This IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004) originally appeared in the HWA NEWSLETTER in March 2008. It’s being reprinted this month in the March 2016 edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.
In the tradition of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) and KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1963), we have ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004).
I hate to admit it, but I like ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. Here’s why.
The number one reason? It’s the monsters, stupid. For those of us who love our movie monsters, it’s hard not to like a film like ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have flaws. It does.
The story is simple. A group of experts make an expedition to the Antarctic in search of a strange underground pyramid. While there, they discover a breeding ground and learn that the predators are breeding the aliens for hunting practice. Of course, to breed the aliens, the predators need humans to serve as hosts. Nice vacation spot.
By far, this plot point of the relationship between the predators and the aliens is the worst part of the movie. The first time these creatures meet it should have been something special. We the audience should have been privy to it, but we’re not. Imagine if in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1963) the filmmakers revealed that these two behemoths had already met, frequently, and that Godzilla uses King Kong for target practice on a regular basis. Would you still want to watch the movie? It just wouldn’t be the same.
It’s a major blemish on the screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson, who also directed.
Still, it doesn’t ruin the entire movie, and to his credit, director Anderson does craft a neat first meeting between a predator and an alien in this movie. It’s just that we know through the story that these creatures have met before, and so, much of the zing of what is to follow is lost.
Even so, the battle sequences are still entertaining, but oh what could have been. Director Paul W.S. Anderson does a good job for the most part helming these cinematic monster battles, which at the very least are not boring.
And the film looks good. The shots in the icy Antarctic bring to mind John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), and the special effects aren’t that bad either.
Absent from the film however is the gripping suspense from the earlier ALIEN movies, though this isn’t a complete surprise because the suspense was also absent from the previous two ALIEN installments, ALIEN 3 (1992) and ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997).
The cast is pretty good though. I enjoyed the lead character (Sanaa Lathan). Nathan turns in a strong performance, in keeping with the ALIEN tradition of having a strong female lead, taking over the job from Sigourney Weaver. She gets to say such tough gal lines as “When I lead my team, I don’t ever leave my team,” and “We’re in the middle of a war. It’s time to pick a side.” And did I mention she looks good?
The rest of the cast is OK, even though Lance Henriksen, a fine actor who appeared in ALIENS (1986) and ALIEN 3 (1992) is somewhat of a disappointment. Compare Henriksen’s performance in this film to his performance in ALIENS as the android Bishop, and you’ll find that Henriksen showed more range as the android than as a human.
But who are we kidding? ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is about the monsters, not the people, and there are plenty of monsters in this movie. For this reason alone, it’s fun.
All in all, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is a well-produced and well-acted film that in spite of its flaws, satisfies that hunger which those of us who love movie monsters all share, a hunger for monsters.
And remember, if you enjoyed this column, you can read 150 of my IN THE SPOOKLIGHT columns in my book, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT. It’s available as an Ebook at http://www.neconebooks.com, and if you’d like a print edition, just visit the “About” section of this blog for ordering details.