1979’s “Alien,” and its successor, 1986’s “Aliens” remain renowned classics. While “Alien 3” and “Alien: Resurrection” offered less groundbreaking fare, these series entries further expanded the “Alien” universe. Crossovers including the likes of the X-Files meets Ghostbusters abound, notably in the comic book realm. The 2004 sci-fi film “Alien vs. Predator” united the “Alien” and “Predator” worlds. But fusing these superb movie universes results in a subpar, trope-ridden flick that’s still somewhat fun.
It’s 2004, and a satellite discovers a heat bloom under the Arctic island of Bouvetoya. Entrepreneur Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) learns of a pyramid buried 2000 feet below the ice. Thus he gathers an expeditionary team to explore the pyramid. It’s comprised of archeologists, drillers, and linguistic gurus. Experienced guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) leads the group.
Meanwhile, a Predator ship arrives on Earth and fires a beam which creates a hole through the ice. So when Weyland and company arrive at on Bouvetoya, there’s a path drilled to the pyramid. Entering, they discover the ancient ruins. But the pyramid has a menacing purpose and one which threatens Woods and her team.
“Alien vs. Predator” arrives with Paul W.S. Anderson at the helm. Anderson handles direction, production, and screenplay. While Anderson’s tour de force sci-fi horror flick “Event Horizon” shines with its exquisite set design and effects, “Alien vs. Predator” falls prey to a disjointed structure and loads of cliches. As the film opens, it location hops introducing the various characters: Sebastian De Rosa (Raoul Bova), an Italian archeologist, Woods, a skilled Arctic guide, Graeme Miller (Ewen Bremner), a chemical engineer, Max Stafford (Colin Salmon), Weyland’s assistant, and a slew of others.
Unfortunately, the opening feels extremely rushed. Once arriving in the Arctic, the flow smoothes considerably. But while “Alien vs. Predator” devotes a portion to introducing characters, most barely benefit from any screen time. Aside from Woods, Weyland, and Stafford, the vast majority are dispatched after a few lines. Moreover, “Alien vs. Predator” is riddled with tropes. Characters are flat, unlike the relatable cast of “Alien” or “Aliens.”
Still, “Alien vs. Predator” isn’t a complete mess. The set design is magnificent. Details from the pyramid really pop with majestic realism. Similarly, effects are exquisite. I appreciate Woods as a strong female character. It’s her badassery that makes “Alien vs. Predator” an enjoyable movie despite its cliches and rushed, uneven narrative.
It’s a far cry from even the weaker of the first four “Alien” films. However, excellent set design and a likable character in Alexa Woods makes “Alien vs. Predator” a great shut-your-brain-off film. Plus, watching a Xenomorph and Predator duke it out is simply delightful.