RETRO REVIEW: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Theatrical Release Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a review of Alien vs. Predator – Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. For more Alien reviews, check out this category.

Some might say that in 2016, Hollywood had ‘a thing’ for blockbuster movie mash-ups. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was one of the most anticipated films of the year, and so was Captain America: Civil War, which easily could’ve been called ‘Captain America vs. Iron Man.’

But in both of those cases these movie mash-ups were made to both improve and continue a cinematic universe. Those cases didn’t feel like last ditch attempts at making money, they were just the next chapters in those two cinematic universes.

In the early to mid-2000s, Hollywood also loved movie mash-ups, but back then the most well-known of those involved characters that had never really appeared in the same film. Freddy vs. Jason was one of those crazy movie mash-ups, and the science fiction equivalent of that was Alien vs. Predator, which I’m going to review for you right now.

Unless you count the Xenomorph easter egg in Predator 2, the main reason why people thought it would be a good idea for a movie to pit these enormously popular alien monsters against each other was that they had appeared together in popular crossover comic books.

Even so, it inevitably did feel like 20th Century Fox were, for the lack of a better word, milking what was left of both franchises. You have to understand now that, at that time, the last popular Alien movie had been released way back in 1986 and the novelty of seeing the Xenomorph on screen had largely worn off.

As for the Predator series? Well, truth be told, neither of the two Predator films that had been released at that point in time were universally praised. While John McTiernan’s Predator was popular, it was, by no means, ever as popular or profitable as the Alien-franchise. The, at that time, only sequel to Predator – Stephen Hopkins’ Predator 2 – was panned by critics, and is, at best, sometimes regarded as a cult classics.

Both franchises had had their heyday in the 1980s, but 20th Century Fox were, seemingly, confident that a mash-up movie would bring both franchises back to life. And director Paul W. S. Anderson – at the time best known for Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil – was the man they hired to give that essential spark. The result was a critically panned mash-up movie that I, all things considered, quite enjoy.

Alien vs. Predator is set in 2004 and it follows a group of archaeologists and linguists assembled by Charles Bishop Weyland (played by Lance Henriksen) to investigate a heat signal and get to and claim a potentially valuable find. They discover a pyramid below the surface of Bouvetøya near Antarctica.

Within the pyramid, they find sacrificial chambers and later discover that ancient civilizations worshipped Predators as Gods, and humans were sacrificed to ‘give birth’ to the ultimate prey – the Xenomorphs – so that the Predators could hunt them and prove their worth. Soon Weyland’s group find themselves in the middle of a new hunting exercise.

One of the first things people were quick to criticize about Alien vs. Predator was the fact that the movie had been rated PG-13 and didn’t really include the blood that the film and the film’s violence desperately needed. While I think the movie monsters are still really fun and satisfying to watch here, the violence the monsters inflict doesn’t hold the same weight without the red human blood.

It also isn’t a scary movie, and thus doesn’t live up to the promise of the two franchises. None of the characters are particularly memorable and I do find the second half of the film to be pretty boring. However, I do think that the creatures are given time to shine and that should, honestly, be the most important thing.

Alien vs. Predator isn’t a good movie, but it is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, and I love watching most of the film. It is enjoyably cheesy and cartoonish, and when, one of the characters, ultimately teams up with one of the creatures it is one of the silliest moments, yet enjoyably so, in the entire movie. Alien vs. Predator may not be a good movie or a great example of the overall quality of both creature franchises at their best, but it is really fun to watch.

5.9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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