Fri
Jun 8 2012 11:00am

Fanboy Porn Or Old School Monster Smackdown? The Alien vs. Predator Films

Among movie myths, the notion that there is an alternate ending of King Kong vs. Godzilla in which Godzilla wins is extremely pervasive because it seems like it should be true. But in reality, Kong is favored nearly the whole time. In Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, though both titular characters die together, as equals, Frankenstein is never allowed to speak, even though speaking scenes featuring Bela Lugosi were filmed.

And in the grand tradition of monster mash-ups, both Alien versus Predator and AvP: Requiem relegate one monster to a less-than-favored role. And if you were taking bets on these smackdowns, the odds would be against Alien.

In Predator 2, the skull of an Alien is briefly glimpsed in a trophy case room. A year before, the popular Aliens vs. Predator comics published by Dark Horse had arrived, and for whatever reason, stuck around in the culture. The comic series began in 1989 (artist Chris Warner is credited with the notion of really matching up the two monsters) and has continued through the 21st century with titles as absurd as Superman and Batman versus Aliens and Predator.  But why? Why did this happen at all? And did it ruin the Alien movie franchise?

The answer to the first question is: it happened because iconic monsters fighting each other is inherently cool. And the answer to the second question is: no, not really, because there wasn’t much ruin. (Though AvP: Requiem is damn close to one of the worst movies I have ever seen. But then again, King Kong vs. Godzilla isn’t all that great either.) But let’s back up: do these films even fit into the Alien mythology? Kind of.

Alien versus Predator (singular, one Alien) is a movie that has inside of it a thing sort of like a plot. More accurately, the plot of AvP is exactly like a little chest-burster Alien gestating inside a host. Eventually it will pop out and then you’ll know what the story is about: horrific mass mayhem. The only difference here is AvP isn’t about an Alien or a Predator systematically wiping out a bunch of chumps until only one is left over. Instead, it’s about a grudge match. It’s about two monsters fighting it out to the death.

As a result, the characters in AvP are laughably ridiculous. The main character is a woman named Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) who is a really skilled cold-weather environment guide. This is handy because the Weyland Corporation hires her at the outset to lead a team of experts into a secret pyramid in Antarctica. Alexa’s journey oddly parallels Ripley’s from the first Alien film, though more sloppily and with less charm. Other notable cast members include Ewen Bremner (of Trainspotting fame) as Graeme and Raoul Bova as an archeologist named Sebastian. Sebastian is easily one of the silliest characters in movie history, with a personality that can only be described as Indiana Jones: Urban Outfitters Edition. Nothing he says is important nor real, and the discoveries he expounds upon are nonsensical. Ewen Bremner, however, is charming and I certainly wanted to view AvP as a direct sequel to Trainspotting. Spud received a lot of money at the end of Trainspotting; maybe this is what he’s doing in 2004!

Obviously the big casting stunt here was Lance Henriksen, who plays Charles Bishop Weyland, the head of Weyland Industries. Though it’s never explicitly stated, we know from Alien3  that a mover-and-shaker in Weyland-Yutani in Ripley’s time looks just like this guy. Confusingly, in Alien 3 it’s a guy named Michael Bishop, and this guy’s name is Charles Bishop Weyland. So he’s the original. (Now, with Guy Pearce playing Peter Weyland in Prometheus one has to wonder if he’ll be playing a robot version of himself in 20 years time.) 

This gives AvP a tiny bit of credibility, and makes you feel, at least a little bit, like this movie fits into the Alien canon somehow. But once the reason for the Predators fighting the Aliens is actually explained, it will make an Alien fan sad. And that’s because the Aliens are totally subordinate to the Predators.

After Sebastian translates some stuff in an Antarctic cave, we learn the Predators created ancient cultures, helped them build pyramids and ziggurats and temples, and then set up big game hunting parks to kill Aliens. They got people to sacrifice themselves to face-huggers, and then birth out Aliens, in the traditional, gross terrible way. Then the Predators would go try to hunt all the Aliens, apparently for sport. The group of bozos from Weyland industries stumbles upon one of these long forgotten Alien game preserves. And so, Aliens must fight Predators. Pretty quickly however, it gets down to only one Predator and Alexa makes the tricky decision to form an alliance with it, which for movie purposes, works. Against all odds, and because she becomes an honorary Predator herself, Lex manages to help the one Predator vanquish the Aliens.

