“Slime of your life.”
Initially inspired by a throwaway joke in Predator 2 – an alien skull in the Predator’s trophy cabinet – this has been some time in the making. Seven years have passed since the last entry in the Alien franchise, and fourteen since P2. Comics and video games have beaten the movie to the screen, and if truth be told, this film bears more resemblance to them than anything else. This is no surprise, given director Anderson helmed both Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. Interestingly, it takes place pre-Alien, in the present day. A pyramid is discovered deep under the ice on an island near Antarctica; industrialist Charles Weyland (Henriksen) puts together a team to investigate, led by Alexa (Lathan), the kind of lady who free-climbs ice-walls for kicks. They soon find that the pyramid is a training compound where, every 100 years, the Predators come to hunt aliens, with humans hosts for the acid-blooded critters
It’s a totally ludicrous concept. The Alien life-cycle, from hatching, through infection and chest-bursting, to full-sized monsterhood, is now ridiculously fast. In an idea lifted from Cube, the pyramid floor-plan changes configuration precisely every ten minutes – even though the “minute” wasn’t invented (by the Babylonians, fact fans) when this supposedly “first pyramid” was built. And expending such effort on a stadium used a couple of hours per century is wildly implausible.
There’s never any doubt who the stars are here, and it’s not the humans, who engage in such cliched behavious as showing photos of their kids – which, as we all know, is a death sentence in this kind of film. In addition, they persist in using hand-held flares when they possess perfectly good flashlights, for no reason other than to create spooky shadows. Alexa’s bilingual sidekick Sebastian (Bova) is intensely irritating in both English and Italian, but fortunately the heroine herself makes a decent impression, improving as the film goes on in much the same way as Ripley did in the original. Of course, Lathan is not Sigourney Weaver – but neither was Weaver when she started. [Er, if you see what I mean…]
The film steps up towards the end, finally delivering what we all came to see: full-on, three-way carnage, climaxing in Alexa + Predator vs. the Alien Queen. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was cool, and the thought crossed my mind: with two of the three combatants being female, is the Predator perhaps one too? If so, this would probably be the ultimate in brawlin’ broads. However, the best moment is actually a flashback to an earlier cycle, with the Predators atop a pyramid, up which thousands of Aliens are swarming. It makes you wish they’d dropped us altogether and just let the titular twosome go at it, head-on.
There are a couple of nice nods to the inspirations, such as Lance Henriksen’s presence in the cast, albeit not playing an android this time. Alexa at one point almost echoes Arnie’s line, “You’re one ugly motherfucker!”, though doesn’t get to complete it, thanks to the film’s PG-13 rating. It’s hard to deny the toning-down this requires hampers the production, limiting the amount of violence that can be done (to the humans, at least – on both Alien and Predator planets, this would likely still be rated R). The effects are mostly adequate to well-done, though Anderson’s style is to cut fast rather than linger so we could give them any scrutiny.
The end result is a disappointment that works better as a high concept than on the screen. Part of the problem is that we’re never given any reason to root for anyone, from anywhere in the universe. The Aliens are the villains, who must be contained at any cost – fair enough. However, the Predators are equally opaque, and most of the human characters are a far cry from, say, Aliens‘ marine corps. Sure, they were sterotypes, but they proved you could quickly create endearing and memorable characters with well-chosen dialogue. In contrast, there are few memorable lines to be found here. Indeed, few moments will stick in your mind at all – and when they do, you may find yourself wishing they had slid right on past, such as the moment where a facehugger suddenly enters The Matrix. Hey, now there’s an idea for a crossover: Neo and Trinity take on the extra-terrestrials. Quick, where’s my typewriter?
Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Star: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewan Bremner