Wednesday, 11 May 2011

What Do You Mean You've Never Seen: Alien vs Predator

It has been said before that – with the exception of Star Wars and Star Trek – the Alien and Predator movies have to be the most loved sci-fi series in the world. This is mostly likely because they cross-over into the true mainstream with feet in both the horror and action genres, too, but whatever the real reason, we love them. So, in 1989, Dark Horse Comics crashed the two series together with the original Aliens vs Predator comic, by Randy Stradley and Chris Warner. I had the original trade-paperback, and I think it’s probably the first comic I ever had that got read so much that it fell apart.

Anyway, for the next fifteen years, the two faced off each other in novels, more comics and several highly successful video games – but the movie seemed to in a state of perpetual limbo. With both characters being owned by 20th Century Fox, one would have figured that this was an absolute no-brainer. Of course, this is the movie industry, and nothing is ever that simple.

When the Alien vs Predator movie appeared 2004, it was helmed by the simultaneously over and underrated Paul W.S. Anderson, director of E14 favourites Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil.

Anyway, as the movie starts, a satellite detects a mysterious heat bloom beneath an island just north of Antarctica. Wealthy industrialist Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen – Aliens, The Terminator, Pumpkinhead) assembles a team of scientists to investigate the heat source and claim it for his company, Weyland Industries. The team includes archaeologists, linguistic experts, drillers, mercenaries, and a guide named Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan – This, Nothing Else, For Years, Then Donna in The Cleveland Show).

As a Predator ship reaches Earth's orbit, it blasts a shaft through the ice towards the source of the heat bloom. When the humans arrive at the site above the heat source, an abandoned whaling station, they find the shaft and descend beneath the ice. They discover a mysterious pyramid underneath the ice and begin to explore it, finding evidence of a civilization predating written history and what appears to be a sacrificial chamber filled with human skeletons with ruptured rib cages. Which of course sets off alarm bells for the audience – but not so much for our protagonists.

Meanwhile, three Predators land and make their way down to the pyramid, arriving just as the team unwittingly powers up the structure – which causes an Alien Queen to awaken from stasis and begin producing eggs.

The thing is that – unlike a lot of movies that we’ve recommended to you before - it would be hard to put up an argument that Alien vs Predator is a great movie. It’s not. It has plot holes galore, paper-thin characters and showy cinematography. What it is, though, is essential viewing because of how fun it is. This is a movie whose plan from the start was making a movie that fans of the originals would enjoy, and it delivers pretty much everything that you want to see.

Crossover movies are a difficult territory. Usually the domain of Universal horror movies and various Kaiju movies (including Godzilla vs King Kong, which has to be a contender for one of the worst movies ever made), the only other movie in recent memory to do the full on crossover was 2003’s Freddy vs Jason. They have to walk a tight line of neutrality to make sure that both combatants come out of it looking good. Some may see this as fear of offending fans of one series over the other, but the reason is more likely that it would be a pretty crappy movie if the Aliens pissed all over the Predators, or vice-versa.

Alien vs Predator has such strong battle sequences because it plays to each of the species’ strengths. The Aliens have the edge in terms of stealth (most of the time), but in a straight-up fight, the Predators can take them down (most of the time). When watching, you always feel like each run-in could go either way, and that’s something that’s been a staple since the first comic. It’s a highly successful series because the two of them are so evenly matched.

As mentioned previously, there’s no way we could put up a convincing argument for this being a good film. No way. What it is, though, is a seriously fun film, and massively rewarding for fans of either (or, more likely, both) series.

Words: Brad Harmer
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.


Created by the team behind Green Wing and Smack The Pony and starring Andy Nyman and Joseph Millson, this off the wall new series is a laugh a minute sitcom that you cannot afford to miss!

Campus is a brand new comedy set in the hotbed of academic mediocrity that is Kirke University. At its helm is the stubby, mercurial Vice Chancellor Jonty de Wolfe, who wants nothing more than to drench Kirke in the juices of his own greatness.

As a scary cloud of financial doom hovers over the gently crumbling 60s concrete, Jonty attempts to pimp up Kirke in any way he can, whether it's faked alumni, kidnapped prodigies or a range of "Eau de Kirke" perfumery - but his lofty plans soar as gracefully as a porky tortoise and while the strangely unsettling puppet master plunges deeper into the pickle jar, the rest of Kirke's assorted staff get sidetracked by the more urgent dilemma of who to sleep with next.

The philandering English Professor Matt Beer is forced to up his game in all departments, as he makes no impression on shy Maths lecturer Imogen Moffat, who herself is consumed with creative agony over expectations of a follow-up to her hit Mathsbuster. He is left to contemplate his rapidly greying pubes while his younger, bouncier, athletic student sidekick Flatpack - who combines a six-pack body with the intellect of a piece of Ikea furniture - makes more headway with the lovely maths boffin. The gawky mechanical engineer Lydia "big s**t' Tennant, the three Graces of Admin (Big Grace, Pretty Grace and 'Was Once A Man' Grace), Jason the reticent accountant and Nicole the feisty accommodations officer add more sexual confusion to the mix.

Thanks to our friends at Channel 4 DVD, we've got three copies of Campus on DVD give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to before midday on Wednesday 18th May, making sure to put "Campus" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Campus" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Campusis available from Monday 16th May, priced £19.99.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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