Whoever wins... We lose.
Tom Woodruff Jr.
Paul W.S. Anderson
Running Time: 101 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 15
H.R. Giger’s stunningly designed aliens are sharp-looking, cleancut mama’s boys who are thoroughly open-minded and without prejudice when it comes to their choice of sexual partner, who kill only to survive (although they sure do a LOT of surviving), and who have notched up four films (the first two excellent, and all at least interesting) in their franchise. Predators, on the other hand, are so ridiculous to behold (think a Rastafarian Donald Duck with bad skin and worse teeth) that they spend most of their time cloaked in invisibility, they have only two films to their name (both frankly godawful), and they are militantly pro-hunting. So faced with a choice as to which of these species you would take home to meet the folks, there is no competition really. Pit them against one another in a fistfight, however, and things start to get less predictable.nnIt is a scenario that had already been envisaged in Predator 2 (where an alien’s head was prominently displayed amongst the predators’ hunting trophies) and has formed the successful premise of a series of video games – and now director Paul W.S. Anderson (‘Event Horizon’), working from a story that he co-wrote with original ‘Alien’ screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, is bringing these extraterrestrial titans into the biggest crossover clash since, well, last year’s much funnier, more knowing ‘Freddy Vs. Jason’.
The present day. A satellite owned by the Weyland Corporation (part of the conglomerate which, centuries later in Alien, will send the ‘Nostromo’ on its doomed space voyage) detects a vast pyramid complex buried beneath the antarctic. The Corporation’s aging executive and pioneering roboticist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, ‘later’ the robot Bishop in ‘Aliens’) quickly assembles a team to claim and explore the ancient edifice – only to discover that it has been built by predators (working with their prehistoric human worshippers) to imprison a mother alien who ovulates once a century – at which time the predators return to fight the alien spawn, hatched via sacrificial humans, in a deadly rite of passage. Cue lots of hapless humans barely having time to show off photos of their kids for minimal pathos before they are skewered and strung up by adolescent predators, or face-raped and belly-upped by aliens hellbent on saving mum. When the predators’ hunting trip goes wrong, environmentalist Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) must decide whose side she is on in a war that endangers not just the expeditionary team, but the entire human race.nnAnderson’s decision to build things up slowly over the first half of the film and focus mostly on human drama, while very effective in Alien, is much less so here, since the characters are largely stock types just there to become alien incubators, and by now we all know what the creatures look like – and, unlike in all of the ‘Alien’ sequels, there are no surprise alien forms or mutations featured here. The pyramid sets are sumptuous, the creature effects (a blend of animatronics and occasional CGI) are stunning, and the fight sequences are viciously gritty – but this alone is not enough to carry the film, and everything else seems just numbing exposition. As in all the ‘Alien’ films, the protagonist is a woman, but whereas Ripley’s gender is integral to the franchise’s quirky subtext of birth and motherhood, Alexa’s gender seems little more than a tokenistic nod. nnSo in this war, it is ultimately the viewer who is left out in the cold – although, with at least two holes opened wide at the end for a potential sequel, there is plenty of scope for more crossover confrontations (not least with ‘the Thing’, which is after all the real inspiration for all these Antarctic antics).
It's Got: Predators, pyramids, penguins and unwanted pregnancies.
It Needs: To develop its characters either a whole lot less or a whole lot more - and to work on the ropey dialogue.
Everyone is a winner in this one – apart from the poor viewer who must endure those annoying human characters for far too long before the real fighting starts.