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Not for the purists...
on 31 December 2004
Aliens. Predators. You would have thought with two of the greatest cinenmatic monsters in one film, it'd be difficult to get it wrong. Still, Paul 'WS' Anderson does a fairly good job. This time a team of Arctic explorers led by Charles Bishop Weyland (the founding 'father' of the 'Company' from the Alien series) are drawn to a temple in the antartic after it's identified by satellite. Thus begins an hour and a half of thrills, spills, schlock horror and a total absence of anything to put it on a par with the franchises that spawned it.
Which is not to say that it's a bad film. Whether or not you enjoy Alien vs. Predator is really dependent on what you're expecting. If you're looking for the intelligent plot exposition you found in the first 3 Alien movies, you're likely to be heavily disappointed. If, however, you're looking for the gratuitous gore (albeit largely Predator / Alien) and sense of suspense that went with the first Predator film, then you're a lot more likely to walk away happy.
AVP is somewhat of a mixed bag. Anderson is definitely a man who believes in old school cinematics (he wisely dispensed with the use of CGI unless it was absolutely necessary), but some of the cinematography and editing leaves a lot to be desired (one of the main AVP fights is shot so close and edited so quickly that it makes it very difficult to really see what's going on). For the most part however, the film retains a palpable sense of tension throughout and is a guaranteed to provide a few jumps and thrills for first time viewers. Special mention should be made for the set design which is superb and quite convincing - it's obvious where Andersons forte lies...
Where the film does fall down though, is on its script and storyline. The script is almost unnecessary - merely providing a vehicle from which to jump from one fight to the next. The actors make the best of what they're given, but ultimately much of the dialogue is cheesy and unsatisfying. As for the storyline - it broke so many rules of the Alien franchise (there's no Ripley, the suggestion that Charles Weyland provided the prototype for the Bishop android, the discovery of the Alien creature prior to the events of Alien, the lack of further exposition of the Alien lifecycle etc.) that many of the diehard fans from the original franchise must have run screaming for their Quadrilogy boxsets. Thankfully though, the film was never meant to be philosophised about in the same way as the originals and can only be taken at face value - it would have been far worse had Anderson attempted something more complex. Having said that though; it is sad that there is too much which is left unexplained or uncovered in this film - it simultaneously expects the audience to have an appreciation and understanding of the original franchises and to also ignore them due to the glaring continuity errors.
Ignoring the originals though, is ultimately the answer to appreciating AVP - if you can see it for what it is (an entertaining action romp with lots of monsters) then you're likely to think it's fantastic. For purists though - this is best avoided and filed away with 'Alien Resurrection'.
On the DVD itself you'll find an extended version with a different beginning (readers of the book will already know of the plot line set in the early 20th Century), some deleted scenes (nothing special, but a couple which would have been nice had they been included), commentary from the director, Sanaa Lathan and Lance Henriksen, a making of featurette and on the DVD - Rom some features on the original Dark Horse comics. Probably worth the extra £3 you'd shell out over the 1 disc edition.
With regards to the deleted scenes and added beginning - for fans who were disappointed with the lack of gore and low rating of the movie in theatres - this will do nothing to change their opinion, nor will it do much to rectify some of the plot holes - these scenes are curiosities; nothing more. The title 'Extreme Edition' is possibly a little misleading and I daresay only placed in order to play upon these hopes.
Overall though, for the average horror film fan with nothing better to do, this film is an entertaining piece of popcorn fiction and worth a look.