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In this edition of The Silver Liningwe’ll be discussing Paul W.S. Anderson‘s ambitious crossover, Alien vs Predator.

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At first glance, Alien vs Predator sounds like an incredibly obvious idea. After all, both intellectual properties are conveniently owned by the same parent company and occupy equally iconic spaces in a popular culture (they’re also simultaneously aliens and predators, adding to the similarities). Of course, the deeper you dig, the more you’ll realize that these franchises are fundamentally different in ways that really make you appreciate how writers had to creatively bend and twist decades lore in order to combine the cosmic horror of Xenomorphs with the ritualistic bloodshed of the Yautja.

That’s why it’s not surprising that it took so long for this crossover to hit theaters. While AVP comics have been published since the late 80sa cinematic adaptation was originally teased back in 1990, when a Xenomorph skull showed up at the end of the underrated Predator 2. This simple easter egg sparked years of rumors that we’d finally see a version of this epic confrontation on the big screen.

Unfortunately, despite the crossover franchise finding massive success in the world of comics and videogames, a proposed film would become trapped in development hell for over a decade, with Fox unsure of what direction to take the story. During this time, AVP passed through the hands of several accomplished writers and filmmakers like Peter Briggs and Roland Emmerich.

It was only when Paul WS Anderson showed up with a pitch powered by concept art by famed creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos that 20th Century Fox finally decided to greenlight production. This led the director to abandon Resident Evil: Apocalypse in order to focus on what he thought was the bigger project, recruiting Shane Salerno to cowrite the script.

Like several other Alien-affiliated with spin-offs, the plot borrowed elements from HP Lovecraft and Erich von Däniken, following a group of explorers funded by Charles Bishop Weyland (played by the legendary Lance Henriksen) as they venture into a long-forgotten pyramid buried under Antarctic ice. Unfortunately, their expedition unwittingly leads them right into the middle of a centuries-long battle between the titular Aliens and Predators. And like the tagline says: “whoever wins… we lose!”.

When the first trailer dropped, audiences were genuinely stoked to finally see these intergalactic titans face each other in a proper cinematic showdown combining the best elements of each franchise.


SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

Alien vs Predator review

AVP raked in a solid $177 million on a $70 million budget, but the flick’s dismal 21% score on Rotten Tomatoes tells you everything you need to know about its critical response. Back in 2004, the film was actually considered the worst entry in either franchise (which I think was wrong even then), with reviewers lamenting its cartoonish script and general lack of tension.

Even the holy trinity of James Cameron, Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver were famously opposed to the movie, thinking that the crossover sounded like an awful attempt to milk both franchises to death. Curly, Arnold Schwarzenegger offered to show up for a brief cameo in the picture if he failed to be elected as the Governor of California, though we all know how that turned out.

Of course, the most common complaint about the film was about how tame it felt when compared to previous entries in both franchises. It’s strange that a studio would decide to greenlight a project about creatures known for brutally skinning their victims alive and forcefully impregnating them with flesh-eating parasites only to refrain from showing these things in the finished picture. At one point, there was a rumor that the studio had forced Anderson to cut the film down to PG-13, but the director and screenwriter have since revealed that the theatrical cut was always the movie that they had intended to make.

There are other issues as well, such as the controversial decision to depict the Predators as somewhat sympathetic figures, with even their reptilian designs being toned down in order to help audiences to bond with the lead hunter when he ends up partnering with Sanaa Lathan‘s final girl, Alexa Woods. It’s also a shame that the Predalien was relegated to sequel bait rather than being used for a unique final battle.

It may have been better received than its 2006 sequel (though the messy production of Requiem could be an article in and of itself), but Alien vs Predator ultimately devolves into a sci-fi themed wrestling match that doesn’t quite capture the eldritch horror of Alien or the balls-to-the-wall action of Predator.


THE SILVER LINING

Alien vs Predator movie

The Silver Lining is usually reserved for finding the worthwhile elements in less-than-stellar movies, but in this case, I’m thoroughly convinced that Alien vs Predator is a legitimately fun sci-fi romp that just had the bad luck of releasing during the wrong age of blockbusters. It’s still a shame that the film is so mild when compared to its predecessors, but the PG-13 rating is also responsible for allowing the filmmakers to go all-out on this big-budget adventure.

The scope of this story was anything we’d seen from either franchise before, and it even touched on some of the same fringe ideas that would make Prometheus such an interesting Alien prequel 8 years later. And while many critics compared to the picture to sci-fi-themed wrestling, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Anderson knew exactly what audiences expected from this clash of extraterrestrial titans, and he did his best to craft a crowd-pleasing shlock-fest.

Time has also been very kind to AVP‘s effects work and production design, with the film relying on impressive sets and costumes that still hold up nearly two decades later. This was actually the last time that we would see believable Xenomorphs on film (though I’m happy to say that the Predator franchise still mostly rely on practical monsters), and the flick also featured a life-sized Alien Queen that was the most advanced animatronic monster of the early 2000s.

With the creative dilution of modern blockbusters, I’m certain that Alien vs Predator would have been a much bigger hit had it been released today. In fact, even James Cameron eventually changed his mind about the movie and placed it third on his ranking of the Alien films, accepting it as a big-budget B-movie.

To be honest, I kind of wish that Alien vs Predator had spawned a long-running franchise like other big 2000s action/horror hybrids in the vein of Resident Evil and Underworld, especially if the filmmakers could have gotten away with more blood and guts. The way I see it, the flick’s PG-13 rating is the only thing holding it back from being a classic midnight movie, but the experience is still charming enough to be worth revisiting as is. At the very least, it should keep fans entertained until Disney decides that it’s time to bring these heavy hitters back for another round of extraterrestrial bloodshed.


Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with The Silver Liningwhere we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks.

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