Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

It's like if Prometheus and The Thing had a really dumb baby.


One century before this movie, in the depths of Antarctica... ::The Thing theme plays::

Dun dun. ...Dun dun.

A gentleman pugilist from the olde country flees from an unseen assailant. Then we cut to the present day. Well, that was a completely pointless scene, but it wasn't offensive or anything.

So basically, this movie is an (unofficial, almost fanfiction-esque) marriage of the Alien and Predator franchises. It's a spinoff of the video games of the same name, taking that popular idea and putting it onto movie screens. The problem is that this concept works much better as a game. Being able to play as an Alien, a Predator, or a Colonial Marine and battle the other two sides? That's awesome. Shoehorning Aliens and Predators into one movie so they can fight each other while feckless modern humans get in the way? Not so great.

Weyland Corporation is alive and well circa 2004...and I just realized that the creators of this movie intended it to be a legitimate, canon prequel to the Alien series. Like Prometheus, sorta. Except more of a prequel, because Prometheus didn't have the balls to admit to being a prequel due to studio pressure to be a standalone movie. But I digress.

In case you missed the Weyland mention three seconds ago, we get a long camera linger on the Weyland logo at a relay facility. Just so we all know that this is the Alien universe and stuff. Everyone process this information yet? Yes? Well, we're going to linger on the logo for a second longer. It's the only way to be sure.

WE GET IT

Yanno, a sure-fire sign of a movie not being so good is when it clearly doesn't respect the audience's intelligence.

Meanwhile, scientists discover the "heat signature" of a temple under the ice in Antarctica. Putting aside the question of why a temple has a heat signature, the movie writers actually had a pretty good idea here. Antarctica was once a tropical paradise, and it's somewhat believable that any ancient civilization pre-us might have made their home there. Alas, any evidence of that would be buried waaaay under the ice at this point, with no way for us to get in there and find the trove of archaeological discoveries that probably await. Come on, Global Warming!

We jump to the main character, Uhura Alexa. She's an ice climber (no relation to the NES game) and Weyland Corp founder Charles Bishop Weyland needs her to lead an expedition to find the hidden temple and see what is within. He'll go with them to get a gander at the greatest scientific discovery of our time. Yeah, it's the plot of Prometheus.

In any case, Alexa is mostly an enigma, a dude's idea of what a strong female character is. She spends most of the movie going "I don't think this is a good idea". Unfortunately, this doesn't make her the smartest person in the room like it's intended to, because she never actually backs up her statements with any kind of facts.

They do everything they can to make her emulate Ripley from the Alien movies, but while Ripley was strong due to her resourcefulness and intelligence ("we can't let him in because we might contaminate the ship"), Alexa is "strong" because she's...stubborn and thinks things are a bad idea with no reasoning involved? She just sounds like a lazy millennial at that point. It can certainly trick you into thinking she's smart like Ripley... if you don't actually think at all while watching this movie.

Other main characters include a sexy Italian archaeologist guy... for the ladies. They get summoned to the corporate HQ of...

...holy shit! It's Lance Henriksen! Did you know that originally he was supposed to play The Terminator, and Arnold was supposed to play Kyle Reese? Man, that would have been a vastly different movie.

Holy shit! It's Chibs!

"Jockey Boy!" he says when reached for comment.

Weyland himself appears and lectures our heroes about how they're the best and brightest and have been assembled here to help him travel into the depths of Antarctica to unearth what may be an alien pyramid from the early years of the planet. The shots make him appear dark and menacing, but all things considered he doesn't seem to be a bad guy. And yes, him gathering a team of scientists to lecture them about a trip they'll be going on... also happened in Prometheus. It's kinda hilarious how much Ridley Scott ripped off this movie that was, in turn, ripping off his own work.

Uhura takes a romantic ride with The Italian Stud, Little Guido. I wonder what their babies are going to look like.

Oh come on! Seriously? Our heroes reach Antarctica and gather around a crater in a scene ripped DIRECTLY from The Thing (1953 version, mainly).

