Tuesday, July 8, 2014

AVP

There's a throwaway, look-quick-or-you'll-miss-it scene early in AVP  (2004) (Alien vs. Predator, in case you didn't know), that sets the tone for what we're about to watch. The scene takes place in a tracking outpost where various scientific types are watching several monitors and screens. Most of the watched screens contain hard data of some kind: maps, numbers, text, etc. But one screen is showing a black-and-white film. That film is FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN (1943), which was the first monster movie to feature two previously established franchise creatures, both of whom were owned by Universal studios.

That's the case with AVP, in which two hugely profitable cinematic monster franchises, both owned by 20th Century Fox studios, meet for the first time. That's right, it's Alien (or in this case Aliens) and Predator (ditto, Predators). AVP is an old-fashioned monster vs. monster smack down with a small band of hapless humans caught in the crossfire.

The action takes place in an ancient and enormous pyramid found buried deep beneath the ice on an island off of the coast of Antarctica. The pyramid shows similarities with those found in Mexico, Egypt and Cambodia but how can that be? A scientific expedition has been assembled by Charles Bishop Weyland, a billionaire technology guru. Bishop is played by ALIENS veteran Lance Henriksen and it says something about the budget for AVP that he's the only recognizable name in a cast chock full of nobodies. Sanaa Lathan, anyone? Raoul Bova? 

Once inside the pyramid, the team inadvertently triggers a series of ancient mechanisms which trap the explorers, cause an enormous Alien queen to awaken and start giving birth and alert a team of Predators that their ancient happy hunting ground is open for business again after one hundred years. Oh, and all of those sliding stone walls, trap doors, and pivoting slabs serve as a visual nod to another popular film franchise. They're straight out of INDIANA JONES. 

The Predators come to hunt and kill the Aliens, all but one of the humans is left alive and it's up to her (in a nod to Sigourney Weaver in both ALIEN and ALIENS) to defeat the rampaging Alien queen. 

AVP delivers what it promises. It's a straight ahead B monster movie, with two classic monster species instead of one. The special effects are well done and the action is fast and furious. The original films of the respective franchises are still the best but AVP makes an interesting footnote to both of the series. If you loved FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, you'll enjoy AVP.There are worse ways to spend a summer afternoon than watching a bunch of monsters kill each other. 


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