middle of the movie, all the more, satisfying. It is easily the highlight of the film. Perhaps that is the greatest irony of this movie. I have always groaned at Versus movies that refused to aspire to being more than another versus film. AVP tries to do that, but with weak characters, it is the versus element of the movie that saves it. It turns out that we really did just want to see an Alien and a Predator knock ten shades of shit out of each other. In that aspect, this movie succeeds.
Final Verdict: Yes, the characters are empty and the plot is shaky at times, but this is far better than it had any right to be.