MAD: Alien vs Predator

(2004 Fox/Watched on Steelbook Blu Ray, that’s how much I like it)

[Once again, this is what We Hate Movies are covering this week, so I watched it first and jotted down my thoughts before listening to what I’m certain will be them rightly calling this film very stupid.]

As I detailed in our extensive series of podcast reviews of both the Alien and Predator movies, I really dig this onscreen clash. It’s nowhere near as good as it could have been, with someone like Shane Black or Neill Blomkamp at the helm, a small cast of engaging human characters that you want to survive and a gory R rating but it’s still a party I’m always glad to be invited to.

The humans in this case are a bunch of under-developed dimwits with a fifth of a personality to go round between them, (much like Prometheus which is an unwitting remake of this). Luckily Alexa, the Ripley stand-in is sensible and firm with the safety rules, which makes her easy to follow. She gets a lovely scene with Lance Henriksen who classes the joint up while he’s there. As a Weyland performance this one is up there with the version of Guy Pierce at middle age, rather than the sour old Mr Burns creature we got. In both cases they should have been a major character the whole way through.

As I laid down on the podcast, the story this is most like in structure is less Aliens and actually more Jurassic Park. You go on a weekend vacation with these guys, starting on a helicopter, there’s a slow, exploratory build up, then all hell breaks loose and the survivor goes home a little wise, a lot tougher, after being chased by a T-Rex inspired Queen.

I read the first novel, based on the comic series, Prey, back in the early 90s and the one thing they held onto from that, which I was greatly pleased by was the team up between  the hard-ass female security officer and a Predator forced to accommodate her because he needs an ally. Their way of communicating with one another through gesture and non-verbal means is. Something I expanded upon greatly in my novel Tiger’s Eye, since the idea of a huge, alien hunter and a small, fragile human cultivating a symbiotic relationship fascinates me.

Like Prometheus, these humans blunder into this place they should not be and spring the trap, unlike Prometheus there are no pretensions of intellectual layers or philosophical musings on our ancient creators, though both are clearly inspired by Chariots of the Gods. Again UNlike Prometheus, once the throwing nets and acid blood hit the fan we are positively supposed to cheer. The Predators are portrayed like WWE wrestlers in this throw down for the ages, and the Aliens have an intimidating physical heft to them, quite unlike those in Covenant. They are also cunning as hell and really hard to kill, a lot harder in fact than in Cameron’s Aliens.

The main Xeno is portrayed by the unsung hero of the later Alien franchise, Tom Woodruff Jnr. I cannot say enough about how the physical movement of a truly dedicated person in a suit when utilised properly can really make all the difference. I would at the very least suggest performance capture for future instalments rather than key-frame digital animation. An undeniable cache is gleaned from being able to say to oneself “That thing is definitely there in the room”. Meanwhile Ian Whyte portrays the hulking, imposing Scar Predator in this, as well as the Wolf Predator in the grotty sequel, and the Last Engineer in that remake of Alien vs Predator with pretensions of profundity, Prometheus!

The whole shebang culminates in an exhilarating third act, teaming up woman and Predator. Again, the whole movie could have been this and it would have been better. It might be an idea to expand upon the culture of these guys to help them transcend dickhole weekend hunters. There’s nothing worse than the realisation that when the Predator goes home he’s a goddamned dentist!

Author: Alex Shaw

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