Now, I’ve always been a real fan of the Alien collection as well as the Predator movies, so I’m hesitant to jump right on the bandwagon and bash this film. I really, really, really wanted it to do well. But I have to wonder, wouldn’t you think in the cold of Antarctica you would be able to see your breath? Or perhaps that acid for blood would mean acid for blood all the time, not just when it’s convenient for the script. Or, maybe, just maybe, you couldn’t get a cell phone signal when climbing ice-covered mountains in Nepal? Welcome to the magic of movies my friends, and for AVP, it will take more than a little fairy dust.
The plot for AVP is fairly straightforward. Weyland Corporation (sound familiar?) has assembled a team of expert scientists from across the globe, most of whom are, of course, in their early thirties like all scientists. They are expected to explore a hidden pyramid in Antarctica that appears on the Weyland high-tech equipment as generating heat. Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) wants to find it first, and is willing to risk everything to do so. After minor hesitation, the team sets foot on the snow. During this time, the movie takes too long to build up and fails to create depth or suspense, only restlessness. In the snow, no one can hear you yawn. If only we had a real lovable, strong main character, but our heroine, Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), just didn’t have a script that was effective in getting us on her side. With the right material even Paul Reiser could play a huge jerk in Aliens.
Once inside they learn the Predators are hunters, who thousands of years ago built the pyramids and used humans to incubate Aliens to hunt for sport. As you can imagine, things went terribly wrong. (Deep sigh.) Well, this history of war is summed up in a quick two-minute flashback. So, in a ninety-minute film, after nearly an hour of following humans, two minutes explains the title and you finally see some fighting between these creatures. There’s vicious head to head combat and the fighting tosses back and forth between who’s winning and who’s oozing; all the gore and slime a girl could ask for right down to an Alien using its own blood as a weapon. There are some cool slow motion effects, but most of them come off looking cheesy.
After the hour it took for the characters to see these huge monsters completely brutalizing one another, I still had yet to invest my emotions into Alexa Woods or any of the others. Even as cute as Sebastian (Raoul Bova) is, I still didn’t care if his character died. By that point, I didn’t care about this team at all, and wasn’t rooting for anyone: human, Predator, or Alien. The creature effects were amazing, but the human aspect of the story failed to capture me as a viewer. These people needed to be so scared that I should smell where they just wet themselves from my couch. But I didn’t. They instantly and logically realized what was going on and then shot at and/or ran from the creatures with little expression of fear or panic.
I was glad to see they chose a Black woman to play in the spotlight without making any stereotypical “Black” jokes like in Thirteen Ghosts. Oh, no, she di’n’t! She was a human character before she was a black woman. Sanaa did some great acting, but the script didn’t carry her into the books with the three main characters we’ve fought these creatures with in the past.
On a positive note, there was a complete absence of flirting, kissing, and sex. It’s a horror movie, not a teen make-out movie and too many times (like, I don’t know, Matrix Reloaded) people try to mix the two and characters start making out while the monster is still beating on the door. None of that here, and I’m thankful.
AVP has some of the best ideas when it comes to the clashing of advanced Predators and instinctual Aliens. The movie runs along with the six others without attempting to cancel out anything fans of these films already know and understand It’s enjoyable as a special effects film but I wouldn’t group it on the same level with the other movies. Hopefully, any further forays into this universe will find a way to improve.
The disc comes with two full-length commentaries, one by director Paul W.S. Anderson, actors Lance Henriksen and Sanaa Lathan, and another with visual effects supervisor John Bruno and creature effects designers/creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., as well as an extended version with an alternate beginning. There are also deleted scenes (a whopping three), a “making of” featurette, and a Dark Horse Comics AVP Cover Gallery.
Of course after watching all these extras your mind has been taken over and now you totally dig on the movie from a completely different perspective. I would complain, however, that you have to watch the film three times to take in all the extras with only a couple minutes on the cover gallery and maybe half an hour on the making of.
If you can appreciate all the creature effects and the basic premise of the story of these monsters, it is amazing. It’s only when we get side tracked by the people characters that it looses its speed and adrenaline rush. The extras are essential in order to admire how the fight sequences were made and probably the only way you would really notice a lot of the details and hard labor they went through to get the set and creatures to look the way they did.
Walking into a theater, the viewer that hasn’t read the box cover or any kind of website wouldn’t know there was a past to this fight until an hour into it; that’s really disappointing. The alternate beginning however, is set one hundred years earlier and shows a glimpse of a Predator getting ready to slaughter a man just as an Alien lunges toward it from the shadows. This opening truly would have added to the film by showing this “war” as historical. I don’t know why they chose to leave this scene out. For me, it would have changed the whole story and filled that first hour with anticipation to see more.
In the first commentary Anderson talks about goofs, tricks, and other behind-the-scenes stories that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. If you are not already a huge Alien or Predator fan, he also points out the “tributes” where scenes open or actors move in a way similar to that of the other movies. The second commentary is also another one of those things that after you watch it you get a feel for all the work that went into the movie and can understand what they were working towards.
A lot of the story is explained in the extras, but I wish I could have understood it on this level while I was actually watching the film for the first time. I think the reason the movie did poorly or wasn’t highly regarded as an addition to the other movie collections was because of this fact. The other movies contain all the story you need to know within the movie itself, and don’t lean on extras and commentaries in order for it to be appreciated as an Alien or Predator film. I loved learning all the back story and of how this movie links into the others, but I wish I could have learned it through the movie and not because of the disc. Oh, all you poor, poor moviegoers, left in the dark all this time. No wonder you hated it so.