Reviled by many fans as the ultimate crapfest of the summer of 2004, "Alien vs. Predator" actually isn't that bad. As crap goes, it's pretty fun, and hopefully will mark the beginning of a new era of Alien movies: Ones with decidedly lower budgets and even lower aspirations.
The previous two "Alien" films were way too ambitious for their own good. Super serious, over-wrought snooze fests for the most part. Sure they had Sigourney Weaver, but the stories were so dramatic. They were OK. But when you consider how much they cost to make -- Weaver was supposedly paid $1 million just to do some reshoots on Part 3 -- they stank.
By contrast, "Alien vs. Predator" is basically a comic book. In fact, it's based on a comic book, or maybe a videogame. Probably both actually.
Like the Universal Frankenstein series, which went from big-budget and super serious to strictly-for-kids afternoon crap fare, so goes the Alien series. And it's for the best. Bottom line is, the Aliens are very cool monsters. You don't need Sigourney Weaver to make an Alien movie. And you can have a lot of fun with the whole concept in a franchise way. Why not make a low-budget Alien movie every two years or so?
"Alien vs. Predator," of course, marries both of Fox's two action sci-fi franchises, as New Line did with "Freddy vs. Jason." "FvJ" was a much better movie, but "AvP" is entertaining enough. The characters are incredibly flat. Anderson's direction is pretty pedestrian. But the special effects are there, the Predators are there, and the Aliens are there. There's enough action to make the 90+ minutes go by pretty quick.
Set in 2004, the film features Henricksen as a billionare robotics expert (obviously the creator of the technology that created the androids in the earlier Alien films, including the character of Bishop also played by Henriksen) who sends a team of scientists on an expedition to uncover the secrets of a pyramid found under the ice somewhere in antarctica. Lathan (who was the Blade's vampiric Mom in the original "Blade") is one of the scientists. Needless to say, they find a frozen Alien, a sacrificial chamber where ancient people used to sacrifice themselves to the creatures, and have attracted a small group of Predators (the creatures from the Schwarzenegger classic who get off on battling other powerful creatures, including bad-ass humans) to the pyramid. A battle between the monsters ensues. Characters naturally get picked off one by one, until only Lathan is left to fight for survival.
The action scenes are great. CGI technology came a long way between "Alien: Resurrection" and this one, so the Aliens look fantastic. Once the second act of the film starts, things really move along at a very nice clip. The weakest link in the film is the characterization. A good "Alien" film is supposed to have memorable characters. Even "Alien: Resurrection" had a few. This one doesn't have any. Even Henriksen is wasted.
But it's still OK crap. Not a classic. But a step up from the previous failures. Unfortunately, the film was gore free because it needed a PG-13 rating to attract the prepubescent crowd. No doubt an R-rated cut will make it to DVD.
Despite being panned by critics and many fans, it was a pretty big hit in the summer of '04, so we can likely expect another lower budget Alien entry sometime in the next five years or so.