Alien Vs. Predator 2 (a review)

The ultimate in sci-fi geek crossovers strikes again!

Once upon a time, there were a whole bunch of sci-fi movies and sequels about two dreadful types of dribbling fanged space-monsters, each with attributes that left the human species pretty close to vegetable matter on the food chain. One type had face hugging spider crawlies, chest-bursty larvae, little mouth-tongue snappy things and acid blood. They could take out entire colonies of people, and entire troops of highly-armed space marines with terrifying efficiency. The other type of aliens had invisibility camouflage, infra-red vision, glowing green blood and a whole host of gadgets and toys. One of them single-handedly wiped out a bunch of soldiers, skinning them and hanging them in trees, and it totally beat the crap out of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Then somebody thought, “Hello, these aliens are pretty tough. Who would win in a fight?” This whole idea, usually restricted to matches between the Death Star and the Enterprise, was hammered home by a throw-away scene in the second Predator movie, where the Predator’s skull collection was seen to include the skull of an Alien alien. It was the stuff of nerd daydreams.

So there was an arcade game, which I never played but was apparently pretty good. Then they went ahead and made the first Alien Vs. Predator movie, which was funny and had a strange Stargate-style premise, with plenty of blood and gore and a good body-count. Oh yeah, and Bishop from the Alien movies, and a few fun inter-movie references that we real nerds could pick up on and use to buttress our fairytale castles of superiority.

The movie ended with the Predators sort of winning, and flying off into space. The body of one of their fallen comrades was then revealed to have been impregnated by an Alien, which burst out of the Predator’s chest revealing that it had the distinctive Predator mouth – you know, like a Goatse lobster.

The sequel took me completely by surprise, we were looking for a movie to go and see in an idle moment and there it was. I never even knew it was going to happen. I certainly hadn’t thought the box office results of the first movie had been good enough to warrant it … and yet, Eragon.

Alien Vs. Predator 2 takes up exactly where the previous movie left off, with the hybrid-alien running amock on the Predator ship and causing it to crash back onto Earth. The fuck-up is witnessed somehow by a Predator with way too much time on its hands back on Predatorion IV (not its real name), who then sets off in its own spaceship to secure the area and dispose of witnesses or something.

It’s all very fun. The hybrid-alien gets free and runs off, and some face-huggers also get free and impregnate a hunter and his kid who find the crashed spaceship. I was expecting a certain amount of Hollywood caution with the whole “killing of the innocent” thing, but it seems Hollywood is finally growing out of that ridiculously outdated habit.

Hilarity ensues when the Predator arrives with its bottle of magic acid and starts wiping out witnesses and evidence even as the little nearby town starts to get its ass kicked from multiple directions. A pitched battle between humans, human-born Aliens, other humans, the Predator, some more humans and the Predator-Alien hybrid begins, with the obligatory semi-naked chick causing tension between the unlikely hero and the astonishingly stupid, impossibly obnoxious jocks who seem really important and daunting until the invisible hunting guy with ninja stars and the dribbling chomp monsters with the little mouth-tongue snappy things come out to play.

What I liked about this film:

The body count. They went all-out. I mean seriously, the Aliens colonise a hospital and they totally eat a bunch of babies and pregnant mothers, and do other weird genetic stuff to them as well for some reason. They kill the kid and his wholesome deer-hunting dad, and – wonder of wonders – they kill the semi-naked love interest of the unlikely hero, in a completely hilarious way. They also kill the jock in a manner proportionate to his crime, by having his head dissolved by acid, in fact they come perilously close to killing everybody. And then the Government flies in and blows everything up with a miniature nuke.

The aliens. Well, duh. Aliens are cool, Predators are cool, you have to work pretty hard to put those two together and not end up with something cool. And as many times as I see it, I never fail to get a kick out of the complete clusterfuck that ensues when Aliens burst out of hiding in the middle of an elite human military group.

What I didn’t like about this film:

It was too dark and too fast. I know it’s a legitimate film technique, but in movies like this it was only ever used to disguise the fact that the latex and fibreglass aliens of the 80s and early 90s looked gay. Now they are mostly, if not entirely CGI, and there’s no need to hide them in shadows or bounce from angle to angle to keep the audience from seeing the strings. Linger over them lovingly. Give us some Matrix-style slow-motion shots like you did in the first AvP movie. We nerds love that sort of thing, and we’ll thank you for it at the box office.

Okay, much as I guess it must be heartwarming to some viewers to see the usual high school drama re-enacted in every sci-fi movie, we don’t need it. This is a movie with Aliens and Predators fighting it out in what I believe was the same little forest town in which the first Rambo movie went down. We have everything we need. The “boy meets girl, girl is dating jock for some unfathomable reason, jock beats up boy, girl complains at jock, alien chomp monster kills jock, boy gets girl” story, though tried and true, is really surplus to requirements. The only thing that saves the story in this case was the additional final chapter, “girl is accidentally brutally impaled by other alien who was totally aiming for somebody else and dies pinned to a wall by a ninja star”. Quality.

How do Aliens reproduce again? I thought I had it. In the first movie, we have a bunch of eggs on a derelict spaceship and one of them gets aboard the Nostromo and eventually gets killed. In the second movie, same derelict spaceship, only this time a female colonist is face-huggered and presumably gets impregnated with a Queen, which turns the human colony into a new nest. In the third movie, one face-hugger gets Ripley and lays a Queen in her (from the fact that the Alien gestated not in her chest, but in her womb, I retroactively deduce that only women can gestate Queens, or at least that’s the way they prefer to roll), the other face-hugger gets a dog and lays an Alien in the dog. In the fourth movie, Ripley and the Queen embryo are cloned and they each retain a bit of the other, so Ripley has acidic blood and superhuman strength, the Queen is able to reproduce in a creepy-as-fuck semi-human way. So, in this movie, we have … what? A bunch of Aliens get into a maternity ward and suddenly they’re all breeding in weird ways. What was that? I don’t get it.

Also, the gestation times for Aliens fluctuate wildly according to narrative requirements. Which is gay.

Not enough in-jokes. The final scene with the Yutani woman collecting the Predator guns is fun, and might lead to another interconnected story at some point … but that’s not enough. I wanted the unlikely hero brothers to be named Ripley, or something. They could have put in some effort.

The Predator-Alien hybrid was lame. It had the funny mouth and the tentacle-dreds, but that was about it. Sure, I couldn’t expect it to have invisibility or infra-red vision or anything, those are supplied by the Predator machinery, but it could have been faster, stronger, larger than the human-born Aliens. Maybe it was – see my previous point about how fast and dark the movie was – but it wasn’t noticeable. It really should have been a Queen-level boss monster, especially since there were no real Queens. Instead, it was just a slightly different-looking version of the other Aliens, that needed to be killed off. There were some complexities to its behaviour, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Don’t let it be said, however, that the number of bad points vs. number of good points means I didn’t enjoy the movie. It was fine. You can’t expect too much from an Alien Vs. Predator movie. This was a solid effort. I hope they make more.

Maybe in the next one, the Aliens and the Predators can take on the Transformers. I give Alien vs. Predator: Requiem a the-movie-we-got out of a potential that-movie.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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