They light flares and stalk about in frozen basements. Apparently this abandoned outpost, which serves little purpose in the movie, has been deserted for a hundred years. It's above the temple, but that's about it. I guess we're just here because it looks like the outpost from The Thing. Also, why the hell are they using flares when they have powerful flashlights?

What follows is a way-too-long scene of everyone exploring the outpost and finding nothing whatsoever aside from a few jump scares. What's the point of this place? Couldn't they at least find some evidence that something bad happened here, to build some kind of tension that isn't jump-scare dependent?

AHH! XENOMORPH! ...oh.

Luckily, a massive tunnel has been carved out, leading to the pyramid, and our heroes are able to slide down to it. Weyland notes that the tunnel "wasn't there yesterday". So...how were they planning on getting to the temple before? What a lucky break that someone happened to carve a tunnel! Who carved the tunnel? Is there any reason why the tunnel couldn't have just NOT happened that day, and been something they'd already detected? Maybe the tunnel-excavation could have been the source of the heat signature they picked up at the beginning that made no sense? I DON'T KNOW I'M NO DIRECTOR

The Temple lurks. What looms inside? Find out on the next episode RIGHT NOW!

Inside the ruins, the scientist crew finds a bunch of wall murals depicting Xenomorphs. Yanno, my respect for Prometheus is getting lower by the minute in light of this revelation that they ripped everything off of this movie. Don't get me wrong, Prometheus is waaaay better, but My God.

In the fiery depths of the temple, a Queen Xenomorph is de-thawed from suspended animation, and begins pumping out eggs. These eggs are then transported into the upper temple via conveyor belts of some sort... right towards the scientists.

Why are these things happening, you ask? Predators, the showrunners in the temple, are setting the Xenos loose so that they can be hunted. The human crew is just sorta in the way. ...in every sense, when it comes to this movie.

The Queen is still de-thawing in a fairly impressive animatronic effect. This movie deserves quite a bit of credit for using animatronics instead of CGI, for the most part.

Meanwhile, up top, a bunch of Weyland's guards get picked off by Predators. That's what they get for carrying guns, I guess. The Predator attack isn't particularly scary or stealthy or any of that stuff that made Predator so good. It's just in-your-face brutality.

They even get the legendary Predatorvision wrong. Come on, guys.

The Predators themselves look pretty weird, too. In their own series, they're svelte and limber. In this movie, they're portly and stocky. They're more like obnoxious 80's wrestlers than the ninja-like assassins they were previously.

The crew stumbles upon the Sacrificial Chamber, where humans were used to spawn Xenomorphs for the Predators to hunt way back when. Wouldn't you know it, the doors quickly auto-shut and seal our heroes in.

They also found a facehugger corpse, and some of these scientists identify it as a "scorpion". Riiiiight.

Meanwhile, Weyland has a terrible cough. Don't tell me, he's on this expedition to see if he can find a fountain of youth and cure himself, like in Prometheus?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I want to re-iterate that Prometheus came AFTER this movie, so I'm not criticizing this movie when I point out similarities.

Eggs get transported into the sealed rooms where the scientists are trapped, and immediately hatch. Ain't got no time for dramatic pauses or tension here! This ain't the 80's!

In what is admittedly a pretty cool shot, the facehuggers launch themselves like angry cats towards the faces of the scientists.

In one room, the sole likeable character prepares to make his last stand. Chibs will take NONE OF THIS.

We get the iconic Xeno-closeup with rasping and goo-ing. Wow, those Xenos that got birthed two minutes ago sure grew fast.

Chibs tries to get away, and opens fire with two guns at once before succumbing to the Xeno assault. That was actually the best moment in the movie. He was totally believable in his fear and I wanted him to get away, wheras everything else that is going on right now doesn't feel important whatsoever.

Weyland finds a Predator laser (those little lightsaber-looking things they keep on their shoulders) laying around and picks it up. Even though it probably only weighs like eight pounds, Alexa is all "No, leave it, it'll slow us down". What? It'll slow you down? More importantly, it's a weapon, and without it the Predators will leave Weyland alone. Of course, Alexa has no way of knowing this, so once again we're expected to buy that she's intelligent just because she completely lucked into the correct course of action by being contrarian to people.

