Customer Review

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of AVP, May 22, 2005
This review is from: AVP: Alien vs. Predator (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
While most critics have dripped acid on Paul Anderson's "Alien vs. Predator," apparently due to prima facie objections to the very idea of a non-courtroom-drama with the word "versus" in the title, I was pleasantly surprised by AVP.

Is AVP as great as 1986's "Aliens"? Nope. But I think comparing AVP to "Aliens" is to employ the wrong standard. AVP is not competing with that film, in much the same way that "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" was not competing with the sensational "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." No, "Star Trek VI" was competing with the largely reviled "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier." Similarly, AVP is really competing with the oppressively dark, fundamentally unappealing "Alien 3" and strangely goofy, utterly unexciting "Alien Resurrection"; the last Predator movie, 1990's "Predator 2," was released so long ago and did such middling box office that it hardly figures in the popular imagination anymore.

Some have complained about AVP's characters, arguing that they're mere sketches compared to the colorful, indelible personalities that James Cameron provided us in "Aliens," and John McTiernan gave us in "Predator." While true, it's worth pointing out that the original "Alien" "suffers" from the same "problem," so much so that a defensive Ridley Scott once said, "The characters in 'Alien' are as defined as they need to be, no more and no less." Just as the characters in "Alien" were largely, nay, archetypically defined by their professions and their professionalism (or lack thereof), the characters in AVP are defined by their jobs and the proficiency with which they do them.

Some have also complained that many of AVP's characters are dispatched too quickly. However, that's part of what makes AVP interesting. It's a real throwback to horror films of yesteryear, films that weren't afraid to toss virtually everyone to the wolves. Just when you begin to think, "Oh, Anderson's spent too much time developing this character, giving him/her good lines and telling us stuff about his/her past, to just off him/her," that person buys it. It's delightfully perverse, and it's what the horror genre has historically been all about.

Then there are the complaints about the film's storyline, with some asserting that it's too simple (e.g. humans find buried pyramid; humans enter buried pyramid; sh*t hits fan) and others arguing that it overshoots the mark (e.g. humans enter buried pyramid and discover that it's remarkably complex, revealing all manner of information about the origins of human civilizations, namely that the titular Predators, much like the Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey," made a marked impact on the future course of homo sapiens long ago). But I had few problems with the film's premise. Even the rather silly, pulpy quality of AVP's grander narrative conceits didn't bother me that much. (Then again, such conceits didn't really bother me in "Stargate" either.) And the simpler aspects of AVP's plot were its strongest suits, for they grounded the movie in a kind of gritty, easily understood "reality," the kind of reality that was very effective in John Carpenter's better actioners, from "Assault on Precinct 13" to "Escape from New York."

Yes, it's true that AVP never achieves the epic heights of "Aliens," the best film from either franchise, a film so complex and dynamic that it required a running time of 137 minutes to tell its tale. But "Aliens" was, and remains, an exceedingly special film. "Aliens" is the like the filmic equivalent of one of those outsized rock songs from the 1970s, such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"; AVP, at approximately 100 minutes in length, is more like a Ramones tune: short but sweet.

In fact, two of AVP's biggest problems seem to be the result of breakneck-speed sloppiness: 1. the Alien lifecycle is inexplicably abbreviated, with chestbursters making their nasty debuts in tens of minutes rather than tens of hours; 2. the Predators' long-range weapons (e.g. spears and throwing stars) are acid-resistant, yet their close-quarters materiel (e.g. wrist blades and body armor) are not.

Regarding Issue One: I've read that Anderson accounted for this in the film, explaining that the Predators had injected bizarre hormones into the Alien Queen they'd captured to seed their battlegrounds, causing the eggs she produced to contain embryos that matured far more quickly than usual. This expository material was allegedly ordered cut by Fox because they felt it needlessly slowed the pacing of the film. If true, Anderson must be given a pass by the legions of angry fanboys who've ripped him a new one over this.

Regarding Issue Two: According to fanboys familiar with the AVP comic books, this is explained therein thusly: the Predators must earn every acid-resistant armament they receive. So if the Preds in the AVP movie didn't have acid-resistant wrist blades or body armor, that's on them. But it's also on Anderson to have somehow explained this in his film. However, I'm willing to let Anderson slide here, as the best characters in AVP to have provided this explanation were the Preds themselves, a decidedly taciturn group of individuals.