Predictably enough, once the first Predator fights the first Alien, things do get really exciting. But here is where this movie, and its sequel aren’t like real movies. The human characters and dumb plot are really only a super-lame pretext to get to the money shots of the two monsters going at it. This is really no different than having a plot in a porno in which someone is cleaning the pool, or someone breaks down by the side of the road, or someone delivers a pizza and the people there don’t have any money. Godzilla movies did it all the time too. Really, these sorts of movies could be 30 to 45 minutes long, and just open with the monsters in their respective corners. The plots, though charmingly idiotic, are somewhat unnecessary.

AvP does have one fun, if absurd, notion. The lingering question, “What will happen if an Alien implants itself inside of a Predator?” The payoff doesn’t occur until the end of AVP, in which a chestburster comes out complete with a little Predator face. Referred to as a Predalien by fans (his friends call him Steve) this creature pretty much becomes the main focus of the wildly inferior AvP: Requiem. Briefly: the notion of the Predalien is really, really dumb because it’s not like the Aliens take on the characteristics of their human hosts. I mean, if the Aliens impregnated a giraffe, would you have a giraffe-looking-Alien or something? No, you wouldn’t.

 

AvP: Requiem is all about a Predalien fighting a Predator with a whip. There are scenes (which take place in the sewers) and characters even more unlikable than in AvP. For a fan of the Alien series, I can actually recommend AvP. I can’t even bring myself to recap AvP: Requiem. It’s that bad. There are two reasons why it’s so much worse than its sort-of predecessor. First, AvP:Requiem was directed by the Strause Brothers, responsible for a little movie called Skyline. AvP was at least directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. But more importantly AvP: Requiem doesn’t further the Alien mythology, and the novelty of the Predalien just isn’t enough to carry the whole movie.

Throughout both films, something odd happens to our beloved and feared Aliens. They seem to turn into animals. Though they’ve never been depicted as being as technologically sophisticated as Predators, you always feel like the Aliens are above all that crap, and are a more pure and perfect lifeform, free of technology. But something about the AvP movies turns them into vaguely more complicated Velociraptors from space. There are wonderful moments where these great creatures get to fight other great creatures with plenty of green blood splattered all around. But really, the Aliens were always better when they were a little more mysterious, confined to the shadows, and somehow, inexplicably, smarter.

It’s not a huge surprise that the dumbing down of the monsters themselves in turn dumbed down the films built around them. But then again, this is an old story. Most film incarnations make Frankenstein’s monster seem dumber than he originally was, too. In the book, he could talk.


Ryan Britt is the staff writer for Tor.com. He wonders if characters from children’s fantasy literature should have smack-downs. Like Mr. Tumnus vs. The Giving Tree.

32 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
Gandalf could totally kick the crud out of Aslan.
treebee72 _
2. treebee72
AvP is bad, but entertaining. AvP: Requiem is bad and boring, which is both mind boggling & unacceptable.
a1ay
3. a1ay
But really, the Aliens were always better when they were a little more
mysterious, confined to the shadows, and somehow, inexplicably, smarter.

"They cut the power? What do you mean, they cut the power? They're animals, man!"

Update: This comment has a captcha in Hebrew. I thought we were worried about bots leaving spam comments. Now we're worried about golems? Leaving (surely not spam!) corned beef?
David Thomson
4. ZetaStriker
Briefly: the notion of the Predalien is really, really dumb because it’s not like the Aliens take on the characteristics of their human hosts. I mean, if the Aliens impregnated a giraffe, would you have a giraffe-looking-Alien or something? No, you wouldn’t.
Untrue. The alien in Alien 3 was quadrupedal because it was birthed from a cow/dog depending on the version you watch.
a1ay
5. Jeff R.
Um, the aliens do take on the properties of their hosts. Hence the quadraped Alien in the third movie. A giraffe-Alien totally would have a long neck; a squidalien would have tentacles, etc etc.
Ryan Britt
6. ryancbritt
@All

I guess I sort of object to the Aliens taking on the properties of their hosts in all incarnations post the first movie.
But, yes, you are all correct about Alien 3. I thought about that, but it seemed less dumb there for some reason.
David Thomson
7. ZetaStriker
Also, I had to add, I can't believe I just defended the Predalien or anything about AvP: Requiem. All copies of the film should be burned.
a1ay
8. J Mccaffery
@ 1. Mordicai

I'm pretty sure Jesus could take Metatron if he really had to.
a1ay
9. Tesh
The running debate at my office is "Batman vs. Darth Vader". There are impassioned advocates for both sides... and yes, nobody bothers with the "story" of how they could fight in the first place. That's not the fun part in fanboy wars.

