Alien vs. Predator has poorly developed characters, dialogue that serves mostly to explain why aliens and predators are squaring off on Earth, only a vague idea of what these two franchises had to offer in the first place, as well as some decent special effects. Despite all of that, I had a really good time watching this movie, largely because of how fun the action sequences were.
The plot follows a team of researchers who discover a pyramid buried miles beneath the Earth, some thousand miles north of Antarctica. Because this is a dangerous place to go, a guide named Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) is hired to lead the crew. She demands that she gets three weeks to train them, but industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, who plays the same character in the second and third Alien movies, but is an android in those) doesn’t allow this. He wants to make sure that his company gets to the site first, because other countries are supposedly interested in finding out what this pyramid has to offer. You might expect that this lack of training might cause a loss of life, but you’d also be wrong in that assumption. Instead, the creatures of the title are to blame.
Once inside the pyramid, things go wrong. The group finds a bunch of guns hidden in a chest, and decide to take them. Meanwhile, predators have landed on Earth, and have come for these guns. They’re upset that the guns been stolen, so they begin hunting these humans. On a lower floor of the pyramid, a queen alien is starting to lay eggs, which spawn parasites that latch onto creatures that results in an alien warrior being grown in the stomach of the victim. So that’s how the aliens end up getting involved in the story, although times have apparently changed after the Alien films.
In those films, it took several hours for the alien to grow inside once the parasite did its job. Here, it happens in a matter of minutes. And then, a few minutes later, the newborn alien has become a fully grown one. Things have simply been sped up for convenience of the plot, although I can this upsetting some of the fans of the Alien series, because it doesn’t stay consistent with that continuity.
There is actually a reason that the queen was on the basement of the pyramid, and a reason for why the predators showed up at the exact moment they did. I’ll give writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson credit for, at the very least, giving a reason for all of this to take place. He could have easily just had the aliens and the predators just meet each other somewhere in space, and had them fight one another because, well, why not? But the reason given is somewhat plausible, and quite creative, and is one of the things to appreciate about this film. It’s just too bad that explaining it, and other elements of the film, is just about all the characters get to do with their time on-screen.
Almost every line that comes out of the mouths of the characters seen here does one of two things. Firstly, they’ll either set-up the plot, or explain the plot. The dialogue between these people is pure exposition, with absolutely no room for character development. If you want strong characters like the ones seen in Alien, you aren’t going to get them here.
Despite all of the film’s problems, I didn’t actually find them to be bothersome while I was watching it. There was so much action going after the plot is set-up, I ended up having a really good time. Alien vs. Predator doesn’t let up on the action and thrills once both creatures get involved, and it means that you don’t have the time to think about how the characters aren’t more than a single dimension or that the dialogue spends all of its time explaining the movie to you. In fact, in the first 45 minutes, you almost need most of that explanation so that you can believe both creatures could show up at the same time to do battle with each other and with the people discovering them. Without it being explained to us, we’ve probably have a less enjoyable time once the action gets rolling.
What this film did get right is the look and the feel of the titular characters. The predators look just like they did before, although they come equipped with a few new weapons to do battle with the aliens. There’s a net and an even better glaive, all of which are used in a couple of situations that gives the predators a chance to show off. If anything, this film uses the predators better than either of the films that came before it.
The aliens also look and sound great, although they’re exactly as we’ve seen before. They still bleed acid, still have an additional mouth instead of a tongue, and still feel like they could actually appear in our universe, given the way that they move. They don’t feel stiff, which is a must when they’re crawling on walls and having massive fight scenes with the predators.
I’m not going to go around claiming that Alien vs. Predator is a great film, or that it’s as well-made as something like Aliens, but in terms of simple enjoyability, it’s a blast. You look past its problems because of how much fun you have during the action scenes, and you just go along for the ride because it does not let up with its fight scenes and large set-pieces. It’s simply speaking, a lot of fun, and if you want to see some battles between the two creatures of the title, you won’t be disappointed.