Director: Paul Anderson
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 79
Humans examine a temple frozen in polar ice, only to end up in the middle of a battle between aliens and predators.
On the whole—as an action movie—Alien vs. Predator does an excellent job of creating, telling, and presenting an entertaining science-fiction story. As a more traditional film it would score much lower. But AVP never tries to be more than the simple tale of some humans who get caught up in an ancient Alien vs. Predator ritual. If you go into the movie with no expectations from previous films, games, or books, I think you’ll be surprised at how enjoyable the film can be.
Expectations play a role in every movie’s success, and Alien vs. Predator (AVP) is a movie that hit the screen with high expectations. Fans from the Alien series of movies flocked to see it. Predator fans flocked to see it. Fans of the comic book series, the games, and even the toy line came to see it. It had a fantastic opening week. And then it crashed. Reviewers ripped into it. Fans looking to see a titanic clash of Aliens and Predators were furious. Game fans and comic books fans were disillusioned. The movie was a disaster.
I, however, came to this movie with no positive expectations. I had no vision of what a clash between aliens and predators should be like, who was the tougher, who should win. All I knew about the movie was that AVP was universally considered awful. It was with some resignation that I sat down last weekend to watch.
By the end of the movie, I was blown away. AVP is a tight, fast-paced movie with some solid action. Pacing is good; the movie flies along after a sluggish start. The alien and predator fights are excellently portrayed. Special effects are clean and effective. The aliens and predators look great (although the aliens do that hissing-thing far too often). For a movie clearly focused on action, the plot is fairly substantial. For the most part, AVP stays within its premise, although there are some notable weather issues (the heroine ends the movie in Artic weather with no jacket and yet never gets cold) and a few disconnected location issues. But overall, there are a lot of positives with this movie, and they add up to make AVP highly watchable.
I have to admit, however, that I also felt a confused and concerned with my reaction: if every reviewer panned this movie and fans hated it, why am I the only one that liked it?
I think AVP failed with fans because of the incredible expectations they had for the film. Most importantly, there is no large scale fight between aliens and predators. Instead, the action in AVP focuses on a human party investigating a newly discovered pyramid frozen in Arctic ice. The action in the film is on a smaller scale, and sections of the movie fall more into the horror camp than they do the action camp. Fans of the movie must have been incredibly frustrated with the film for how it failed to deliver the ultimate alien vs. predator battle. Also, this is the first alien or predator movie not to be rated R; many fans surely felt that the bloodless action scenes were yet another way the film didn’t live up to expectations.
AVP failed with the critics because in many ways, it’s not a good film. There is next to zero character development (this is hard to do when much of your cast dies in the movie). The script limps along. The acting is generic, with Sanaa Lathan forgettable in the lead role. There is nothing groundbreaking here, nor anything particularly inspiring. The ending—although I found it to be an exciting action scene—is fairly predictable. So if you are a film critic, you pan this thing and move quickly on to the next film.
There are other negatives, too. Although traditional critics don’t evaluate this, the Babe factor and Hunk factor of the movie are on the low end. Sanaa Lathan is sandpaper, and the male side of the cast—albeit a bit improved by Raoul Bova—is on the low end as well. It doesn’t help that the movie is set in the Artic, so anything to look at is bundled up in layers of fur. Note to producers: next time, cast a beautiful woman in the lead role and put the pyramid on a tropical island!
On the whole, however—as an action movie—AVP does an excellent job of creating, telling, and presenting an entertaining science-fiction story. As a more traditional film it would score much lower. But AVP never tries to be more than the simple tale of some humans who get caught up in an ancient Alien vs. Predator ritual. If you go into the movie with no expectations from previous films, games, or books, I think you’ll be surprised at how enjoyable the film can be.
AVP went from filming to completion in six and a half months—extremely short for a major studio film.
Consistent Premise: 72
Body Count: 52
Time to First Dead Body: Slow
Special Effects: 86
Overall: 79 (Recommended)