From the moment Danny Glover walked past the trophy case on board the alien ship in Predator 2, and we were teased with the image of a xenomorph skull amidst the Predator's trophy case, minds worked feverishly to develop a world in which these two iconic film monsters could co-exist. Dark Horse Comics beat the movie studios to the punch with the release of the first Aliens vs. Predator comic book series, and led to many more confrontations in the form of more comics as well as a few really solid novels. The film, which had been in development hell for the better part of a decade, finally fell into the lap of Resident Evil/Soldier director Paul W.S. Anderson, who embraces only a few elements of the comic book series, while eschewing much of what made those comics so damned good.
When an energy spike in Antarctica registers on a satellite owned by the Weyland corporation, an ancient temple is discovered 2000 feet below the frozen continent's surface. The company's dying president, Charles Bishop Weyland (Henrikson), employs a group of experts in fields ranging from bio-chemistry and archaeology, to carbon dating and ice climbing so that he may lay claim to the discovery and leave his "mark" on the world. Alexa Woods (Lathan), the resident ice climber/guide, at first balks at Weyland's proposed expedition, but feels that the group is better served by her being there than not, and reluctantly agrees to lead them on the harrowing trek beneath the ice. However, when they arrive, a hole has already been dug by mysterious means, and the team lower themselves down to investigate. The explorers set off a trigger that turns the temple into a giant, ever evolving maze that soon reveals itself to be an ancient hunting ground created by the Predator's human followers thousands of years before. When Weyland's people realize they've been summoned to this spot to serve as hosts for the Predator's prey (the Aliens), it's already too late, and the survivors have to fight to escape amidst a small war between the dueling species.
Alien Vs. Predator is something of a jumbled, incoherent mess of ideas and images. It's a bit like a book of poetry authored by someone suffering from attention deficit disorder; showing signs of brilliance but, ultimately, amounting to little more than a series of disjointed ideas that hint at greater intentions. What we are given is a long set up in which we are introduced to a series of characters whose soul purpose seems to be to provide a means by which the aliens can hatch so that the few decently developed characters have something to run away from. Henrikson does his usual "dour old guy" thing, and Sanaa Lathan's Alexa puts on a brave face as this film's answer to Ripley, but the remaining cast are like those caricatures that round out the squads in old World War 2 movies; the indian, the farm boy, the Italian, the joker, etc.
For an Alien/Predator film, AvP is a remarkably bloodless affair. To be honest, it's often hard to discern what's going on at all, but what little violence there is occurs offscreen, save for the Alien/Predator fisticuffs which result in an assortment of various coloured pools of goo. When people die, the camera usually cuts to blood splattering against a wall, or an empty hallway filled with the victim's echoing screams.
My main problem with the film, however, is that the whole plot hinges on the humans doing specific things that the Predators have no way of assuring they would do. For example, the humans discover Predator weapons, and remove them from the case they are in. This triggers the release of alien eggs into a chamber where a few hapless members of Weyland's team are trapped, thus giving the aliens hosts from which to spawn. How could the Predators have possibly known humans would be in both of those locations, let alone figure out the ludicrously complex puzzle to open the weapons chamber to begin with?
What happens if the humans don't discover the weapons at all? Is the hunt off? Do the Predators go away for another hundred years to come up with a better plan?
Why the big "scheme" to lure humans there in the first place, when we know the Predators are well capable of simply kidnapping a bunch of backwater tribesmen no one would miss and stuffing the alien eggs down their throats themselves?!
I'll tell you why. If they did something like that, the movie would be ten minutes long, and Anderson wouldn't be able to show off all of the money he spent on this giant set that looks really cool when it's swathed in smoke and blue lights.
I remember leaving the theater thoroughly disgusted by Alien vs. Predator, but, somehow, I must have mellowed considerably since, as I found myself sort of enjoying the film on DVD. I think a lot of that had to do with listening to the much maligned Paul W.S. Anderson's commentary track, in which the guy sounds so sincerely jazzed about the project that his excitement is palpable. I also think AvP just "plays" better as home viewing, which may like an odd thing to say about an effects-heavy "event picture" but it's true. The film moves along at a nice pace, looks and sounds fantastic on DVD, and was just a lot more fun than it was in the theater, at least for me. It's still a silly film, filled with plot holes and dumb logic, but I still had some fun with it.
This unrated edition features eight minutes of extra footage, with more expository stuff, extra dialogue, and a few extended scenes. None of this extra footage makes AvP any better or worse than the previously available cut; it only makes it a touch longer. To be honest, there are some moments that should have stayed on the cutting room floor (including a bit of foreshadowing to the film’s climax that features a groaner of a line), but for the most part, these extra eight minutes are so widely scattered and unobtrusive that you probably won’t even notice them.
The real deal here are the bounty of extras; the spoils of the double-dip DVD!
Fox loads up pretty much everything but the kitchen sink here, with two discs worth of featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage, commentary tracks, deleted and alternate scenes, and much more. The set also features the theatrical version of the film, so you can all feel free to drag your old, outdated (by two months or so) versions of the film to the local used DVD shop and pawn it off to offset the cost of this one.
So while this unrated edition will surely disappoint fans who were hoping to see Lance Henrikson’s head gruesomely torn from his shoulders or hear a bunch of F-bombs, those who liked the theatrical version will welcome the extra footage, and be thrilled by the held-back bonus material.