August 11, 2004

Alien vs. Predator
I’ve taken down the movie poster because I don’t feel like advertising for it. I don’t want to pick on anyone here, but Jeff Mackintosh said “It’ll be a good movie.” Here’s why you’re wrong, Jeff, even if you’re joking:

Alien and its principle sequels (Aliens and Alien 3) is about a world that might be, a future grown out of the present. Predator, while less meaningful and devoid of speculative futurism, is about a tangible crisis made worse by a more advanced hostile force from outside our little spot in the universe. They’re both frightening or thrilling in whatever way they are (and they are) because the sci-fi monster in each operates in an environment made realistic through details. Each operates on a very personal stage. They’re about people, at the same time that they’re about catastrophic aliens striking out from a hostile and unknowable cosmos.

Paul WS Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator, on the other hand, yanks the whole foundation out from the universes both of the existing franchises took place in. It doesn’t respect what’s come before. For example, in the Predator films, the menacing alien killer comes to Earth in areas of extreme heat (a sweltering jungle in one and LA during a killer heat-wave in the other)–giving us both a hint of information about the alien and a nice, viceral detail–but in Anderson’s carnival, the Predators make their home in the coldest environment on the planet. Did Anderson read that the existential terror of the Alien and Predator films was vaguely Lovecraftian and decide that they must also, therefore, be like At the Mountains of Madness?

Worse still, with its alternate alien-influenced history and transforming ancient temples, Alien vs. Predator takes place in a world that’s complete fantasy, with no foundation in reality or futurism. It doesn’t relate to us, the audience, in any way. Rather than being about the fate of ordinary people, as in the Alien franchise, or the failure of a culture’s best warriors in the face of an advanced enemy, as in Predator, Anderson’s characters seem to be from the liquidation section of the Crichton catalog: people with specialized knowledge we can’t relate to making decisions we can’t believe. The movie, by focusing on the alien vs. the Predator, doesn’t sound like it has any room for us humans in it. Doesn’t sound like it has much interest in us either.

No, I haven’t seen Alien vs. Predator, so I might be way off base here. Going off of Paul WS Anderson’s own interviews and the many reviews made available (despite an apparant shortage of press screenings) to me, though, it sounds like my instincts are right: Paul WS Anderson doesn’t get it. He’s just a second-rate circus organizer making money off of old stars who could use the work. I’ll bet the Predator’s got alimony to pay.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that Alien vs. Predator‘s disregard for the films that came before it may mean it is officially ignored by any talented filmmakers who choose to pursue works in those franchises. If I’m lucky, 20th Century Fox will just use the money of teenage ticket-buyers to make an Alien or Predator film I want to see.

In the meantime, I feel comfortable standing by my judgment of this movie even though I haven’t seen it. (If you know me, you know that’s against type.) The simple reason is this: I paid money to see Soldier and I won’t make a mistake like that again.


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