Wednesday, 17 May 2017
AVP: Alien vs Predator
AVP: Alien vs Predator's finest quality is that co-writer-director Paul WS Anderson has understood that one of the Alien series' key tensions is that women, no matter how accomplished they are, end up routinely ignored by their male colleagues. Like Ripley before her, Sanaa Lathan's Alexa Woods is the smartest, most capable person in the room and, just like Ripley, the men who buzz around her interpret her informed, credible guidance as dreary micromanagement designed to ruin their fun. Of course then Woods goes on to be the last human standing, surviving long after everybody else.
AVP stammers elsewhere. Anderson and accomplice Shane Salerno write everything shorthand, meaning character and detail are delivered in scenes that pivot on one-upmanship and zings. It's a shame the all-inclusive certificate doesn't really support the profanity required to make these scenes bearable. For the most part, people in AVP are simply cogs in an efficient, genre literate machine that has a pressing need for victims. Hence everyone is deliberately underwritten lest we get too attached. The effect of this choice is a film full of aggressively disinteresting drones marching towards their evisceration.
Anderson and Salerno have a little fun with their cast's disposability, casting aside a half-dozen eligible men (and one woman) to anoint an adolescent Predator as the closest thing to a love interest for Alexa. The seven-foot tall big-game hunter even goes so far as to bashfully reveal his monstrous face to his new best friend. This moment would probably sing if the mask Amalgamated Dynamics delivered was lit and photographed to conceal its stuttering motors and waxy, synthetic hide. Likewise, suit actor Ian Whyte conveys very little of the elegant, androgynous determination Kevin Peter Hall brought to Predator and Predator 2.
AVP's Predators are lumps, their cinched waists and barrel chests explicitly recalling the kind of simplistic, easily reproducible shapes you see in cheap supermarket action figures. The Aliens don't fair much better. Following on from their work on Alien: Resurrection, Amalgamated Dynamics once again render the title creature with elongated, insectile limbs and a rabid, bestial gait. The added screentime required to churn through actual fights scenes doesn't help, we're either stuck with ugly CG pouncing or prolonged glimpses that utterly expose the weightless, jittery rubber required to create the Alien's back-piping. We're a long way from Giger using repurposed medical grade bones and Rolls-Royce cooling tubes to arrive at something genuinely nightmarish.