Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator is a monster mash between two of 20th Century Fox’s franchise creatures. When H.R. Giger’s sleek and slimy killing machines face off against the Rastafarian headhunter, there’s a giddy childish thrill not unlike when King Kong faced Godzilla, or when Frankenstein met the Wolf Man. Their confrontations play out in the exaggerated manner of professional wrestling and take place in an ancient pyramid buried under the Antarctic ice where you half expect John Carpenter’s monster from The Thing to pop up and waste them both. These beasties frequently strut their extraterrestrial stuff and are geared toward audience cheers and jeers. While you can’t argue for Alien vs. Predator as a movie to be taken seriously, it certainly delivers as a loving homage to two of our favorite monsters and their respective super-duper powers.
Of course, Alien vs. Predator is not in the same league as its predecessors. Anderson has previously directed unintentionally hilarious adaptations of video games such as Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat. That means the underground temple, with its multiple levels and booby-trapped hallways, feels made-to-order from X-Box. The early exposition from billionaire industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, a holdover from the Alien series), told to an assortment of pencil sketch archeologists, scientists, mountain climbers, and bodyguards, feels like the facile narrative bits from these games that everyone tends to skip in order to get to the action. Character development is kept to a minimum, allowing Anderson to dabble in his favorite pastime: coming up with suitably mean-spirited ways to kill off his pencil-sketch humans one by one. Sanaa Lathan is solid but lacks the gravitas of Sigourney Weaver in the “Ripley” role, perhaps because her character is deprived of Ripley’s harsh maternal personality.
Anderson shows such a lack of interest in character or mood that the first 45 minutes, pre-Alien and Predator battles, feels unnecessarily lugubrious. His film lacks the obsessive haunted house setting of Ridley Scott’s Alien, the virtuoso gung-ho action of James Cameron’s Aliens or John McTiernan’s Predator, the bleak doom of David Fincher Alien³, and the cartoon splashes of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection. Those movies were of varying levels of quality, but the filmmakers were committed to a singular vision. Alien vs. Predator is a technically proficient fan-boy’s wet dream, made for people who want to see the Alien bleed acid on the Predator’s body armor, or the Predator using his nifty laser to blow apart alien hoards. It’s not much of a movie, but it’s a geek’s paradise.