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Alien Vs. Predator

With a notable exception (King Kong Vs. Godzilla, 1962) when two franchises are combined, they aren't meant to breathe life into both, but — like a dollar-house double feature — act as a last grasp for ducats. It's what Universal did in the 1940s, and it's what New Line did with Freddy Vs. Jason (2003). And though this is usually represents creativity in a vacuum, there are two good reasons for making Alien Vs. Predator (2004), the first being that there's been a Dark Horse comic book Alien Vs. Predator whetting appetites since 1989, and the second being that no entry in the Alien franchise was ever a blockbuster, despite Tom Shone's recent inclusion of the first two films in his tome Blockbuster (the titles performed well in theaters but found more appreciation on home video). Meanwhile Predator only had one sequel, which flopped. Artistically it's unfortunate — both the Alien and Predator franchises don't appear bereft of ideas; in fact, the Alien series always has had two films that people might like to see (aliens on earth and aliens on their home planet). And ultimately, as the genre of Meets and Vs. films prove, the genre is untenable. Cinema requires more than characters simply duking it out for an entire movie, and there has to be some sort of plot or purpose, which involves adding unnecessary tertiary characters who then enact a plot that has little to do with monsters doing battle. And the conclusion (especially if the producers have hopes of a miraculous resuscitation) ends with neither one dying definitively — especially since that might alienate the few interested ticketbuyers left. Which means that the main reason for going to said films is usually about ten minutes of deadly foes going mano a mano WWF style (this entry in the "versus" canon has one advantage — there is no one Alien or Predator — but that doesn't change the nature of the fighting). This explains why King Kong Vs. Godzilla may be the "best" of the genre (if one disqualifies 1969's Bambi Meets Godzilla), since the majority of Godzilla movies are elaborate wrestling matches.

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The reason to even bring it up is merely to elucidate that, while Alien Vs. Predator — or AVP as the marketing suggested — is a rather terrible film, it would take a miracle to make this sort of thing good, and miracle is not spelled nor pronounced Paul W.S. Anderson. Anderson is exactly the sort of director a studio brings into a troubled and listless project to make it functional (as he proved in his video game adaptations Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil). The results are sluggish, but this was never going to be high art. The plot involves the discovery of an ancient pyramid in Antarctica buried under the ice, which leads Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, the only returning player from either series) to hire Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) and a bunch of red-shirt extras to investigate. It turns out that Predators have been coming to Earth for a long time (and may have helped create human civilization) and used this area as a testing ground to square off against one of their deadliest foes, the Aliens. It seems the humans were lured there to provide egg fodder, and soon most of the crew are decimated as Lex teams up with a Predator (they bond, don't ask) to make their way out of the pyramid, which has become a Rube Goldbergian maze. Anderson delivers modestly in the action sequences, but they are few and far between as the human and Predator parties are quickly whittled down to one member a piece, leading to only modest onslaughts. Not helping things is Anderson's poor and obvious writing (he penned the screenplay), and his desire to quote not only the other films in the franchise ("You ugly mother…") but other big action films (there's an awkward Star Wars homage or two). Also, one gets the feeling that Anderson thought a masterstroke was to end the film with a Predator giving birth to an Alien (a Pralien?) without recognizing that it was the most obvious idea in the whole story. The only bright spot is provided by Ewen Bremmer's red-shirted Graeme Miller. One actually feels a bit sorry for his character, which for a film of this nature feels accidental. Fox presents Alien Vs. Predator in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio. Extras include an extended alternate opening version, two audio commentaries (the first featuring Anderson, Lathan and Henriksen, the second featuring visual effects supervisor Jon Bruno and creature effects designers and creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr.). Also included are three deleted scenes (2 min.), a "making-of" featurette (19 min.), and a Dark Horse comic cover gallery, along with bonus trailers. Since every other film in both franchises have two-disc sets, and a two-disc has been announced in other markets, expect a double-dip shortly. Keep-case with paperboard slipcover.

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