From the moment Predator was released in 1987, fans of it and the previously released Alien began speculating about a confrontation between the eponymous hunter and the H.R. Giger designed xenomorph. In 1989 a graphic novel pitted them against each other and an option was bought by Hollywood to turn it into a film. 15 years later, and after numerous script edits and changes in directors (at one point it was going to be penned by James Cameron and directed by him and Ridley Scott) Alien vs. Predator was brought to cinemas at the hands of Paul W.S. Anderson, the man who brought the world Resident Evil.
To say that Alien vs. Predator is something of a disappointment is an understatement. Anderson had the opportunity to thrill and excite an entire generation and launch what could’ve become one of the most popular franchises in film history. What he delivered was a sub-par monster movie of the kind made infamous by Ed Wood. The characters fail to be even archetypes and are cardboard cutouts and this doesn’t even consider the stale and almost inhuman dialogue.
Defenders of the Paul W.S. Anderson style of direction would argue that Alien vs. Predator is not about individual characterization or coherent plot, but is simply an excuse to have two iconic characters fighting each other, similar to Freddy vs. Jason. However you only have to look at the originals of each to realise that without the other elements in place, these characters would never have become so popular. Imagine if Alien had been directed in this style, we would never have got to the stage in the franchise.
This is not to say that Alien vs. Predator is without merit. The visual design is actually quite stunning and I challenge fans of either series not to feel a little excited when the xenomorph and the predator square off for the first time. It’s pure fanboy heaven. Sadly this feeling is quickly lost as the film churns through all of its good ideas in about 3 scenes and one of them is the final frame.
So what is to be learnt from Alien vs. Predator. Is it Paul W.S. Anderson can’t direct a coherent film? Not really, we already knew that from Resident Evil. Are the Alien and Predator characters not as exciting as we thought? Nope, Predators and the PR surrounding Prometheus have put pay to that. It is just a bad idea to combine two iconic elements in one film? Again no, The Avengers is proof that it can be done. So what then? I think sometimes a film is simply created to remind us that film-making is an art form and if left in the wrong hands, even the most solid gold idea, like Alien vs. Predator can be botched.