Alien vs Predator

Year: 2004
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Paul W S Anderson
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner
Alien vs Predator finally hits screens, the world's best example so far of the closed circle of 21st century media.

How so? Think pre Star Wars - there used to be a movie, then a watch and a couple of dolls, a soundtrack and maybe a cheap Sunday afternoon TV spin off.

Then, when film studios realised males aged 15-29 were their biggest benefactors, a group of marketing executives got together in a secret location and decided to invent the PC game, Internet, DVD and mobile phone industries.

So the late 20th century media scene was one where before you could even see the movie, you could buy the game, use and wear a delirious array of licensed products, look forward to the DVD commentary, get the ringtone and (if you were very naughty) download a hot copy with Indonesian dubbing and dodgy subtitles.

A clever video game developer once realised you could take it one step further - creatures from different film franchises could meet on another media platform and answer the question fanboys all over the world would be asking; who'd win in a fight between an Alien and a Predator?

The resulting game was so successful that a film was greenlit, and after spending over a decade in development hell, it starts this week. So for the first time, we have a movie that was based on a video game that was originally based on two movies. That's the sound of the perfect circle of media convergence closing shut.

So after the wait, is it worth it? The words 'kick' and 'arse' were bandied around a lot during the reign of the comic book and action blockbuster season last year, and AVP might be the movie that comes the closest to deserving the title so far in 2004.

After badly bungling Resident Evil, director Anderson, together with the designers of both original monsters, the visions of McTiernan, Scott and Cameron (the three directors who made each series great) and writers Anderson, O'Bannon & Shusett (the latter two the writers of the original Alien) collectively hit the bullseye.

When a rich industrialist's satellite records a burst of heat from far beneath Antarctica, he puts together an appropriately disparate team of roughnecks to investigate what he believes is the archaeological find of mankind's history.

He's right, of course, but in a way nobody in the expedition will like; two alien races use it as their turf for initiation rites, the dreadlock-wearing humanoid race imprisoning the ones they call 'the serpents' to breed opponents they can fight to prove themselves in battle.

And the hapless team just happen to stumble on the setup (built into a massive pyramid underneath the ice) right before it's due to kick off again, finding themselves in the middle of invading Predators, unleashed Aliens, and a giant tomb that keeps changing around them.

Any success from a film of both monsters hinged on staying true to the mythologies behind both franchises, and AVP sticks to them like glue. As observers who know the rules, moves, physiology and behaviour of both creatures, the film gives us a great perspective from with to watch things unfold (as the characters stumble blindly with no idea what they're getting into).

One of the most important aspects of an AVP movie however was that it be as scary as it was action packed. Remember the originals of each series? Alien was unquestionably a horror movie while Predator was an outright action movie. It was something the designs of the creatures themselves reflected; from the skeletal, drooling, shard-of-glass teeth and extendable attacking mouth of the aliens and the quasi-sexual anatomy and behaviour of their offspring to the bigger-than-Arnold-Schwarzenegger physique of the Predator.

Thankfully, it's as violent and action packed as it is scary and even takes care to follow some of the lesser conventions laid down in its predecessors (for example, the small band of individuals and their rapidly dwindling numbers until the sole female hero remains).

Almost everything about AVP is great; the sets, the action, the adherence to backstory (or rather forward story, set as it is in the present and not the future) and the collection of misfits and explorers groping their way in over their heads.

Trainspotters will already see the references, like Henriksen's Charles Weyland Bishop, the father of modern robotics (Weyland Yutani, name of the ubiquitous Company, and Bishop, the name given to the synthetic who'll bear his likeness in the future) and the knife trick from Aliens that he briefly plays on himself) and AVP could have been a cheap shot with inside jokes and not much more.

But enough money has been spent on in-camera action and well built monster suits rather than CG effects, foreboding sets reminiscent of the corridors snaking through the Nostromo, and research into just who would win in a fight between an alien and a predator to make AVP essential viewing.

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