Well, at least the writers of the tagline were being honest with us. Alien Vs. Predator isn't really any worse than the last Alien or Predator film, but it's a long way from being a good movie or one that has any chance of reviving either franchise. Indeed, when it comes to this latest sequel, everyone in the audience is the big loser.
The movie starts out interestingly enough, with Charles Bishop Wayland (Lance Henriksen) discovering a temple hidden beneath the ice in Antarctica. Eager to investigate, he hires the best researchers and team money can buy – including guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), who turns out to be Alien Vs. Predator's not-so-satisfying answer to Ellen Ripley.
Once the team makes its way to the temple, it discovers evidence of sacrificial rituals and battles – which we soon discover were set up by the Predators long ago on Earth. The team's arrival at the pyramid also reawakens a frozen Alien Queen, who quickly starts laying fresh Alien eggs to wreak havoc on the humans.
It's at this point that the movie loses steam – turning from a semi-interesting drama into a series of matches between humans and Aliens; humans and Predators; and, of course, Aliens vs. Predators. Granted, this is the part of the film that many fans want to see – but Anderson (although I give him props for using suits and models over CGI where he can) films the fights in what only can be described as "confuse-o-vision", and the human team is eliminated so quickly by both Aliens and Predators, that its hard to feel anything about the loss of any of the characters.
Overall, I would have to say that Alien Vs. Predator feels more like a Predator film than an Alien one. We learn nothing new about the Alien species, and never even find out where and when the Predators came in contact with them. Although we don't learn much new about the Predators, either, the Aliens simply seem like props in the film – something for the humans and Predators to do battle with.
Alien Vs. Predator clocks in at a mere 87 minutes…a pretty good sign that there was some major chunks of footage left on the cutting room floor. There's no way of knowing if what got cut out was any better than what was left in (although a DVD release may give us access to that footage), but I'm very interested in what may have gotten lost and whose decision it was (the director's or the studio's) to excise the footage.
Another complaint about the movie is that it takes itself far too seriously. Alien, Predator and particularly Aliens gave us moments of levity and humor that made us really care about the characters. I'm not sure anyone even cracks a smile in Alien Vs. Predator, although I did appreciate two moments early in the film that are certainly a nod toward the fans: First, the name of Wayland's ice breaker ship is the "Piper Maru" (a tip of the hat toward The X-Files); and viewers should also look carefully and watch what Wayland does with his pen in his office during one of the movie's early scenes.
While I won't give away any spoilers – even for a film as unsatisfactory as this one – I can't help but mention the lame ending Paul Anderson has tacked onto his film. I suppose if everything leading up to it had been entertaining, I would have laughed or at least let out a little giggle – but after what I had just sat through, the "surprise" at the end was truly groan-inducing.
It's been 14 years since the last Predator film, and 7 years since the last Alien sequel. In all that time, this is the best 20th Century Fox could give us? Ellen Ripley must be rolling in her molten-lava grave…