Predators drop in and completely murk most of the remaining crew. I think. I could barely tell what was happening due to some of the worst camerawork I've ever seen.

Alexa is cornered by a Predator! IS THIS THE END? IS THIS THE MERCIFUL END OF THE MOVIE?

::checks run-time:: ...nope, it's only half over. Kill...me

I'm being pretty mean here; the movie actually isn't that bad*. More on this later.

Here's the big trailer shot for the movie, as Alien meets Predator in a battle of Mean Muggin'.

Halfway through the movie and we're finally getting a true Alien Vs. Predator fight. And oh what a fight it is, as the Predator does Power Ranger poses!

Cesaro Swing! By God the man's been broken in half!

Alas, the predator doesn't see another Xeno lurking above, and that's all she wrote for this one. Luckily we can't tell any of these predators apart, so another identical one will pop up to replace it momentarily.

MAN, that is one brutal kill-shot. Don't mess with Xeno-tongues.

Another predator corners Weyland, only to discover that...

...he has lung cancer, something the advanced Samus-like HUD of the predator can pinpoint in seconds.

The predator lets him go, and he responds by TORCHING IT. Man, Weyland is a dick!

So...he dies, pretty inconsequentially too. Not sure why he was even in this movie.

I like Lance Henriksen, at least. Bring on Harbinger Down.

Meanwhile, the Italian Ladykiller crawls through a rapidly-closing stone tunnel. Few things are more horrifying in movies than rapidly-closing stone tunnels with a person scurrying through them just in time.

 Meanwhile, the next (...the one remaining?) predator gets ambushed by a facehugger and impregnated with the demon seed of Xeno. I wonder if we'll ever find out what happened with this whole deal by the end of the movie.

Meanwhile, the Italian dude figures out EVERYTHING and helpfully explains the whole history to us, the audience. This movie doesn't really feature story so much as it features...explaining. The jist of it is that the predators landed on Antarctica in the pre-human era of Earth and used the once-lush continent as a sparring ground to raise Xenomorphs and fight them.

A fun time was had by all! ...except the Xenos. They responded by breeding like rabbits.

Pretty soon, the few predators on the continent found themselves overwhelmed by aliens, to the point that they had to...

...nuke their own temples just to stop the Xeno infestation. You'd think they'd stop messing around with Xeno-breeding after things went so wrong, but nope.

 Next thing we know, the Italian Job gets got by a Xeno. This totally wrecks Alexa emotionally, which is kinda weird considering they had very little relation to each other besides being the two hot characters.

She proceeds to sorta-accidentally impale a Xeno on a stray pred-spear. Yep, this happened. At least she's showing emotion and something resembling real fear for the first time in this movie.

Sweet, aliens glow green in preda-vision.

The Last Predator befriends Alexa (I guess he was impressed with her kill) and builds her a spear and shield out of Xeno parts. Specifically, the tail and head respectively. No word on if he utilized the Xeno penis.

They team up for a while, as Alexa is forced to shoot some of her old comrades in the Xeno hive. They're all sealed up and impregnated, so they're doomed anyway. This is another callback to earlier Alien movies.

...wait a minute, why the hell are they teaming up? Because she accidentally killed an alien? In the original Predator, Arnold proved himself as a warrior by weathering all of the predator's assaults, and it still gave zero fucks about him or being his buddy. I mean, I guess there's an "enemy of my enemy" thing going on here but it still seems wildly out of character for the normally-heelish predators.

The predator sets off his mini-nuke and leaves it in the Xeno hive, pantomiming to Alexa that the place will now explode. They run for it, and...

...battle more Aliens! Matter of fact, Alexa single-handedly kills a whole bunch of them. For an ice climber, she's somehow badder-ass than all of those Colonial Marines in Aliens.

The temple explodes! Welp, that's 500 million years of potential research into Earth's history down the drain.

Our heroes get back to the surface. Alexa looks like she just had a lot of sex. Hair's all matted and everything.

The predator unmasks and they gaze into each other's eyes. No, DO NOT do this. DO NOT.

