Tuesday, 23 February 2010

AVP: Alien Vs Predator (2004) - Movie Reviews - 9/10

Could It Ever Win?

Could this film have ever won? The usual complaints have been levelled at it from fans of both franchises. There's too much action. There's not enough action. There's not enough about the humans. We don't care about the humans, let's see the creatures fight. The predators should/shouldn't do this. The Aliens should/shouldn't do that. Alien Vs Predator (Or AVP for short) has a formidable task. It has to satisfy rabid fans of both franchises from around the world, while creating a marketable film that will appeal to a wider audience. Does it succeed? The director, Paul Anderson, has a patchy career, with the dubious distinction of having started his career with several video game-to-movie conversions, such as Mortal Combat, and Resident Evil. Oddly enough, he has been one of the few successful directors in this unusual sub genre. However, video game movies are notoriously difficult to raise above the level of cheap popcorn fun, and rarely gain critical praise. His other films, such as Event Horizon and Soldier, have also met with relative critical apathy. Many fans balked at the idea, when they discovered Anderson was to helm the new AVP movie, fearing a disaster.

Creating a tangible link to the original Alien films, Anderson has roped old pro Lance Henriksen, back into the franchise. By placing the film in our present/near future, he is able to set up Henriksen as the billionaire businessman Charles Bishop Weyland, progenitor of the all-controlling 'company' that would become Weyland Yutani, and eventually create the android 'Bishop' in his image for Aliens and Alien3. As such, AVP becomes a prequel to the Alien films, setting up the 'company' and explaining its possible fascination with discovering this alien species.

To his credit, Anderson has managed to include some original twists to both franchises, re-creating for the first time since Alien, a real sense of discovery and mystery. Going against the expected archetype, Weyland is not the usual 'evil' businessman, but someone trying desperately to give their life meaning before they die. Sanaa Lathan provides a suitable replacement for the 'Ripley' type lead character, previously played by Sigourney Weaver in the originals. The supporting characters are all drawn quickly and well, though perhaps a little more expansion would have been welcome.

As for the Predator franchise, we are treated this time to not one, but three of these formidable warriors, their weapons are expanded upon a little, and for the first time we almost come to see one in a heroic light.

Anderson admits to being an enormous fan of the originals, and you can see this in his work. There are several visual cues that subtly reference the older films. As for the setting, Anderson has made a very brave decision, and avoids simply re-treading the same old thing. By placing us in the frozen Antarctic wastes, we are still in an almost alien world, remote and isolated, yet still on earth. In turn, the temple maintains the dark and menacing atmosphere he needs, while not placing us in the usual confines of a metal spaceship or future world. Bucking current trends, he also opts for shorter action scenes, which are brutal and frightening, rather than the balletic kung-fu that seems the current norm.

One complaint levelled at the film, was also its PG-13 rating. Yet there is plenty of gore on display here, in comparison to the earlier films. Would Alien or Aliens really garner a much higher rating if released today? This is by no means a bloodless movie. It just so happens that most of the blood isn't human, and as such the sensors go easy.

All in all, AVP is a good movie. Not without its faults, it still manages to raise itself above the level of most disposable special-effects action flicks of recent years. CGI is also kept to a minimum, and effective old-style effects used where possible. It is a worthy entrant in the ongoing Alien and Predator franchises, and you could do far worse. If you see AVP, you may not see a masterpiece, but if you don't go in expecting miracles, you will see a good movie that leaves you satisfied, and doesn't disappear from memory the moment you finish watching.

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