Billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, riffing off his famous role from "Aliens") has discovered a pyramid buried 2,000 feet below a sheet of ice in Antarctica that might be a key to the origins of human civilization. Assembling a team of experts (including Sanaa Lathan, Colin Salmon, and Ewen Bremner) to venture down below the ice, the group quickly gets trapped in the maze-like temple. Once the team figures out the pyramid's true purpose as a hunting ground for the linebacker-like predators to stalk the slimy aliens, it's too late for the humans as they race to save themselves while the beasts declare war on each other.
"Alien vs. Predator" (IMDb listing) is a film made only for those who are gluttons for punishment. Who else in their right mind would want to see writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson take not one, but two healthy franchises with unlimited potential and make a mockery of them both for 90 minutes? Well, maybe 12 year-olds, which this new film is aimed squarely at. All others should just stay at home and save yourself the heartbreak.
Anderson comes to "AVP" with a terrifying track record in genre films, which includes such rotten titles as "Soldier," "Mortal Kombat," and "Event Horizon." His last film, the yeah-it's-bad-but-convincing-junk "Resident Evil," understood the genre rules, or at the very least could pull a little fun out of its hindquarters. "AVP" doesn't even offer that much. Instead of widescreen genre goodies, Anderson cloaks much of his comatose action sequences in complete and confusing darkness, which also covers the lousy sets and the lousy predator costumes. Anderson's script is equally as irritating, with one character, an Italian archaeologist, spending the entire movie explaining every little detail (including an absurdly staged flashback to the origins of the pyramid) as the film chugs along. Anderson doesn't leave anything to the imagination or to chance, robbing the film of the mystery both franchises once worked overtime to preserve.
Anderson's writing enters even more dangerous ground when he decides to alter some critical "Alien" and "Predator" lore. The alien chestbursters in "AVP" only take minutes to properly develop in their human hosts, as opposed to the days in the previous "Alien" films. The acidic danger of the alien blood is also monkeyed with without reason, making the classic alien defense a threat only when Anderson needs a way to end one of his terribly edited fight sequences. Anderson's redesign of the predator facial make-up is also a disappointment, with the creature looking even more artificial than it did in the original 1987 film! This is progress?
The only person who comes out of this mess with any type of dignity is actress Sanaa Lathan ("Out of Time"), who passes muster even with the achingly bad dialog Anderson has provided her. She's a reliable actress, following in the steps of Sigourney Weaver as a strong female action star. She deserves better than to act in scenes where she makes friends with seven-foot-tall predators.
The "AVP" set-up takes a long time to get going, which is probably Anderson's greatest sin. The last horror match up, "Freddy vs. Jason," had a lightning pace and a macabre sense of humor to get it through that icky feeling of a studio cashing in. "AVP" isn't as lucky, and it's a downright bore for about 45 minutes before it becomes downright offensive. I don't know which is worse. And get this: "AVP" is rated PG-13! There's nothing like bringing two horror franchise titans together, who have a total of six R-rated films between them, and watering down their carnage so the Little League crowd can see the film on a Saturday matinee. Maybe the predators should spend a little less time hunting aliens, and more time trying to recapture some cinematic integrity.
Filmfodder Grade: D