Luckily, the Alien Queen (!!!) bursts out of the ground nearby before they can kiss. And the Queen is quite pissed.

She impales the predator with her giant spiked tail, and the worst love story in history comes to an abrupt end.

However, the shrewd predator had managed to anchor the Queen to a falling water tower that pulls the Queen to the bottom of the ocean. Not sure if they can breathe underwater or what, but it probably isn't getting out of this predicament regardless.

Alexa mourns the loss of The Last Predator. This would have more impact if it didn't look just like all the other jobber predators earlier in the movie.

But wait! A squad of predators materialize all around them. If they were all lurking, maybe they could have helped kill the Queen? The fuck, guys?

We get a rare sighting of what I think is the Predator King. He's all "well played, clerks" and gives Alexa a spear. ...an actual spear, all high-tech and deadly. Not a spear like a wrestling spear. That'd be ridiculous at this point.

Wait a minute, what did she DO to earn this spear, or the respect of these guys? She accidentally killed one alien, and later she...was present when the Queen got dragged off a cliff. Now all of a sudden they're all giving mad props? I mean, fine, whatever, but at least have the character earn it in some way like the MCs in the other Predator movies did.

The predators then fly off. The implication is that they'll be back in another hundred years to hunt Xenomorphs in their Antarctic temple. ...oh, wait. It got blown up. They didn't seem at all bothered by this fact, at least.

Wait...how the hell is she gonna get back to civilization? She's in the middle of nowhere in Antarctica with no coat and no vehicles left because everything got nuked. Well, whatever. The movie meant well, I think.

The predators lay their fallen comrade to rest aboard their ship, and then they just completely leave him unattended. Because it's not like you need to keep an eye on the corpse of anyone who has been dealing with the highly-contagious Xenomorphs. How about at least doing a quick scan of his body to check for intruder organisms, as they've been shown to have the capability of multiple times in this movie?

...case in point, as a chestburster breaks out of him. Not just any chestburster though...this one is half-predator, due to the host body. A Predalien, if you will. That's a cool idea, but it'll have to wait until the next movie, because this one's over.

*As far as this movie not being that bad... I mean, compared to the genius-level source movies, it's bad. Taken as a way to kill two hours, it's okay. Sure, it bastardizes some beloved franchises and is imminently forgettable, but you can tell they actually made a substantial effort with this movie. It actually had a budget, which is more than I can say for the sequel. I guess what I'm saying is that the people who made this movie...did what they could. The visuals are pretty impressive and the scientist protagonists are at least somewhat likeable even if they're wholly unmemorable. Besides that...


...it gets worse. Oh, it gets much, much worse.


5 comments:

  1. The tagline for the sequel...
    "Slam-Bang-Horror-Action!"

    ...That is the cheesiest...stupidest...I mean...why...?

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    1. Agreed entirely. The second movie just screams "clueless studio execs made this".

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  2. Xenomorph murals, LOL

    Man, I knew Chibs was doomed, but I still had hope.

    Why exactly do Predators not kill people with cancer?

    "Few things are more horrifying in movies than rapidly-closing stone tunnels with a person scurrying through them just in time." - I was thinking the same thing.

    Well of course the Predators nuked Antarctica. It's the only way to be sure.

    I'm pretty sure every part of a Xenomorph's body is a penis.

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    1. LOL at the last line.

      Predators don't kill people with cancer because... well, we don't know. There's no sport in it, perhaps. Or they have respect for the limited life the person has left. Most likely, it's because they don't want to hunt something that isn't up for it. If someone is healthy and formidable, then the Predators can hunt them and get a real fight out of it. A decrepit person is no threat, and thus, they don't care.

      In Predator 2 we see that Predators also don't kill pregnant women, regardless of whether or not they're armed. They just don't. Soon as they detect that the woman is going through pregnancy, they leave that woman alone and move on.

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  3. It's funny that so much of Promethius came from this movie. No one noticed because this movie was little-seen. Glad we have you here, though, so you can also point out the similarities to OG Thing.

    Yeah, this was a waste. I dislike studio execs' "this is just action so we can make it dumb" attitude. Same thing happened in the new Attack on Titan movie.

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