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An Alien gets ready to chow down on
a producer's head, upon finding out that
his latest film has been stuck with a
PG-13 rating.

Alien vs. Predator
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Fans have waited for this movie for years.  At the end of Predator 2, it was hinted that there would be a battle between the two sci-fi monsters when an Alien skull was mounted in the Predator's ship.  With ultra-successful and mega-violent Alien vs. Predator comic books and video games being released since the P2 tease; fans wanted an Alien vs. Predator film almost as badly as Evangelicals wanted to see The Passion of the Christ outgross Titanic

The long-awaited showdown was sure to feature lots of blood and guts, suspense, horror and more "F" bombs than Dick Cheney could drop on the Senate floor in the course of an evening.  Both Predator films and all four Alien movies were rated R and catered to hardcore sci-fi/horror audiences, rather than Lizzie McGuire fans.  No one thought Alien vs. Predator would be an exception.  And then along came Paul "Franchise Killer" Anderson as the film's writer and director.  Next came the PG-13 rating.  Suddenly Alien vs. Predator was in direct competition with The Princess Diaries 2:  Royal Engagement.  

To put it gently, this is not what fans expected. 

As a lifelong horror diehard, I was as mad as a Lord of the Rings' geek would be to hear that Peter Jackson was going to pass on The Hobbit to direct a sequel to Gone with the Wind.  I was so pissed, actually, that I didn't bother to attend the Thursday (1 day before opening) critic's screening.  If 20th Century Fox didn't consider their movie worth showing to critics far enough in advance for said critics to write a review, I figured that it probably wasn't a movie worth critiquing.  A day later, not as a critic, but as a horror fan, I paid for a ticket to The Manchurian Candidate (it's a good film and needs all the help it can get), and snuck into Alien vs. Predator

The good news is that it was better than I thought it would be.  Paul W.S. Anderson trades in the typical nu-metal music that nearly strangled his earlier work for a symphonic score.  Anderson also leaves most of his MTV camera tricks at home.  Outside of a retarded scene where a facehugger flies at a guy and, mid-flight, floats in slow-motion, there isn't really anything to pick on with the way the film is shot.  The bad news is that Anderson provides fans with a fuck of a lot more than tricky camera work for them to tear apart.

The first thing gorehounds are going to single out is the lack of stomach-turning butchery.  In Alien vs. Predator, a Predator slashes his metallic claw thingie at one guy and you see a splatter of blood hit a wall, a few feet away.  The chestburster scene looks like a stop-motion display of a woman getting breast implants.  Some chick shoots a gun at a man but the camera cuts before we get a chance to see anything.  In other words, a corporate director, chickenshit studio and overused editing machine don't do justice to a couple races of monsters who exist primarily for carnage   

Paul Anderson does just what he did with Resident Evil.  He claims to be the "biggest fan in the world" of the series, promises to be faithful to its origins and then completely throws out everything that made the earlier installments memorable.  In Anderson's crazy new Alien and Predator world, the Predators are the good guys, never after humans -- unless they're carrying baby aliens -- and were worshipped as gods by early man.  Being that he claims to be the biggest fan of the Predator series alive, I'm surprised that Anderson forgot that Predators hunted humans in the first two films, skinned them alive, hung them upside down and kept their skulls as trophies. 

Alien vs. Predator has a group of expendable people, led by that Bishop dude from the Alien movies, hanging out in some ancient pyramid buried in the Antarctic.  A bunch of people trapped 20,000 feet underground with two savage groups of aliens could make for a  terrifying film if, say, Ridley Scott directed it.  In the hands of Paul W.S. Anderson, it's just another random action movie with a few standout moments. 

The Predators don't camouflage themselves enough (and seeing as how they look like friggin' Klingons, they should hide their appearance as much as possible) in the film.  Anderson does direct a few wicked scenes of the hunters blending in with the snow, much like they did with the jungle in the original Predator.  It's too bad he doesn't build up any suspense before these moments.

What Anderson and/or his effects team gets right are the ALIENS!  They look perfect.  Although Anderson never does grasp the fact that the aliens are scarier the less you show them, he does have some nasty looking creatures that made me long for an Alien 5 (hey, they owe us after the dreadful Alien: Resurrection).  An R rated Alien 5 that sniveling twits under the age of 17 would have to wait a few months to see on DVD.

The Queen Alien outdoes the scary bitch we were given by James Cameron in Aliens.  Not because Anderson is a better director than James (that'd be like saying Ed Wood is superior to Alfred Hitchcock), but because technology has improved in the past 18 years.  The Queen is a slobbering, pissed-off mother and worth the price of admission, just to see her in action. 

Imagine the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.  Now imagine the T-Rex in Jurassic Park as an Alien.  Now imagine the T-Rex in Jurassic Park as an Alien directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, rather than Steven Spielberg.  The beast would still look cool, but it wouldn't scare you. 

And that about sums up Alien vs. Predator.  It looks cool, but it doesn't scare you.  There is no sense of apprehension or dread in the film.  Without that, there should have at least been some gore.  Even gratuitous nudity would have kept things interesting (is there ever an inappropriate time for gratuitous nudity?).  Instead, Paul Anderson directly lifts the plot of the 1997 thriller, Cube.  This time the cube is a pyramid and the group trapped inside are avoiding monsters, rather than booby-traps, but it's a lesser version of Cube, nonetheless. 

I hate the damage Alien vs. Predator could inflict upon the horror genre.  I despise the fact that, if it's a hit, we're going to see more franchises sliced and diced to meet the coveted PG-13 rating.  But I don't hate the actual film.  Taken as its own movie, separate from the films that were its inspiration, it entertains.  Paul W.S. Anderson and his revisionist history didn't do us any favors, but the monsters are still cool as hell; despite the fact that Paul turned the Predators into pussy-whipped little whores and studio execs turned the movie into family-friendly entertainment. 

Agree? Disagree? Have questions?  Comments?  Email this critic at alex@juicycerebellum.com

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On a scale of 1-10?

7

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COMING SOON - Reviews of Anacondas, Metallica:  Some Kind of Monster, The Exorcist:  The Beginning and lots of other stuff!

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