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ALIEN VS. PREDATOR

SYNOPSIS:
When one of billionaire businessman Charles Bishop Weyland's (Lance Henriksen) satellites recognises heat emanating from a distant Antarctic island, and it turns out to be an ancient submerged pyramid, Weyland immediately mounts an expedition to discover its mysteries, in a bid to put his name into history for something other than wealth. Led by environmentalist guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), the archeologist (Raoul Bova) and a team of scientific specialists recognises cultural influences from Aztecs, Egyptians and Cambodians, in a complex building that is at once thousands of years old yet exceptionally advanced. Triggering secret chambers, trap doors and deadly stone doors, the team realises too late that this has been a hideaway for Predators, who hide a giant Alien queen, with her offspring used as hunting practice. But now the humans have triggered a full scale war between these two species from space.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
No, it's nothing like Freddy V Jason; more like Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom meets Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, especially as the heroine is kick-ass sassy (and in this case black to boot). The film's structure approximates the original Alien in that the creatures are not unleashed until well into the story. But there is also a touch of Jurassic Park about the style, moved to the icy domain of the Antarctic.

But as the structure is hundreds of metres below the icy island's surface, most of the action takes place in the cavernous, dangerous pyramid with stone walls that threaten to squash the human team, and effectively cuts them off from each other, as the alien predators gradually slash and stab and chomp their way through the cast.

The film succeeds on its own terms for its target audience, and while it has a smaller budget than most major studio pictures, this has the advantage of forcing the filmmakers to use physical solutions more than CGI effects. The result is a lower level of sophistication but a higher level of reality.

The premise on which the film is built, in a timezone somewhere between the Alien and Predator timeframes, is that Predators had visited earth and were regarded as gods by the likes of the Aztecs. Setting it in a contemporary timeframe makes the film more interesting and more accessible and the careful links to both Predator and Alien franchises gives the film a deal of authenticity.

My main gripe is with the 'blender' approach to editing much of the battle scenes; already hard to distinguish body parts in the gloom of the underground pyramid, the fights are edited as if in a blender, with virtually no sense of physical context, until the scenes near the end of the film, where we get a sense of proportion and the physical relationship of one species against the other.

Cinematically there is nothing unique or edgy about the film (sound design and music are OK if predictable) but the performances are credible and the film is engaging. The machines, gizmos, gadgets and high tech accessories are cool and the creatures awesome.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (M)
(UK/Czech/France/Canada/Germany)

CAST: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner,

PRODUCER: John Davis, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill

DIRECTOR: Paul W.S. Anderson

SCRIPT: Paul W.S. Anderson (story by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Johnson

EDITOR: Alexander Berner

MUSIC: Harald Kloser

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Bridgland

OTHER: Visual Effects Supervisor: John Bruno

RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 30, 2004







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