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Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004)

Starring: Sanaa Latham, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova, Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon

Written By: Paul W.S. Anderson (also story), Dan O'Bannon (story), Ronald Shusett (story)

Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson

The Short Version

A highly anticipated matchup finally happens on the screen.

The results are absolutely not what anyone expected them to be.

Ancient Astronaut theory, anyone?

Don’t think too hard; just kick back and watch the action now that it’s properly unrated.

It’s popular to hate Alien vs. Predator, but I have fun with it.  Take it for what it is.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CO-JACK.

Colby and Monterey Jack collide. Whichever wins… hey, we win!


Pairs Well With...

RUMPLE MINZE.

Call it the Antarctic in a shot glass.

“How do you say ‘scared shitless’ in Italian?”

“'Non vedo l'ora di uscire da questa piramide con te, perché mi sto cagando addosso.' More or less.”


For the title of “most highly anticipated monster mashup movie ever,” Alien vs. Predator easily stands at the top of the list, neck-and-neck with the previous year’s Freddy vs. Jason.  The concept of a crossover between the sci fi universes of the Alien and Predator franchises had been hinted at practically from the moment that that first Predator film made it big.  First a comic book series, and then more.  Books.  Video games.  A cameo of an Alien skull in a trophy case during Predator 2 made a big screen cage match seem like a foregone conclusion that would be hitting the multiplex at any moment…

…but no.  Though everyone’s favorite sci fi monsters were kept quite busy duking it out across just about every other media platform available, it wouldn’t be until fourteen long years after that tantalizing skull cameo that the promise of a motion picture mashup would be realized.

Highly anticipated?  Just a lot.  And we all know what just under a decade and a half of intense anticipation must inevitably lead to, right?

Let be real here, folks: there is absolutely nothing that Hollywood could have come up with that would have met the collective expectations of the millions of fans who’d been waiting to see this movie happen; no way that it could ever have been badassedly explosive enough to satisfy all of those long-denied sci fi/action cravings.  The fact that Alien vs. Predator was released with a PG-13 rating only served to pre-infuriate the waiting audiences, and they – and critics – were quick to scathe.  Sure, it was a financial success, but to most who talked about it at the time, Alien vs. Predator was a resounding disappointment.

Me?  I was disappointed, but I still liked it; indeed, I liked it a lot more than I’d expected to going in.  The main thing that annoyed me – and it really annoyed me – was that some jackass thought it would be a great idea to take two franchises loaded with hard “R” rated movies and wuss down their ultimate cage match with a PG-13 cut.  (It never makes sense to wuss down that rating, Hollywood; never.  If the film plays out as a natural “R,” that’s what it needs to be.  But anyway.) 

But that was then.  This is now, and now, just about every available home video cut of Alien vs. Predator features an Unrated version (a natural “R” cut, in other words), so that’s the movie that modern audiences get to deal with, and it really does make a difference.  [If you’re curious, most current DVD and Blu Ray editions have an extra feature that lets you see which parts have been added back in while the Unrated version plays.]

The key to enjoying Alien vs. Predator is to recognize exactly what kind of flick this really is and to run with it.  Whatever preconceptions one may have formed based upon the Alien and Predator franchises as standalones, just take anything but the most basic of fundamental traits about the creatures involved and toss the rest out the window.  This is its own thing, and when push comes to shove, that thing is the frame story for a basic action video game morphed into a motion picture.  What does that mean?  It means that there’s no such thing as character development.  Sure, there are backstories for most of the people involved, but with exactly one exception (hang on for that), there’s really no reason to remember anyone’s name; indeed, I’m going to bet that you’ll forget most of them before the movie’s even over.  It means that there’s a potentially fascinating premise behind the major story arc (hello, Ancient Astronaut theory) that stays cool exactly as long as it’s not held up to too much logical-flaw-finding scrutiny.  It also means that said story arc is just a thin excuse to have monsters chase people no one gives a damn about anyway through tight corridors until it’s time for the Major Boss Fight.

In other words, at its core, Alien vs. Predator is one of those flicks best enjoyed with one’s brain in neutral, with the primary enjoyment coming from watching cool looking monsters kick ass for a while.  Not so coincidentally, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson – he of Resident Evil franchise fame – happens to be very good at making these sorts of movies, especially when he gets to build them around a video game style framework, and he puts a decent amount of effort into making the cage match look cool. (Impressively so, given the fact that he had one of the most ridiculously crunched schedules one could possibly image for an effects-driven film: two and a half months to film; four months of post production.  That’s it.)  Predator with a badass whip is cool.  Taking a dead Alien’s head and turning it into a shield is cool.    There is a lot of awesome to behold here, if only one lets go of the anticipatory baggage and just lets the movie be what it is.

Had that been all that Anderson was able to accomplish here, it would have been reasonable enough, but with the core taken care of, he really does try to go the extra mile.  Hardcore aficionados of both the Alien and Predator franchises will find scores of references back to the movies and stories they love, should they care to observe.  Some of them are obvious – famous insults, anyone? – while others are less so.  (Several sets and shots are set up to exactly mirror things from previous films; look at the arrangement of the “beds” in the sacrificial chamber, for example.)  The most obvious reference, of course, comes in the form of Lance Henriksen’s appearance as the one and only character whose name is really important in this film: Charles Bishop (ahem) Weyland, founder of what would become “The Company” of the Alien franchise, and it’s a wonderful tie-in.  Sure, the story’s flawed and most of the characters are throwaways, but…

…but, with the caveat that I think the “Unrated” (natural “R”) cut of the film should have been the one released in theatres, I truly believe that Alien vs. Predator is just about the best movie that audiences could have reasonably hoped for to come out of Hollywood.  Is it “Great” in critical sense?  Not by a longshot; indeed, by those standards, it’s quite mediocre.  But as a simple monster-on-monster cage match?  Hell yeah, it works.

Would it have been better without the stupid humans?  Of course it would have, but no Hollywood studio would ever sign off on a human-free Alien vs. Predator story.  (That kind of bravery is limited to the world of graphic novels, I think; maybe a video game publisher might be willing, too.)  Gotta keep those expectations real, people.  It truly is the key to enjoying this movie.

Bottom line, if you go into Alien vs. Predator with high expectations, of course you’re going to be disappointed.  But if you walk in with a realistic acceptance of what was honestly possible here, Alien vs. Predator is a fun, brain-in-neutral action cage match between some kickass looking monsters from outer space, and if that’s not a party in a box, what is?

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December 31, 2013

Last Review of the Year


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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