When a film opens with some chick scaling an Antarctic mountain who stops mid-trek to answer a cell phone call from a guy ten feet above her in a helicopter she never new was there, you sorta can’t have high hopes for what’s to come. If only this film had an inkling of product placement because I’d really like to know what amazing cell phone service she’s subscribed to.
Paul Anderson’s “Alien Vs. Predator,” is -- as I expected after that ridiculous opening act -- a boring, plodding hour-and-a-half excuse to show badass-looking aliens fighting badass-looking predators. If only. That might have actually made this movie interesting. Besides watching a hapless group of scientists and “experts” seal their fates by exploring an underground pyramid with the banner “Only the Chosen Ones May Enter” etched on the marquee, there’s very little action between the two beloved species. Very little vs-ing if you ask me.
And that just can’t be when there’s a “Vs.” in the title of a movie. In this case you expect some hardcore vs-ing. As bad a movie “Freddy Vs. Jason” was, it at least delivered on the vs-ing. But that revived slasher installment was rated R whereas “AVP” is a teen-friendly PG-13 dud. You may be asking yourself how a franchise that’s famous for featuring a predator species which collects human heads for trophies could be slapped with a PG-13 certificate, and that’s a valid question my fellow gore-enthusiast reader.
My guess is that somewhere in Hollywood a sick genius at Twentieth Century Fox knew this film would be a turkey, and made sure it would be rated PG-13 so as many youngsters as possible could buy a ticket and fatten the wallet of a filmmaker who shouldn’t be making movies. Save “Even Horizon” and you’ve got a miserable resume with “Soldier,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Resident Evil.” Add “AVP” and it’s safe to say “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” has much to make up for.
But back to that SOB behind the marketing of this film. Because of him, the few encounters between the humans, predators and aliens that could have at least been somewhat interesting result in what are mostly off-screen kills. A kill is indicated by a trace of blood falling on a piece of snow, and the action of an alien breaking through its host’s chest is taken care of by the sound effects department, as we are blind to this particular miracle of life moment. This PG-13 bitchslap is a marketing ploy at the expense of wanting fans.
However, the PG-13-rating sellout is not a point to dwell on as I haven’t even gotten into the dreadfully dull storyline. The central plot is about -- if you must know -- a group of scientists looking to discover whatever is giving off a signal hundreds of feet below the surface of an Antarctic iceshelf. A team is assembled and seeks the services of that chick I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Alexa (Sanaa Lathan) -- a tour guide of sorts who grew up while climbing mountains and had her first drink with her late father on top of one -- initially refuses because movies like this only have one semi-intelligent character, and we have to know it by the end of the obligatory hesitation scene.
It’s too dangerous, she tells Weyland (Lance Henriksen), the president of the company funding the excavation. But when one crew member (Ewen Bremner) flashes a picture of his kids and questions his likelihood of survival without her, she gets a change of heart. Fine, I’ll lead you but only if you follow my three rules: 1.) Never go anywhere alone (yeah, okay). 2.) Always be in communication with everyone (doesn’t happen). 3.) Things will go wrong (true, but not a rule).
The crew makes it down the hundreds of feet it takes to get to the pyramid’s front door and begins exploring the vast rooms, tiny entryways and even the “sacrificial chamber.” Soon the aliens are awakened and begin hunting the unwanted human explorers and are joined by the ensuing predators. At this point the movie had a chance at making a positive turn but our interest is never obtained. It doesn’t help that the dark colors and minimal lighting make it hard to see the creatures, and the faster quick-paced scenes are hard to follow.
Many extras provide sufficient fodder for the aliens and predators but the process is numbing. Weapons are drawn, aliens linger; cut to off-screen kill - rinse and repeat. People die. Nobody seems to care (including us), and the survivors march on. To advance the story, our braindead screenplay has one of the characters from out of nowhere figuring out how it all started, and alas a flashback confirms this one scientist’s theory about how the aliens and predators once dominated humans so many years ago. Even with this obtained piece of information the movie still makes no sense.
I won’t giveaway the laughable ending, but I will note a striking similarity between humans and predators. When you get right down to it, they’re not very different from us. In the movies, we use large, red digital readouts on our bombs to tell us when everything’s about to go boom. And so do they. When a character attempts to befriend a misguided predator, the movie finds itself at rock bottom with the possibility of a sequel titled “Look What’s Talking,” starring Bruce Willis as the voice of the human/predator offspring. Yes, it gets that close.
“AVP” hardly puts up an effort to scare us. It tries to get some type of reaction by utilizing the cat-from-out-of-nowhere routine that horror movies have always turned to. But since this movie takes place in Antarctica, the unknown critter that makes alien-like sounds before coming out of the shadows is of course...a penguin. Sigh. This movie does not deserve to have “Alien” in the title.
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