Not as good as Aliens nor Predator, but it’s still better than any of their sequels (and with a interesting spin at no extra cost).
When a satellite over Antarctica hints at a previously undiscovered underground (make that under ice) structure, industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) assembles a team to drill into the ice and be the first to catalogue this significant archaeological find. Alexa Wood (Sanaa Lathan) is asked to lead an unprepared team into an unknown and dangerous environment, but what they discover won’t just re-write the history books; it may wipe out the all life on planet Earth.
The catch phrase for the film is, “Whoever wins, we lose.” That’s not exactly correct, but it does set the stage for the biggest modern movie monster showdown since Freddy vs. Jason. Ever since the appearance of the Alien skull in the spaceship for Predator 2, bets were in being placed. Who would win in a showdown: the face-hugging, acid-blooded, hive-minded aliens or the uber-teched, hunter-cultured, dread-locked predators?
As far as franchise blending goes, Freddy vs. Jason was spotty at best, but its target audience didn’t mind as long as their favorite killer maniacs got their due on screen. With almost as many years in the making, AVP not only builds an interesting (although not entirely plausible) premise, it also manages to integrate the best elements that made each franchise unique. A shadowy and maze-like environment, characters we learn just enough about to care about a little (before they die horribly), and secrets about what each creature is and does all contribute to a clever production design that acts as both story setting and battle arena.
Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has again shown knowledge of his subject; he not only had to continue two established storylines but integrate them realistically enough to make the plot work. The Antarctic ruins, for example, are a joy for fans to behold; as each chamber becomes obvious in its function, they serve to build the tension perfectly. The inclusion of Lance Henriksen (who played the Bishop android in Aliens and Alien3) helps lend a familiar face to the story to move it along, but actress Sanaa Lathan adds a fresh face to the franchise and a possible jumping point to further stories if the film turns a profit.
To be fair, there have been numerous graphic novels (read: comic books) to draw the right story from, something that Freddy and Jason never really had. Although the hard R-rated purists may not love the film completely (apparently, you can show all the green-glowing and acid blood splatter that you want but human gore is a no-no) with a mere PG-13 film, but the action and effects keep coming and don’t disappoint. Anyone who ever smiled at the thought of aliens and predators battling for supremacy will certainly get their money’s worth.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)