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Photograph by Jurgen Vollmer

Millennium Grope: Lance Henriksen pays for his many bad career decisions by having to endure as the one link to the original film in 'Alien vs. Predator.'

Crabface vs. Squidhead

'Alien vs. Predator': No matter who wins, we snooze away 100 minutes

By Richard von Busack

IN RE Alien vs. Predator, the plaintiff claims that the defendant has caused him, or rather it, grievous pain and suffering through the following: many incidents of premeditated face hugging, chest bursting and reckless and malicious egg laying. Moreover, he, or rather it, seeks compensation for burns caused by the defendant's acid blood. Blood that he himself spilled, your honor. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Predator.

Your honor, I submit an appeal to this verdict. We moviegoers have a long business history with the Alien. The Predator is claimed to be the more sympathetic "humanoid" in Paul W.S. Anderson's Alien vs. Predator. My client, a hard-working single mother of a hungry brood, is judged inferior to the Predator, a trophy hunter on safari. This interstellar gadabout is judged more heroic than the "serpent"—as my client, the Alien, is slandered in the screenplay. I put it to the court that the Predator is but a washed-up former co-star of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite his interesting mandible-waving Dungeness crab-like face, the Predator is just another masked knife wielder, like Freddy or Jason. Your honor, the Alien series has been called "the thinking-man's franchise," bringing out the best in directors such as David Fincher, Ridley Scott and the team of Jeunet and Caro. Is it fair or just to make the Alien a second banana for the likes of the Predator?

Let us recap. "We came to the pyramid, all imbedded in ice" (Bob Dylan). Dying millionaire Charles Weyland (Lance Henriksen) observes a heat signature on an island near Antarctica. He assembles the blandest action crew since the rescuers of Ice Station Zebra. They discover an ancient pyramid, combining elements of Cambodian, Egyptian and Mayan cultures. Big deal. In L.A., Cambodian-Mayan-Egyptian is commonly found in vernacular architecture; they used to build tire factories in that style. This particular pyramid is actually a Chariot of the Gods thing, created by aliens as their version of a WWF arena.

The cast is picked off in the subterranean dark of its catacombs. The surviving virgin is Alex (Sanaa Lathan, the delectable bad girl in Out of Time). She has her game face on throughout the movie, and it freezes. The iconic business where she uses an Alien skull as a buckler is clever, but the cast doesn't have much personality, thanks to the arid dialogue. ("You want a piece of me, you ugly son of a bitch?") It took an unseemly amount of time for Ewen Bremner, as the member of the crew who kept showing off pictures of his children, to get what was coming to him. Usually, he's the first to go—take that, Mr. Family Man! To Anderson's credit, the movie spares us digital graphics in favor of puppetry and costumes, which is just as recognizably fake, but somehow more 3-D to the eye. Even watching the two creatures finally tangoing doesn't make up for an hour of torpid preparation, so much so that when Weyland starts gasping from "a little too much excitement," you wonder what he could possibly mean.

Alien vs. Predator (PG-13; 100 min.), directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, written by Anderson, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, photographed by David Johnson and starring Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen, plays valleywide.

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From the August 18-24, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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