...so yeah, AvP strikes me as fanboy fanfiction with a big budget. That's just not a good recipe, methinketh.
Sanctume Spiritstone
10. Sanctume
What properties would a Predator have without high tech weapons, and camo-suit, and those cool wolverine-lie knives?

Maybe just stronger, but Arnold fist fighted with the Predator just fine.

Alien seem to retain their armor piercing double-jaw, exo-armor, tail, acid blood, ceiling climbing, and ability to fold into small crevices.

A human marine with a Rambo knife can take them one-on-one.
a1ay
11. Classic Appa
Alien vs. Predator vs. Rambo coming to a theater near you, Summer 2013.
a1ay
12. Elise Ra'sha
The AvP films could loosely tie into the the Aliens mythos with the depictions from the ancient cultures. It's mentioned in the Prometheus trailers so I find it plausible that the AvP films could tie a lot of things together (like why Weyland would want the Aliens in the first place if they didn't know about them).

Personally, I didn't care for the first AvP film. I do agree it lacked greatly in plot. It was just awful. AvPR . . . way worse. The best way to describe these movies are just mindless violence and killing, and it's something that's bothered me with many sci-fi horror movies. What is the motivation for the creatures to be killing as indescriminately as they are, leaving a trail of carnage in their wakes?

AvPR was also quite predictable in places. I think it's sad when a person who's never seen the movie before takes a look at the cast of characters and knows pretty much who's going to die and who's going to be the hero by the end of the movie.
Ryan Britt
13. ryancbritt
@12

Yep! I kept thinking in both movies: okay, here's who is going to live and here's who is going to die. For a deep cut metaphor: it's like when you start playing Mario Kart and you realize which four racers the N64 computer thing has choosen to be in the lead and which ones it's picked for the last places. :-)
a1ay
14. a1ay
the aliens do take on the properties of their hosts. Hence the quadraped Alien in the third movie. A giraffe-Alien totally would have a long neck

"Ripley! It's very slowly coming through the airlock!"

-- line from Slothlien (2014, Uwe Boll)
Rich Bennett
15. Neuralnet
this was on TV last night (right after aliens4) and I watched it for the first time... I had always avoided these AvP movies, but I did like the video game.

The entire time I was watching this movie I was thinking to myself... God I hope they dont try to incorporate any of this mythology into Promethius... let them forget about htis movie.. If the space jockey is a predator I will be pissed.
Joseph Kingsmill
16. JFKingsmill16
I hated AvP. I saw it once in the theater on opening weekend. How can you have an Alien movie and not show at least one human chest bursting scene? They should have just went with the plot from the comics.

The second one was just Aliens on earth with a sprinkle of Predators thrown in. And to make up for the lack of horror from the first one they impregnate a young boy with an Alien just to show "No one is safe" in this movie.
a1ay
17. Eric Saveau
The Aliens versus Predator comic series from Dark Horse which started all this was actually quite marvelous. It was set on a remote Weyland-Yutani colony planet that the Predators (known as "yautja" in their own tongue according to the comic lore) had previously used as a proving ground for their young unblooded warriors against xenomrphs bred from a captive queen (one element that made it into the movie).

In the comic, the presence of humans on the planet gives the xenos access to more hosts than they would otherwise have had and allows them to breed in greater numbers. The old yautja veteran in charge of the traniees is badly injured early and rescued/taken captive by the surviving humans; leaderless, the young yautja fall before the xenos.

When the veteran awakes he and the surviving humans (all recognizable tropes but still fairly well-written characters), led by a young female Weyland-Yutani manager, try desperately to escape, culminating in the only other element that made it into the film - the marking of the company woman by the yautja veteran to signify that she is a warrior in his eyes. In the comic, it was a moving and affecting moment; in the movie it was a perfunctory throwaway moment.

If they had just made a film version of the comic it could have been terrific. What we got was a two hour chase scene looking for a movie to be in. I've never bothered to see Requiem, and I can't imagine I ever will.
a1ay
18. wiredog
But what about zombie ninja pirate monkey aliens?
Jeff Wight
19. jdubb
I always thought that they could have brought the franchises together with some class: Aliens survive the crash of the Auriga on Earth at the end of Alien: Resurection and begin multiplying. Humans (including Ripley and the surviving cast of the Betty) fight back. Global conflict ensues, which draws the Predators in to the fray (somwhere in the Predator movies it says that the Predators are drawn by conflict). You get Ripley back on Earth, some continuity with both series, and the awesomeness of Aliens facehugging whatever species are left on earth (Alien Elephants? Alien Sharks? Alien Tigers?).

