December 11, 2004

Alien vs. Predator 

A few weeks ago, I watched that film, and I was almost totally disappointed. Mostly because it's hollow, a lame story offered in a shiny packege. There is handful of mildly involving scenes, but no more.

Aliens... what could I say, except that it's an absolute classic? Relentless, gripping, compelling: I cant watch it over and over, and it will always give me the thrills. It has pace and atmosphere, and even if the special effects look vintage, it's easy to suspend disbelief. Ripley, Hicks, Bishop, Newt, Vasquez, Burke, Apone, Hudson are memorable characters. There are no cheesy scenes, no time screen time wasted. And that movie definitively sent Giger's Aliens into the the realm of collective popular culture. The point is, James Cameron has talent, and when someone has talent, he will always be a notch above the rest. I think Cameron did not fail a single movie in his careeer - even Titanic, long as it is, it's a good ride. Oh yeah, there are more Alien movies - from the first one, a genuine space thriller, to the last one, a bloody and gory hi-tech horror. But Aliens is the ultimate one.

Predator... It features an Arnie in perfect shape, and the best and fiercest shootout (Coooontaaact!) ever committed on screen (with the exception of history-based movies like Saving Private Ryan).
The atmosphere in Predator is a crescendo of violence and suspence, to the final fight between a man and and the alien, both reduced to their primal essence, to raw survival instincts. The action is well crafted, and the one-liners are absolutely memorable: "Stick around" is still one of the best Arnie's moments. The director is John McTiernan, another guy with some talent indeed. And Predator 2, while less incisive, is still an entertaining action movie - the massacre of narcos at the very beginning is a quite powerful scene. Also, it already features an Alien's skull among the collection on the Predator's spaceship.

Then let's come to Alien vs. Predator. It has, to put it bluntly, nothing of the good things of its predecessors. The special effects are top-level, but there is no real story worth telling. And the characters are expedable - the only things I remember is that the protagonist is a though chick (a female of colour, to be more precise); the lame Italian lessons given by Raoul Bova, and the rich idealist patron played by Lance Henriksen is gravely ill. What I'd like to see in such a movie are Aliens kicking Predators' butts, and vice versa, shooting, biting, slashing, corroding on a grand scale (well, not so grand as a Battle of the Pelennor Fields, ok) - not annoying humans messing around in tunnels that look not really scary, but just a poor attempt of reproducing the settings of the hystorical videogame Quake - and that was scary at some points, I tell you.
There is also an abundance of cheesy scenes: from the chick's mobile phone ringing while she's climbing cliff in the Himalaya - only to find a chopper waiting for her at the top, to the Italian lessons cited above, to end with the coda of the movie, so silly and predictable that it can easily make the Top 10 of the cheesy moments. The Predators look lost, like Predator-rookies (and by the way, the movie shows Predators thousands of years ago with exactly the same equipment as now: where the hell is the technological evolution?) without their shoulder cannon. Aliens are not creepy, they resemble overgrown pests. What "ultimate prey"; Arnie in Predator gives more hell to the hunter. Oh yes, there is the idiotic idea of an Alien Queen kept chained in order to depose eggs on command... One of the few nice ideas it the Pradots marking themselves with the corrosive blood of the slain Aliens, to testify that they killed one: that is something that squares well with a hunter/warrior ethos.

Besides all that, the movie is set in October 2004: is that possible that no-one of the crew never watched any Alien? If I were to see such eggs, and corpses with the ribcages broken towards the outside, I'd understand on the spot that big trouble is brewing...

My suggestion is not to waste money to see this empty product at the cinema. It may be the right movie to rent for a night of mindless entartainment with friends, but nothing more.

Thanks to James Berardinelli.


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