Hey folks, Harry here... never particularly shy of pointing at Paul W. S. Anderson and hurling venom as if he caused the fires in California or ruined a great Kurt Russell movie... oh wait, he did ruin a great Kurt Russell movie. Anyway, though I have read the ALIEN VS PREDATOR script and feel that it is at least 3 times worse than Beaks is letting on, I figure I'll let him tell it... as, well he foolishly appreciates RESIDENT EVIL, which though having moments, remains an open ass sore on the film that George Romero could have made at the same price. BUT - that's neither here nor there... Here's Beaks though... Go get em!
Is it possible for Paul W.S. Anderson to get a fair shake on AICN?
I suppose so. I’ve never harbored any real animus for the guy. Hell, had I been invited to a press screening for RESIDENT EVIL, I would’ve opined somewhat positively as I did on the CHUD Message Boards back when I saw the film during its initial release. My assessment from 3/17/02:
“RESIDENT EVIL is the best film ever adapted from a video game. Faint praise, to be sure, but I'm amazed that it held my interest and didn't insult my intelligence. I didn't scrutinize the film's internal logic too strenuously, but it seemed fairly consistent.
I will, however, agree with those harping on the jarringly awful Beltrami/Manson score, which was poorly integrated into the film. Also, the sound editing on this film was terrible, but that's nitpicking.
As someone helpless to resist even the worst genre films, I'm thankful that Anderson rose above his previous work to finally deliver a film of true mediocrity.”
Not exactly a rave, but it’s not calling for his head, either, as my red-headed tormentor infamously did in his review of SOLDIER. So, it was with that minor triumph in mind that I cracked open a recent draft of Anderson’s next big ticket assignment, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, figuring that the guy was building up to something – perhaps getting warmed up to bust through the ceiling of mediocrity and, finally, deliver a genuinely *good* film. (First talk backer that defends EVENT HORIZON as anything more than the listless sum of its intriguing set design gets set on fire. Seriously, folks, it had a fucking CARRIE ending.) Aiding him immensely, as far as my judgment is concerned, is the fact that I’m not expecting much from a film called ALIEN VS. PREDATOR.
This past summer, I took some shit from some of my interweb colleagues for having the temerity to actually like FREDDY VS. JASON. My argument all along has been that my expectations were lowered to the level of the material, just as they were when, as a kid, I would settle down in front of the tube on a Saturday afternoon to watch, say, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA, and the ne plus ultra of all monster mixers, DESTROY ALL MONSTERS. These were not good movies by any reasonable standard, but viewed in their proper context, they’re entertaining junk. Most of them were also cobbled together to inject new life, or, more often, squeeze the last remaining ounce of profitability from their respective franchises. But so long as they proceeded respectfully, what was the harm? That’s more or less what the makers of FREDDY VS. JASON accomplished, and it should, in turn, serve as the guiding philosophy for not only ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, but all the other combo meals on the studio menu, including MICHAEL MYERS VS. PINHEAD and JAWS VS. CHUCKY, to which, it has been whispered around town, Stacy Snider has zealously committed herself lest her entire tenure at Universal be considered a failure.
So, just how respectful has Paul W.S. Anderson been? We’ll get to that, but if I were to compare this to any of the previous installments in either franchise, I’d say it most closely resembles PREDATOR 2 in tone and faithfulness to the source material. As for how it stacks up against Steve Perry’s graphic novels… well, I only read PREY, and that was certainly much more entertaining than this; however, to be fair, he didn’t have to contend with the budget limitations with which Anderson has been saddled.
But that doesn’t excuse the guy for banging out something as stubbornly unimaginative as this.
The script (with revisions by Shane Salerno) begins with the massacre of a Northern Cambodian hunting party in 2000 B.C. by what we first assume, given the dense jungle setting, is a Predator. Get ready for that perception shift, kids… it’s actually an ALIEN!!! (Please, contain your excitement!) It dispatches each member of the party with the brutal alacrity we’ve come to expect from these nasty xenomorphs, and is about to finish off the alpha male when it’s struck suddenly by an optical blast. There’s that Predator we were expecting. With the Alien badly wounded, the Predator steps into view, pulls out its twin blades, and slings them into the dying beast. Cut to opening credits.
Not exactly pulse-quickening stuff, but you better get used to it; the script is shot through with this determined lack of invention. Following this pre-credit “grabber”, Anderson then takes us to a receiving station owned by Weyland Industries (as of this draft, “The Company” is completely M.I.A.), where bored satellite technicians suddenly make an alarming discovery in some remote area of the globe; thus, setting in motion the global roundup of our dramatis personae.
First, we meet ALEXIA “LEX” KLINE (to be played by the lovely Sanaa Lathan), a fearless environmental activist whose research holiday in the Alaskan National Park is interrupted by a phone call informing her that Weyland Industries – in particular, Weyland himself – has offered to fund her foundation for a year (cue JURASSIC PARK theme). Then, there’s archaeologist SEBASTIAN WELLS, a rugged ladies man who’s whisked away from a disastrous dig in Mexico just as its being taken over by his unprincipled and better-financed rival, BELLOQ—er, VERHEIDEN. Finally, we swing down to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. to pick up GRAHAM MILLER, a geeky chemical engineer who isn’t keen on leaving the office.
