Friday, August 15, 2014

AVP: Alien vs. Predator

Since the late 70s, 20th Century Fox has had a very successful movie franchise make them a ton of money over the years.  In 1979, Alien kicked off a huge movie series, combining science fiction with horror and it spawned three sequels afterwards, making Sigourney Weaver a big star.  The original film scared the crap out of me when I was a wee ten years old, believing—after going to bed—that an alien was in my closet, ready to use its dual jaws to kill me.  But after James Cameron had gotten a hold of the franchise for the sequel in 1986, it turned into more of a sci-fi/action franchise than sci-fi/horror.  Still, it was effective and made the creature a household name.

In 1987, 20th Century Fox, again, introduced another franchise that combined science fiction, a little bit of horror, and a lot of action.  With Arnold Schwarzenegger headlining the cast, Predator hit the theaters and was a worldwide hit (click herefor my May 24th review).  It spawned a somewhat fruitful sequel in 1990 with Danny Glover leading that one and another sequel most recently in 2010.

During the late 80s, Dark Horse Comics started a series of books featuring both title creatures going up against each other in an ongoing versus type of storyline.  Because of the comic book’s popularity, the director of Predator 2, Stephen Hopkins, decided to throw in a little Easter Egg near the end of that film.  If you watch carefully, when Danny Glover’s character is inside of the creature’s ship, he sees a trophy wall off to the side.  Featured on the wall is a display of different skulls from creatures of other planets the Predator had visited.  It’s fairly quick, but one can spot the skull of the title creature from the Alien films.  For viewers with keen eyesight, this was a treat and created a buzz for a movie to feature both characters.

Well, a mere fourteen years later, 20th Century Fox decided to give the proposed project a green light and announced a movie that would pit those two creatures against each other called Alien vs. Predator.  I waited with anticipation for this movie to arrive and thought it was a great idea.  During that time, I was lucky enough to see Lance Henriksen in person, signing autographs at “Things From Another World” comic book shop on the Universal City Walk.  I really, really, REALLY regret not waiting in line for an autograph.  Looking back, I really don’t know why I decided against it.  The line wasn’t that long and I don’t think he—nor the shop—was charging any money.  Alas…(sigh)…it was what it was…but it gave me hope that the film would be awesome when I’d realized Lance Henriksen was going to be in the film.  As it turned out, after he left the autograph session that day, the shop gave out the remaining movie posters that weren’t signed by him and I was able to get one.

Anyway, cut to August 13th of 2004 and the film opened in my neck of the woods, as well as the rest of the country.  So I went to my local movie house, paid my ticket to get in, and sat down to watch AVP: Alien vs. Predator.

When satellites detect a heat signature beneath the ice of an abandoned whaling station of a desolate Antarctica island, billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) assembles a team of scientists to
check out what’s out there and claim it for his company, Weyland Industries.  Along with the scientists—eeing that the temperature is going to be below freezing and might be some rough terrain going below the ice—is Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), an expert in getting through environments such as that.  On the ship-ride over to the arctic, Weyland explains what his satellite had found, showing the team the thermo signatures of what looks to be some sort of structure hundreds of feet below the ice.  When they arrive and make their way down to the ancient building, they soon discover they’re not alone.

I know the one complaint that many fans have is that the filmmakers—or more than likely, the studio—chose to make this film as a PG13 feature and although I agree it was a slap in the face to real Alien and Predator fans, it doesn’t bother me too much.  Yes, you’ll notice most of the humans who are killed have their slayings done off-screen or implied, but this is Alien vs. Predator, right?  When it comes to the title creatures getting gored and slaughtered, it’s all shown up front with no censorship on that aspect of the film whatsoever.  I guess since the Xenomorphs (Aliens) and Yautjas (Predators) are purely fictional and fantastical, they can be shown sliced and diced to one’s delight.  With their acidic or fluorescent green blood looking nothing like human blood, the MPAA obviously had no problem letting this movie showcase it with a PG13 stamp of approval.  That’s what the film is all about, so it didn’t bother me that the human killing was hidden from viewers.

Now, I’m not familiar with the comic book run of stories, so I’m not sure if this plot was lifted from the pages directly.  But it was a great idea and didn’t need to alter the history of either creature’s background to do it.  Well…maybe they altered the Predator’s way of thinking, especially when you see what one does near the end of the film when it encountered the last remaining human.  For the most part, however, the Aliens were still vicious killers with acid for blood, needing human hosts to multiply, and the Predators are simply hunters who kill their challenging prey with pure keenness.

I’ll say this for AVP…the story was well written and the main characters were fleshed out quite well.  We were given protagonists that we had cared about, human villains that we had despised, and the title creatures that were devised correctly and kicked some ass.  I guess all that could be attributed to the director, Paul W.S. Anderson, as he has a pretty good background of hit action flicks.  At the time of filming this movie, Anderson had a pretty good résumé built already.  He hadMortal Combat in 1995, Event Horizon in 1997,Soldier in 1998, and the film he’s most known for…2002’s Resident Evil.  So I’d say Fox made a decent choice in hiring him for the job.

The special effects were done rather satisfactorily for the Aliens as they ran around and caused havoc.  The queen was rendered quite well; seeing as
most of us remember the first time we had seen an Alien queen in 1986, I can say this was quite a few steps up from the puppeteering they had done back then.  Of course, over time, the CGI effects are noticeably a little subpar, seeing how we’re used to the near perfection we see nowadays.  But they’re all still believable and you’ll find yourself squirming in your seat when a character is about to die on the screen.  As for the Predators…the weapons and cloaking ability looks improved and perfect in this film.  Technically, I loved how they displayed the creatures and their attributes throughout the movie.

So, what’s my final “bit” on AVP: Alien vs. Predator?

I enjoy AVP each and every time I watch it and I find myself watching it all the way through when I pop it in, which is more than I can say for its sequel.  The story is original and fresh, as it finds a smart way to bring these titan creatures together on Earth to go up against each other.  There are some surprises, some humor, quite a bit of some “versus” action between the two beasts, and you’ll be delighted by what you see.  Of course, the only complaint I have is something that I don’t want to give away, regarding the ending of the film and the high probability that it wouldn’t happen, knowing what we know about the fictional history of the title creatures.  But you’ll have a lot of fun for what the film gives you.

Thanks for reading!

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