Alien vs. Predator

On Friday I went after work to see Alien vs. Predator. It’s not a great film, but I had fun with it. I’d say I mostly liked it.

My screening of AVP was very much a communal activity, with applause at the end of the film (something I’ve only experienced twice) and some pretty sharp kids behind me who were commenting on the film pretty much the whole way through and doing a damn good job at it.

Were I to measure AVP against the Alien films, it would rank fourth, after Aliens, with Alien: Resurrection bringing up the distant rear. Yes, I’m one of those misguided souls who consider Alien 3 to be, if not the best of the series, far better than Aliens and perhaps on par with Alien.

I would say that in most respects the film resembles more the Predator films than the Alien films–the characters find themselves in a situation beyond their normal reckoning, hunted by enemies unseen and unknown. Yet, it’s also an Alien film, in the sense that, like the other Alien films, AVP resembles a fifth season Doctor Who episode–small band of humanity under siege by an alien monster and only one person can save them.

The film’s main problem–it’s too short. Things happen way too fast after Weyland’s death, so much so that I wonder if there were some major cuts.

Not-quite-so-major problem–the death toll. The human characters die fairly quickly in rapid sucession, so that Lex, as the only character left, has to carry too much of the film on her own.

Minor irritant–the deus ex machina of the nuclear device. We’d only learned about it fifteen minutes or so earlier, and instead of Lexa having to struggle a la Ripley in Aliens (“Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”) the Predator tosses the bomb over his shoulder as though it were a seeming afterthought. I should note in AVP‘s defense, though, that the first Predator film does the same thing at its conclusion.

At a number of points I felt as though I were seeing a pastiche of scenes lifted from previous Alien films. I didn’t mind it so much. (I think the one film that doesn’t get lifted is Alien 3–I could identify scenes taken from the other three.)

I am more an Alien fan than a Predator fan. Mid-January I bought the Alien Quadrilogy box-set. The next day Raleigh was hit with a blizzard, I couldn’t leave my road for four days, so having nothing better to do I watched all four Alien movies and most of the documentaries. This had me in an Aliens mood, so I spent some time tracking down the aborted Alien 3 scripts online, then decided I really wanted to read the early Dark Horse Aliens comics again, the ones about Hicks and Newt ten years after Aliens. (It’s interesting to note that Dark Horse’s first three series also work as sequels to William Gibson’s Alien 3 script.) I had them, at one point, but sold them in 1998, I think, so I had to do the eBay thing, and finally tracked them all down.

Not having seen the Predator films in so long that I felt ill-suited to making a fair comparison of them to AVP, I sat down this evening and watching the original film.

I couldn’t say when I last watched Predator. Honestly, it may have been ten years. The surprising thing is that, as abused as the concept may be with the various comic book crossovers, taken on its own merits Predator is actually a pretty damn good film.

If you didn’t know what was going to happen, if you didn’t know that the commando team would be hunted by an interstellar monster, for the first hour you would think that you were watching a film about a commando mission gone horribly wrong. The whole motif of American intervention into the local politics of some unnamed Central American country had a special resonance in the era of Reagan and Iran-Contra.

As much as I prefer the Alien films, it’s the Predator concept that fires the storytelling juices. Imagine a Blade Runner sequel, but with a Predator running around near-future Los Angeles. Or a Predator attacking a space station, again in the near future.

As I said up top, I mostly liked AVP. I’ll probably see the film again in the next few weeks.

Oh, and Colin Salmon should be the next James Bond. Between this and Resident Evil anyone who says otherwise is in serious denial of the man’s ability to embody Her Majesty’s Secret Servant.

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