My teenage son has really latched onto the Alien horror franchise and is determined to watch every one, apparently no matter the quality. Hence, Alien vs. Predator, which we watched a few weeks ago.
Unlike the other Alien movies, this one is set on Earth in the present day (well, present day as of 2004, when the movie came out). A billionaire industrialist named Charles Weyland–and note Weyland is the name of the company that owns the mining spaceship back in the very first Alien movie–has an interest in archeology, and has learned of an amazing new discovery in Antarctica. It seems buried deep beneath the ice, satellite imagery has located a pyramid that shows design similarities with the pyramids built by all three known pyramid building cultures–the Egyptians, the Mayans, and the Bagans.
Charles Weyland assembles a sacrificial group, I mean, a technical team to reach this pyramid and investigate. The movie spends some time introducing us to the various team members and their specialties, including expert lady mountaineer Lex, but I won’t bother with the others. Not far under the ice crust, the team members find a tunnel that leads down to the pyramid and exits in a chamber full of skeletons with burst chests. Unbeknownst to them, their intrusion has caused the release of several Predators and juvenile Xenomorphs (the franchise’s term for the aliens) that had been frozen in artificial hibernation. The walls and doors of the pyramid also begin shifting, so that the pyramid become a constantly shifting maze.
While their fellow team members are being hunted and killed by the Xenomorphs, Lex and one of the scientists decode the hieroglyphs on the walls of one of the rooms. The hieroglyphs explain that thousands of years ago, the pyramid was a sort of training ground for young Predators, who honed their skills hunting the devious and dangerous Xenomorphs. Ancient humans worshiped the Predators, and learned to build their own pyramids from the Predators’ example. The Predators also set up a fail-safe device that would destroy the entire complex in a huge atomic blast if the young Predators failed to kill their prey, so as to prevent the Xenomorphs from spreading and overrunning the whole planet.
Does Lex live while all her fellow team members die? Does she escape with the help of a Predator who she impresses with her toughness, and together they manage to defeat the Xenomorphs before triggering the atomic fail-safe? These and other questions I will leave for readers to find out on their own.
Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Story/Plot/Characters— Cardboard characters and a complicated mythological backstory that doesn’t actually cohere or make sense in any way. (Just for starters, the movie posits that the Predators taught humans to build pyramids thousands of years ago, which is fine for the Egyptians, but what about the Mayans who built their pyramids from 900-1200 AD, or the Bagans, who built theirs in the 12th century AD? And how did these cultures get to Antarctica to take part in these Predator-Alien battles, anyway? And, and and…if we start down the road of things that don’t make sense in this movie, we’ll never finish.) (.5 points)
Special Effects— The special effects are the point of this movie, and where it shines. What enjoyment any viewers get out of this are likely to come from the Predator-Xenomorph battles, which I admit are pretty cool. (1.5 points)
Scariness— Tense without being frightening. (.5 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness— The Antarctic temple makes no sense, but it looks pretty cool, with its ever-shifting chambers of human skeletons, Xenomorph breeding chambers, and weird ancient religious artifacts. Just enough atmosphere to be interesting. (1 point)
Total=3.5 points (Okay)