Monday, November 11, 2013

AVP: Alien vs. Predator

  Whilst Alien Vs. Predator was not my first introduction to the acidic goodness of the always classy xenomorph (I have James Cameron and Aliens to thank for that) it was however my first look at the ever-iconic Predator. For that reason alone, my little pre-teen mind was blown by AVP. The movie could do no wrong back then in 2004. Yet 2014 is only a couple months away, and thanks to a swank eBay deal, I figured it's time to give this childhood classic a totally objective rewatch through older, wiser, and far more jaded eyes. Let the hunt begin!

  My thoughts on this movie are vast and varied, I could write a thesis paper on it. Mainly because I absolutely love both the Alien and the Predator franchise. Aliens is my #1 all time favorite movie, and Predator ranks at #5. I think highly even of Predator 2 and Alien 3 (which I actually believe to be one of the most underrated movies ever). So clearly not only am I well educated in both franchises (whether or not you agree with my assessments is your problem) I am also pretty forgiving. I've seen every movie in each franchise at LEAST twice. I have well formed opinions about all of them. I can back up every argument, and provide logic to all my reasoning. I'm even well versed in the wider lore and mythology founded through the comics.To put it simply, I'm not the guy to argue about Aliens or Predators with. Just throwing that out there.

  Aliens and Predators were indelibly intertwined far before AVP ever showed up. There were games, comics, pocket novels, you name it. It was a legitimate thing. When you would see Batman and Captain America team up in the comics, it was also for only a few issues. Then it'd be over. However, when Aliens and Predators started crossing over, it fit so damn well, that they were connected for good. One couldn't be mentioned without the other one far behind. Which brings us FINALLY to this movie. The concept of seeing xenomorphs (the "aliens" if you haven't figured that out already) battle Yautjas ("Predators") on screen was mind-blowingly cool. There was enough amazing source material to ensure that no matter what else, seeing them on screen together would be worth it.

  O' ye of too much faith. I can't pretend to really know what the hype was like, but I can imagine. Anyway, the movie doesn't disappoint on that level. When the Alien and the Predator have their first real fight, I still get chills. It's awesome. It's cool. It's well done, and looks good. That was never a complaint. Seeing them slug it out is still really damn fun. So before I get into the thick of the movie's issues, let me compliment it for a bit. The movie is directed well. Contrary to popular complaints, the characters aren't awful. They're written to the fullest extent of their function in the story, and then some! The lack of a well known lead hurts the movie somewhat but not how you might think. We'll get to that later. So, the characters are good in my opinion, the premise isn't bad, and visually the movie is fantastic. Probably the most polished and well defined movie of either franchise.

  The movie functions best as a saturday matinee movie; a creature feature slugfest. It has all the slime, special effects, and creature on creature violence one could hope for. It's nothing more than that. Even Predator manages to be a classier movie.  The movie succeeds in this respect, it is fun. Simple, mindless fun, of the best variety. It's not insultingly bad like some Michael Bay fare. Which are often called mindless fun as well, I beg to differ and submit they are simply mindless. AVP is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. When you hold a Transformers movie to the expectations set for it, invariably you will have a laundry list of things left to hate about it. I'm looking at you Revenge of the Fallen. However, AVP does what it sets out to do. It's biggest crime is it's painfully short runtime, and it's occasional silliness. Yet, I reiterate, it is not bad. The acting is good, the dialog is good, the pacing is a liiiiitle too brisk, but at least it's not glacial. The special effects are still good, the visual aesthetic is solid. So no, it's not bad. The action on display is even fun to watch, unlike the visual junkyard of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Aliens and Predators fight! They slash, stab, impale, bite, and even blow each other up! This is very fun to watch, no doubt.

  Yet, as a fan... this movie displeases me on some levels directly. First, the story contradicts WAY too many things from the previous movies to the point where it just doesn't work. It's been established that the Predators hunt humans. We are worthy prey. Specifically, dude's like Dutch (Schwarzenegger) in Predator. Predators would not have been here thousands of years ago, teaching humans how to build pyramids. (cause apparently we worshipped them ages ago) They hunt humans for sport, they don't use us as cattle to breed xenomorphs. Not only is that ludicrous, it undermines the entire concept of the xenomorph and the Predators. Not to mention xenomorphs on EARTH? That was the sole scariest thought through EACH Alien movie. Not on Earth, c'mon, not Earth. That'd be devastating. Not here apparently. The Predators got shit under control. Because unleashing them every 100 years in a pyramid for hunting sport is cool. No way that could ever go wrong. And if it does, they blow up everything. This is NOT anything the Predators would do. Would a big game hunter go to a zoo to hunt a leopard? No. That's silly. Which is exactly how this story seems when you start to really look at it. It stops being silly fun, and ends up being just... dumb. The story at least. The movie itself is still fun.