They’re all deposited on an ice breaker setting sail for Antarctica where they’re introduced to billionaire industrialist CHARLES WEYLAND (to be played by Lance Henriksen in a shameless attempt to court fanboy goodwill and to derail pre-production for THE MANGLER 3: WHY, YAHWEH, WHY?), who briefs them on the reason for their hasty assemblage. A sudden “heat bloom” under the ice of Antarctica allowed Weyland’s satellites to pick up what appear to be the outline of a system of pyramids. If true, this could validate Wells’s assertion that the seemingly disparate ancient peoples of South America, Africa and Asia all grew out of a master culture that might have existed on this southernmost continent before it froze over. This is all disputed by Verheiden, who, much to Wells’s consternation, has been brought along for the ride to spice up the proceedings before Predators start fighting Aliens.
Speaking of which, it’s about this time that we cut to a Predator spacecraft that just so happens to be keeping tabs on Weyland’s icebreaker. The hunt is about to begin.
Upon reaching Antarctica, Lex leads the team to the spot where Weyland’s deep core drillers will break through the icy surface, detonate a nuclear weapon, and save the Earth from certain destruction. Oh, silly me, that’s THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN! Actually, the drilling team finds that their work has suspiciously already been done for them, and at a level of precision heretofore unseen by Weyland’s men. Worrying that a competing concern has beaten them to the punch, the group bravely descends 2,000 feet below the surface. Sure enough, they find their pyramids. But, rather unexpectedly, they also find hundreds of human skeletons (one of which, it appears, had something burst out of its ribcage). As they venture further into the pyramid, they enter into a sarcophagus chamber where they find a cache of bizarre, far-from-primitive weapons; i.e., Predator guns. Though Sebastian cautions against removing these artifacts, Verheiden, ever the glory seeker, swipes one of the guns from the sarcophagus. Suddenly, the pyramid begins to transform itself, setting in motion a chain reaction that reaches into yet another chamber where a captive QUEEN ALIEN is hauled out of a vapor pool by a system of chains. Right away, the “bitch” starts laying eggs. It’s about to be somebody’s ass.
The action of the above paragraph is intercut with the happenings 2,000 feet above, where the Predator spacecraft lands, leading to the subsequent and very swift massacre of the roughnecks. But when the Predators hit the Pyramid, they’re alarmed to find that the Alien birthing process has already commenced. Whatever they’re up to, these pesky humans have thrown a big ol’ acid bleeding wrench into their plans. This sets up a mayhem-filled third act that pits Aliens vs. Predators vs. Humans vs. The Audience’s Intelligence.
While I’m a fan of the first PREDATOR film, I’ve never really felt that the title was worthy of the franchise. As for ALIEN, I firmly believe that the series should’ve ended at three, which, warts and all, still managed to give Ripley a dour, but beautiful sendoff. Had PREDATOR 2 been a continuation of Dutch’s story – his survival making him something of a prized pelt to other Predators – maybe I would’ve cared. Better yet, had anyone other than Stephen Hopkins directed the film, maybe it would’ve had an outside chance at being watchable. In any event, what I’m saying is that these franchises both feel like they’ve gone one installment too many. It’s strictly about a quick score at the box office now. Judging from this script, I think it’s fair to say that Anderson’s only in it for the money, too.
The characterizations are beyond stock, with only Weyland resonating thanks to a subplot that has him hiding his rapidly deteriorating health from the rest of the team. Lex is just a standard tough chick, though Anderson nicely undercuts the character by giving her a romantic past with the repulsive Verheiden. Meanwhile, as I’ve alluded to above, the story is little more than a cobbling together of greatest hits from other, better films, sparing the writer(s) the horrible burden of conjuring up a halfway original idea.
Though there’s no shortage of Alien and Predator throw-downs in the third act, what I think will piss off the fans is the way this script thoroughly ignores the lore of the previous films. This is particularly irksome with regards to the ALIEN franchise, though I guess we can just chalk it up as horribly ironic that “The Company” had to go all that way into space to find an Alien when there was a well-preserved Queen just hanging out in Antarctica for reasons that I’ll avoid spoiling, but… Christ, what a stupid idea! That the script ends with the suggestion that Aliens might wind up stalking the Earth in what is supposed to be the present day... can you say “goodbye series continuity”?
Granted, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about this project in the first place, but, if anything, I’m far more forgiving than the devoted fans on whose foreheads Fox will be thumping this mushroom bruise of a motion picture. This is a Viking Funeral for both franchises that will result in a quick payoff for the studio. Maybe that’s for the best.
But, hey, I’m still kinda looking forward to RESIDENT EVIL 2.