Alien vs. Predator (2004)

Alien vs Predator
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Spin-off from: the Alien movies, the Predator movies
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon, Tommy Flanagan, Joseph Rye, Agathe de La Boulaye, Carsten Norgaard, Sam Troughton
Seen on: 11.12.2022

Alexa (Sanaa Lathan) is a survival specialist. In the middle of climbing a mountain, she is picked up by the people of Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) and flown directly to Antarctica where he has made an astounding achaeological discovery – one that sends out a mysterious signal. Weyland wants to explore the giant structure beneath the ice before anybody else discovers it and he needs Alexa’s survival skills to keep himself and the scientific crew alive while doing that exploring. But Alexa’s skills may not be enough when faced with two alien species locked in battle.

When Alien vs. Predator started, I did have a certain sense of hope that this would turn out to be good. Well, moderately good at least. But as the film went on, I lost that hope more and more. By the end, I had pretty much checked out of it.

The film poster showing an Alien leaning over a Predator.

Alien vs. Predator starts promising, especially with Alexa: she is competent, she is tough, and she is just narcisstic enough to agree to the mission against her better judgement. Things will go wrong, but they might not go as wrong with her on board. I really liked her, and it is kind of revolutionary that a Black woman gets to portray that kind of character, I think. The star of an action movie and the final girl in a horror film rolled into one. And Lathan is great. (That she is surrounded entirely by men is less revolutionary and had me rolling my eyes.)

But the film starts to creak and strain when Alexa, the Aliens and the Predators are brought together, never really knowing what it is actually going for. So, we get a half-baked character arc for Alexa and some mediocre fight scenes between Alien and Predator that don’t live up to the films that came before it in either effects, editing or directing. It just isn’t interesting, and the more the film approaches what it thinks is its emotional climax, the less I cared. (My emotional investment peaked when Alexa had to decide whether she wanted to be part of this thing in the first place.)

The Predator and the Alien squaring off, snarling at each other.

There is a certain video game aesthetic in both the film’s look and the storytelling that to me just goes to show that you can’t just transplant a story from one medium to another – you need to adapt to the requirements of the specific medium you’re telling your story in. Or, I guess, you can take the Anderson road and not bother with any of that and get a film that feels repetitive and very, very messy.

I also found it immensly irritating that the film is very clear about “the worse option” between Aliens and Predators. A bit of ambiguity would have done it some good. But it probably wouldn’t have saved the film, either.

Alexa (Sanaa Lathan) with a 1000 yard stare.

Summarizing: not enough reasons to watch it.

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