  Next up is what they did to the Aliens. First, yay, they have domed heads. They're just scarier with the domed heads as opposed to the look from Aliens. Something I can't forgive Cameron for, but I love his movie so it's all good. However, the reproductive cycle of the xenomorph has been reduced to a fraction of the time it actually takes. This is the first movie to do this too. In Alien, when a facehugger latched onto Kane, it tooks hours and hours to do it's deed. Then, a few more hours before the embryo gestated enough to break free. Then it took several more hours for the chestburster to grow to full size. Which was well over the height of a tall human male. This is already considered super fast! In fact, the reason the chestburster is very light-skinned at birth, and then totally black in it's adulthood, is because it grows so fast that it bruises over it's entire body. Yet in AVP they sped it up to a fraction of that time cycle. Several long hours' work, reduced to increments of ten minutes. It's just lazy in my opinion and rather disrespectful to the creature itself.

  My final complaint is about the lead character Lex, played by Sanaa Lathan. While Lathan was good in the role, and owned it 100%, there's a twist at the end of the movie that just makes no sense when you think about it. It's a major point of the movie that Lex is a survivor, not a soldier. She would rather retreat and regroup than push ahead with guns blazing. Not only is this probably what's kept her alive, it has defined her character. On the other hand, you have the Predator. On the whole, it has been shown (Predator 2) that when a human proved himself/herself to be a worthy warrior or hunter, the Predators wouldn't kill them and instead present them with a token of respect. Spoiler alert. After everyone else she arrived with is dead, Lex decides to show the Predator that she's on his side. The Predator proceeds to not give a shit. Until a xeno bursts onto the screen and Lex gets lucky and impales it. This is very important to note because this is why their impending team up always felt like bullshit to me. Lex is not a 'worthy' warrior or a hunter. The first xeno she killed was in self defense. Like, it fell on her weapon. She's only a survivor. She has shown no battle prowess, and has actually been crying and sniffling for the past 20 minutes of screentime. Granted, this is probably what any real person would do in her shoes, so I don't fault Lathan.

  However, that plot required a stronger lead. A character with enough gravitas to stand toe to toe with a Predator and make that shit work. Better still, a strong actress to fill the shoes. The concept of a Predator teaming up with a human woman is not unprecedented. They had a very popular character in the comics (which predate the movie) named Machiko Noguchi. This is her here. Look at that intensity. Never in a hundred years should Lathan be cast in a role that echos of a character like this. She does not have the gravitas. That's not saying anything bad about her, she's simply not that kind of actress. The role itself wasn't written to require that gravitas either. So when the Predator spares her, and teams up with her- sure it looks cool, and it's fun to watch, but it makes no sense. In a logical situation, the Predator would've killed her before she ever saw it coming, took back his plasma cannon and finished the rest of his hunt alone. Certainly he wouldn't have teamed up with her, because any Predator could tell you - she's useless to you. At that point, he has no reason to believe otherwise. She has done nothing impressive thus far except run a lot.

  In closing, you either like this movie for what it is, a saturday creature feature slimefest...
Or you just don't like it. I haven't found much middle ground. It's fun. There's no denying that. I like watching it, it's a simple carefree time. Yet... it's also not the clash of titans everyone wanted, and it's nowhere near the movie fans deserve. However, it's the best we got for now and that's good enough until Hollywood wises up. I would be fine if they never made another Alien Vs. Predator. This movie's successor showed how badly one could be screwed up, and that was lightyears worse than anything in this one. There are literal stacks of stories though... that exist on AVP that would make fantastic movies. Movies so awesome, peoples faces would melt off. No xenomorph acid necessary even. I hope to see one of those stories adapted, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it either way.


  1. Great text about the first AVP movie and agree on it fully.
    I like the movie still but a classic no, could had been better but it works.
    About the grow rate of the xenos: Andersson said after that it was due to the Predators had given the queen new genes which made them grow faster so it suits their hunting game better since it would else take too long time.
    I dislike it but I see it fit the story more but still....
    Just hope they one day can make these franchises as they were in the past, Cameron we need you back.

    1. Well Anderson seems to have left alot out. He left too much to be filled in by subtext, or just not at all.
      I don't outright dislike AVP, but I only -just- like it.
      Yes, Cameron. Save our franchises!