All in all, AVP did its job. With the exception of a handful of (de rigueur) overly-jittery/super-slow shutter-speed shots in otherwise well-made action sequences, AVP is a polished piece of work. Thanks to Anderson's direction, the ADI FX Workshop was forced to abandon the Mr. Hanky-looking design of the creature from "Alien 3," as well as the beastly, overly slimy appearance of the extraterrestrials from "Alien Resurrection," and provide the silver screen with its best looking xenomorphs since 1986. Moreover, if you can't bring yourself to buy it when Sanaa Lathan's Lex throws in with and throws down alongside the last-standing Big Ugly Motherf*cker, nor get certifiably juiced when the Alien Queen finally extricates herself from Predator-imposed bondage and goes on an angry rampage worthy of a T-Rex in a "Jurassic Park" movie, then I'm afraid AVP simply isn't for you.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2012 10:23:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2012 10:26:46 AM PDT
Zillaman67 says:
I had to comment when I read that this reviewer spoke negatively about Ridley Scott's 'Alien'...not only is 'Alien' STILL the best of the bunch, with VERY colorful characters who all have their very own distinct personalities, but it also contains THE best looking set design, grandest scale and THE best looking Alien creature than ANY of the follow-ups (including Cameron's sequel). The entire atmosphere of 'Alien' is dark, brooding, creepy, and HUGE. From the opening credits, awesomely effective score, and build up upon finding the 'derelict craft'--THIS will always remain the 'standout' film in the franchise. NONE of the follow-ups could even attempt to shatter our senses and nerves when we did not know what was happening to Kane when the phalic steel-toothed serpentine 'chestburster' exploded from his chest! And Carlo Rambaldi's realization of H.R. Giger's designs was PHENOMENAL! The 'less is more' approach of quick cuts and slow reveal of the entire physical structure of the beast was also more intense in my book. As for Alien 3--this film was MUCH underrappreciated at the time of release...and anyone who has seen the 'Special Edition' 'work cut' will know how much BETTER this sequel COULD have been. The 'look' of the Alien in Part 3 was also bashed by 'G.X.'--which in MY opinion looked MUCH better than Cameron's 'Domeless' -'ALIENS!' When Jim decided to nix the translucent dome-the Aliens just LOST something. Kudos to Fincher for adding it back in! Cameron's 'Alien Queen' was fantastic-credit where credit is due--but aside from Ripley, Hicks, Paul Reiser's irritating company character, Hudson and Bishop--HIS film is LOADED with cardboard cutout characters with average acting abilities. And if Mr. X knows anything about the Aliens themselves-he'd realize the shape and speed of Fincher's Alien was due to the fact that the Aliens adapt to THEIR HOSTS. Being 'birthed' by a Rottweiler explains the lack of tubes, and the lengthened legs with dog-like feet-as well as the creatures SPEED. Cameron turning a SLOW MOVING chameleon-esque creature into a running, flipping, jumping acrobatic monster always had me wishing they'd stayed true to the original alien incarnation. the notion of an unstoppable creature that bled acid and had steel teeth with inner (again--chameleon-like) tongue with teeth that punched holes in your skull was a scary thought indeed. And as for the 'overly slimey' Aliens from 'Alien: Resurrection' (another great sequel that was panned mostly)--these aliens were not only the closest to Mr. Scott's ORIGINAL 'Alien'--but were the DIRECT influence for AVP's creatures! Not only that-but they were also created by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr,-the SAME guys who have done the Aliens since working for Stan Winston ('Aliens'), and who did the creature FX for ALL the sequels right up to 'AVP'...the WORST looking Aliens? By FAR 'AVP: Requiem'...overly 'snarly' lips, and dissproportioned heads--again WITHOUT the domes. While I DID also enjoy AVP: Requiem, it is by far THE worst plot in the series...let's call it Alien:90210...right down to the fake cardboard 'Ripley-off' soldier girl. The 'Brothers Strauss' seemed to only care about ripping off 'Aliens' as much as they could, teenage sex and as much splatter as they could get away with. And BTW--if the original 'Alien' was so 'flawed'--how do you explain the RETURN of Ridley Scott with 'Prometheus'??? Can you say RE-BOOT because the franchise NEEDS it more than ever? This 'prequel' which is MUCH more than just that-will bring us back to the 'derelict ship', explain a bit about that 'Space Jockey' species, and what the 'Alien' itself actually IS...biological weapon meant to exterminate mankind? It has already been hinted at that the Space jockeys have ALOT to do with the Human Race (as in 'Ancient Astronaut Theory'), and this WILL be a return to the grand scale of the first (and by far superior) ALIEN film! The only other director who attempted to bring back that claustrophobic, dark and nasty feel of Ridley's film was David Fincher-a director who has more than proven himself since Alien 3--right up to it's Nihlistic downer ending-the film WORKS. And finally, fans ARE accepting it!!! For now--lets' raise our glasses to the return of the MASTER-Ridley Scott and 'PROMETHEUS!'

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 7, 2013 12:44:26 PM PST
Good review. I found AvP a fun "popcorn" movie. I liked it quite a bit and the Queen looked as good as ever.

Posted on Jul 31, 2013 9:25:01 PM PDT
T. Bollinger says:
This is a very well written review, regardless of how much I disagree or agree with your various points, so I just wanted send my compliments. I think this is the best defense I've seen thus far of PWS Anderson's AVP, and it makes me feel better about keeping it in my DVD/Blu-Ray collection as a sort of guilty pleasure. I think that it's an OK film with plenty of allusions to (much better) films of the sci-fi, action, and horror genres. It definitely didn't deserve the negative heat that it got, and it certainly wasn't the embarrassment to the Alien/Predator franchise that AVPR turned out to be several years later. Overall, I think that AVP is worth people's time, if only for a passing fun glance.

Posted on Oct 21, 2013 2:04:20 AM PDT
Possibly the best defense of the movie I've ever heard.
And I agree.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2013 10:58:51 AM PST
Sandman says:
Amen. Alien is by far the best. The creature effects (not counting the Ash scene) are WAY better than ANY subsequent film in the series or the AvP films. The eggs look REAL. The adult Alien is actually frightening in that film whereas in all later films, they seem more like giant insects to be avoided & exterminated...time to break out the industrial size can of Raid.

As for the characters, I'd MUCH rather have characters I can relate to (despite Jerry Goldsmith's comments regarding them...no disrespect intended, buy Goldsmith clearly looked down on 90% of society based on his comments about the crew of the Nostromo).

Unfortunately, as we've now seen, Prometheus failed to live up to that first Alien film. It was & is still entertaining and I do enjoy it, but I was disappointed on several levels.

All that said, I do enjoy the AvP films. They're a couple of fun popcorn flicks ala King Kong Vs. Godzilla and I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy that film and others like it (House of Frankenstein, etc). I personally prefer the second one to this one, though I detest the look of the "Cameron" aliens featured in it, period.
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