×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Alien vs. Predator

The thing-a-ma-jigs have it out with the whatch-a-ma-call-its in "Alien Vs. Predator," the kind of two-for-one dogfight that usually does more to bury a franchise than revive it. Still, in a multiplex season already defined by cheap thrills, fast gains and vertiginous drops, "AVP" should do respectable biz with genre fans 'round the world.

With:
Alexa Woods - Sanaa Lathan Sebastian De Rosa - Raoul Bova Charles Bishop Weyland - Lance Henriksen Graeme Miller - Ewen Bremner Maxwell Stafford - Colin Salmon Mark Verheiden - Tommy Flanagan Joe Connors - Joseph Rye Adele Rousseau - Agathe de la Boulaye Rusten Quinn - Carsten Norgaard Thomas Parks - Sam Troughton Scar - Ian Whyte

The thing-a-ma-jigs have it out with the whatch-a-ma-call-its — as several humans scurry and scream between — in “Alien Vs. Predator,” the kind of two-for-one dogfight (last repped by “Freddy Vs. Jason”) that usually does more to bury a franchise than revive it. Starless current B-pic brings the uneven but hitherto A-budgeted “Alien” series down a peg or two. (For the “Predators,” moribund since No. 2 in 1990, any news is good news.) Still, in a multiplex season already defined by cheap thrills, fast gains and vertiginous drops, “AVP” should do respectable biz with genre fans ’round the world.

First letdown for some viewers will be fact that this time the sci-fi stays literally Earthbound, without even leaping into the future. Instead, a mere two months from now a satellite belonging to multinational conglomerate Weyland Enterprises detects a heat pocket beneath Antarctica. Further analysis reveals a vast pyramidic structure located some 2,000 feet below the desolate surface.

Popular on Variety

Terminally ill yet still-gusty billionaire Charles Weyland (Lance Henriksen, the closest thing to a marquee name here) rapidly assembles the usual rainbow team of experts to explore whatever archaeological wonders are down there.

Despite hired expedition field guide Alexa’s (Sanaa Lathan) warnings that they haven’t had time to adequately or safely prepare, Weyland and his bullish right-hand-man Joe Connors (Joseph Rye) insist the troupe depart immediately. This even though a passageway miraculously appears overnight — an ominous sign of foreign life that prompts Lex to make the shrewd comment: “Well…that tunnel didn’t dig itself!” Reaching the subterranean pyramid, the team is dumbfounded to discover it combines aspects of ancient Aztec, Egyptian and Cambodian architecture, and translated hieroglyphics suggest hunting and ritual sacrifices. Turns out long ago the Predators were mankind’s humanoid masters, using people as slaves and incubators for breeding “the ultimate prey.” When that prey got out of hand, the Predators simply nuked the planet. (This flashback seems to have escaped from the “Mummy” franchise, making “AVP” a three-for-one bargain!)

Film fails to explain how the humans managed to bounce back from that scorched-Earth interlude, why the Aliens stayed popsicle-fresh, or what made the Predators decide to stop by again after several millennia’s absence.

Nonetheless, before you can say “last billed goes first,” triggered mechanisms trap the human intruders. Half of them immediately make the unhappy acquaintance of some feisty, tentacled baby Aliens. The remainder soon meet several Predators, those oft-invisible slayers who when gandered look rather like Rastafarians as reinvented by a death-metal album illustrator.

The people here are so drastically overmatched and in typical cannon-fodder fashion make so little impression that it works against the creation of suspense. It’s clear no one will survive here without benefit of extreme narrative contrivance.

Plus, more is definitely less as far as these monsters go: The plentiful scares in earlier “Alien” and “Predator” chapters alike hewed from not knowing just where the few near-unstoppable, teasingly glimpsed nasties might be at any moment in time.

Here, they’re everywhere, in bulk, displayed fully by the second reel. Mystique is further reduced by rendering both parties easier to kill (at least by each other) than they ever were before.

Going from the noisily routine to the ludicrous, “AVP’s” final reels or so are likely to produce howls. However, one could say as much for half this summer’s fantasy behemoths to date. Yes, this movie may be more redolent at times of “Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster” than its classier franchise back-chapters. But in the summer of “Catwoman” and “Thunderbirds,” “AVP” ain’t lowering the discourse by any significant degree.

Perfs are as good as they need to be; contribs from all tech departments are up to snuff given what one must assume were comparatively restrained budgetary resources. While not aiming for the kind of strong directorial stamp or distinct visual stylization favored in prior “Aliens,” Paul W.S. Anderson (“Mortal Kombat,” “Resident Evil”) keeps pic looking good and moving fast.

Perhaps notably, this may be the first MPAA rating partially attributed to “slime.”

Alien vs. Predator

U.K.-Czech Republic-Canada-Germany

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a Davis Entertainment/Brandywine production of a Paul W. S. Anderson film in co-production with Lonlink-Stillking-Kut-Babelsberg in association with Inside Track 2LLP. Produced by John Davis, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill. Executive producers, Wyck Godfrey, Thomas M. Hammel, Mike Richardson. Co-producers, Chris Symes, Matthew Stillman, David Minkowski. Directed, written by Paul W.S. Anderson, from a story by Anderson, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, based on "Alien" characters created by O'Bannon and Shusett and "Predator" characters created by Jim Thomas and John Thomas.

Crew: Camera (color), David Johnson; editor, Alexander Berner; music, Harald Kloser; production designer, Richard Bridgland; art director, Adam O'Neill; set decorator, Peter Walpole; costume designer, Magali Guidasci; sound, Simon Gershon, Jeremy Price; visual f/x supervisor, John Bruno; creature f/x designers/creators, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr.; original "Alien" creatures designer, H.R. Giger; creature f/x, Amalgamated Dynamics; digital visual f/x, The Moving Picture Co., Double Negative, Cinesite Ltd., Framestore, Universal Production Partners Prague; associate producers, Henning Molfenter, Therry Potok, Grace Gilroy; assistant director, Mark Egerton; 2nd unit director, Bharat Nalluri; 2nd unit camera, Sue Gibson; casting, Suzanne M. Smith. Reviewed at UA Galaxy, San Francisco, Aug. 12, 2004. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 100 MIN.

With: Alexa Woods - Sanaa Lathan Sebastian De Rosa - Raoul Bova Charles Bishop Weyland - Lance Henriksen Graeme Miller - Ewen Bremner Maxwell Stafford - Colin Salmon Mark Verheiden - Tommy Flanagan Joe Connors - Joseph Rye Adele Rousseau - Agathe de la Boulaye Rusten Quinn - Carsten Norgaard Thomas Parks - Sam Troughton Scar - Ian Whyte

More Film

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]

  • KARNAWAL

    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Ron Leibman, Jessica Walter'Mary Stuart' Play

    Ron Leibman, Tony-Winning Actor Known for 'Angels in America' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82

    Ron Leibman, an Emmy-winning actor who garnered a Tony for his work in Broadway’s “Angels in America” and played the father of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on “Friends,” died on Friday. He was 82. Robert Attermann, CEO of Abrams Artists Agency, confirmed the news to Variety. No further details were immediately available. Leibman, a native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content