That's how I woudl have done it. ;)
Chuk Goodin
20. Chuk
I saw them filming a scene for AvP:R at night with artificial rain down the street from my house. Even that looked bad, never saw the movie.
(I watched AvP on the bus and it was okay, monsterfight porn, sure, but decent enough for that purpose.)
Sky Thibedeau
21. SkylarkThibedeau
AvP could be summarized by the words of the Prophet Yogurt: "Aliens Vs Predator:The Search for More Money".
a1ay
22. DRickard
Someone explain to me: what are these movies "Alien 3/Resurrection/AvP" Tor has been discussing the last few days? Everyone knows that, prior to "Prometheus," there were only two movies in the Alien cosmos--"Alien/Aliens"--the rare case when a studio chose art over commerce. There were no further sequels; and as for these "AvP" flicks some nuts occasionally reference--everyone knows that's just a vicious Internet rumor pushed by vile trolls.
Jack Flynn
23. JackofMidworld
One of the things that they explained in the comics and/or the novels (offhand forget which) was that the aliens pick up some of the DNA of the host while it's growing. One theory that I heard was that the facehugger doesn't actually implant an egg but more implants a retrovirus or tumor that grows metastazis (spellcheck?) into a living creature, which is why they're different. Also helped explain why the clone Ripley had Alien DNA in her system (essentially the alien DNA invaded all of her cells when it was making the baby queen, which also means that, in theory, anybody who survived chestbursting would end up having the same acid secretions and whatnot that Ripley 8 did)

Back in the 90s, there was a series of Alien toys...bull aliens with horns and a button that made the head bounce forward to "gore" Hicks (who also survived in toy form), gorilla aliens with long arms (and super-grabbing movable arms!), a snake alien (which was very cool and creepy in a "bone-cobra" sort of way).
Jack Flynn
24. JackofMidworld
Oh, and to answer the question - totally fanboy pron :)
Joe Dillingham
25. theblacklaser
The best part about AvP: Requiem was watching the humans get smoked. When the "love interest" got cut in half, I cheered.
Theresa DeLucci
26. theresa_delucci
The AvP game for the Playstation 1 was really the best thing to come out of the crossover for me. You could play as either an Alien or a Colonial Marine and unlock the ability to play as a Predator later on. It was really atmospheric and creepy, one of the better media tie-in games.
Mordicai Knode
27. mordicai
22. DRickard

Someone once tried to psyche me out by saying that they made a Last Airbender movie with a predominantly white cast, bad writing & a sloppy 3d conversion; one of the worst lies I've ever been told. Not a nice prank!
a1ay
28. SethJ
The author has thankfully acknowledged in the comments that aliens do take on characteristics of their hosts. The creatures always looked the traditional way because from even the first movie, they had combined with humans. This is the form we had been introdeuced to them with.

Although I hate avpr, I have to admit I enjoyed seeing that predator chilling in his apartment when he fields that distress call. I love that he intensely focuses on the predalien, then immediately goes out on his patio and blasts off towards earth. Not because he's going to rescue anybody or prevent the scourge from mass producing. He's desperate to hunt the rare predalien.

Oh, and anyone who skipped Robert Rodriguez's Predators movie didn't miss a damn thing. That movie was as bad as avpr.

Seth
a1ay
29. Mickey_Duck
looks like I didn't miss anything when I passed by the Predalien books in the local bookshop with disdain.

I thought, when I first saw Alien, that Aliens were supreme predators, designed by the spacejockey species to exterminate and "clean" inhabited planets for colonization. With a biological kill switch of course, that got somehow fixed to the spacejockey species, which is why it crashed its spaceship.

I based all of that on good biological reasoning; heaven alone know the basis for the various forms of the Alien-Predator mythology.

Oh well, I'll count my pennies in bliss, ignorant of the horrors of the accountancy-driven modern filmmakers ... Weyland incarnate ...
a1ay
30. Neon Sequitur
Hong Kong Phooey would totally spank Chuck Norris.
Craig Barnett
31. Ommadawn
Chuck Norris could take on a Queen with one hand tied behind his back. And blindfolded.
a1ay
32. Firegoat
@ Ommadawn a Queen would only exist in the first place because Chuck Norris allowed it to live. Then he would punch it in the egg sack.

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