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Alien vs. Predator

(Paul W. S. Anderson, USA/CANADA/GERMANY/CZECH REPUBLIC/UK, 2004)


 


There is a priceless moment quite a way into this film when a character, poring over many stones covered with engraved hieroglyphics, exclaims: "Now it’s starting to make sense!" At that point, he is still far ahead of the audience.

Only the most devoted fans of trash culture would have a taste for oddball movies that bring together in one story, usually under the most convoluted pretext possible, two super– or sub-human figures that normally inhabit starkly different fictional universes.

My favourite film of this kind is not the best known: Charles Band’s Doliman vs. The Demonic Toys (1993), which is basically a splice-up of clips from three separate movies, loosely bound by an extravagantly nonsensical framing device.

How on earth do Alien and Predator manage to share the same plot? Firstly, of course, they have to be prised from their original contexts. Do not look too deeply in this European co-production for elements that might link this film to the previous Alien and Predator movies. Only one original Alien writer, the talented Dan O’Bannon, makes any contribution.

Any aura of artistic quality that may have once surrounded the original films has well and truly vanished; director Paul W. S. Anderson follows (as he did in Event Horizon [1997]) the Roger Corman style: keep it fast, dark and full of gratuitous shocks.

For the sake of this exercise, Predator is the creature with an audiovisual apparatus for a head (and some fetching dreadlocks as an add-on), and Alien is that creature who bursts out of people’s (or even androids’) stomachs. Just to confuse the issue a little more, there is of course not one Alien and one Predator but many of both, multiplying like Gremlins – that is, until we get down to the almighty fight between Mother Alien and Master Predator.

In the middle of this suitably labyrinthine plot – which also borrows a lethal, ever-changing design concept from the Cube movies – there are humans running around rather helplessly: notably, a kick-ass babe named Alexa (Sanaa Lathan) and archaeologist Sebastian (Raoul Bova).

What is intriguing about them is that, although they are for all intents and purposes soldiers in a war movie, their role is extremely passive. They do not charge into a foreign situation and start killing, as happens in so many gung-ho films these days. Instead they watch, listen, decode and finally make a canny strategic move. But they never usurp the central conflict between Alien and Predator.

Sometimes it takes the craziest horror-fantasy movies to deliver us the best advice on foreign policy.

MORE Anderson: Mortal Kombat

© Adrian Martin September 2004


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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