Starring Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen. Rated 14A.
Monster fans have been waiting a long time to see the bloodthirsty creatures from the Alien and Predator movies go at it; rumours of a cinematic matchup have been rampant for years. The big question was, Would the tone of the new film echo the spooky, claustrophobic style of Ridley Scott's brilliant Alien, or would it be a slam-bang action fest along the lines of John (Die Hard) McTiernan's Arnie-driven Predator? Would it creep us out with eerie atmosphere and shadowy suspense or numb us with unbridled firepower and macho one-liners? The answer became evident when the Alien Vs. Predator director's chair went to Paul W. S. Anderson, who sharpened his fangs on the hyperactive video-game spinoffs Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. Horror buffs can forget about experiencing any subtle, spine-tingling delights in Anderson's big-budget clash of the extraterrestrial nasties. Then again, where else lately are you gonna see Alien's spidery "facehuggers" zipping through the air, glomming on to unlucky humans, setting the stage for chest-burstings to come?
It's made abundantly clear that AVP is absolutely ridiculous within the first five minutes, when buffed ice climber and expedition guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) decides to answer her cellphone while she's on the brink of certain death, dangling off a sheer cliff with no safety rope. Turns out she's being beckoned by billionaire adventurer Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, the "Bishop" android from Aliens), who's recruiting a team of scientists and soldiers to travel to Antarctica on a historical mission: his company's satellites have picked up evidence of the world's very first pyramid, buried deep beneath the ice there. It seems that the Predators, a species far more advanced than man, built the elaborate, mazelike structure as a sacrificial temple. Silly humans would volunteer to be used as incubators for the Alien babies, which, after bursting from their hosts' chests, would be hunted by Predators in a ritual aimed at proving their worth. Told you it was ridiculous.
Leyland's group shows up at the site around the same time as a trio of Predators, who don't take kindly to the trespassers. All manner of nasty-looking blades are whipped out to exterminate the hapless crew, and then the gooey-jawed Aliens want a piece of the humans too. Eventually, the Predators and Aliens start mixing it up. "My enemy's enemy is my friend," spouts hunky archaeologist Sebastian de Rosa (Raoul Bova), although that tidbit of knowledge gets him nothing but a bellyful of Alien fetus looking to chew its way out.
Ludicrous as the story is, the visuals of Alien Vs. Predator are pretty sharp, especially the Predators' spacecraft, their space-age killing tools, and the Rubik's Cube--like machinations of the pyramid (which feature Oscar-worthy sound effects). But all the cool-looking stuff is forgotten once the heroic Ms. Woods starts making googly eyes at a Predator who takes mercy on her. For a second there, you almost think she's gonna plant a kiss on the combatant from beyond--and how believable is that? With its helmet removed, the dreadlocked, snaggle-toothed Predator is one of the goofiest looking creatures in the history of horror. Maybe our heroine is attracted to what lies beneath that hokey visage. Must be the Rastafarian soul or somethin'.