AVP: Alien vs. Predator 2004 ★★★

We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to film; this is most certainly one of mine and I'm happy to admit it. Alien vs Predator has very little sense of character, a frequently terrible script and the direction swiftly descends into an overblown mess of simply two iconic science-fiction species duking it out, both of which have been far better served in their own franchises. But... damn it, I never fail to enjoy the heck out of this film. I enjoy it for many of the reasons above and, though this isn't saying much, it's one of very few Paul WS Anderson movies that doesn't make me want to punch the man in the soul.

For the first 30 or so minutes, it's without doubt a better movie; Anderson introduces our players and gives us a perfectly solid lead in Sanaa Lathan's ice guide, while the supporting characters are propped up by genre favourites such as Ewen Bremner, Colin Salmon and Lance Henriksen - providing a very clear strand of DNA to the earlier Alien movies as the forerunner to the Weyland corporation and the Bishop android. Granted, they're nothing beyond 2D creations but Anderson sets up an interesting mythology behind the AVP face off - remote Antarctic locations, ancient temples, long-lost civilisations; all of that stuff floats my boat personally and it's a really good idea to give some history to the universe, and a logical tether between these races. It's only when the aliens in question stop lurking in the shadows and emerge it goes a bit wonky and haywire - Anderson having not had the word subtle wired into his brain from birth, meaning far too much is thrown at us (in terms of visuals, story, dialogue) and perhaps far too quickly, we not really pausing for breath for anything to logically click. Yet it's well shot - the action beats aren't confusing and the production design is frequently excellent. Anderson cribs from every Alien and Predator movies that came before, but he's often quite shameless about it - hence why I find it hard to judge or come down hard; it feels like a movie that knows full well what it is, and stays within that box perfectly adequately.

To this day, I honestly don't get why people rag so much on Alien vs Predator. Yes the final shot is a very bad plot turn (which led to an execrable sequel) but beyond that, it's got everything a B-movie sci-fi action fest needs - disposable characters, an epic setting, a decent budget to bring it to life and a narrative that at least attempts in concept to be inventive with its ideas. Of course it's a bad movie when compared to Predator, Prometheus or the first two Aliens, but give me this over Alien 3 or Resurrection any day - at least Anderson knows how to entertain and, ultimately, that's why this is one of those slightly crap movies I fully enjoy.

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