I know even as I type this that its a futile question, but can we have a rule that we only make movies when theres an actual story to tell? I am inspired to ask because Ive just come from enduring ALIEN VS PREDATOR, a film that was press screened the day before it opened. That is never a good sign and so it was that I knew what I was getting into, but even so, this was a particularly dismal experience. The sole purpose of this excursion is to set up a new franchise by combining two that have flagged and failed. Yet the people behind it all have made the bold decision to do this without giving us any reason to want one.
Where to begin? There is some nonsense about an ancient pyramid buried beneath the Antarctic ice that has suddenly begun generating enough heat for a satellite to notice it. Said satellite is owned by the Weyland Corporation, a name that will ring a bell with fans of the Alien franchise. Naturally, Mr. Weyland (Lance Henriksen) sets about assembling a team to investigate it before anyone else notices its there. And, further naturally, the team includes a hunky archeologist (Raoul Bova), his dim-witted assistant, a geeky Scotsman with no real reason to be there, the spiky-haired, kick-ass female special forces type, and the sexy, spunky ice trekker (Sanaa Lathan) who will lead them all into the roughest terrain on earth without any special training. Shell also be taking Weyland, who is older than Methuselah and his mysterious assistant with the elegant manners and shark-like eyes.
People stroll about in the night-time winter wonderland at the bottom of the earth without wearing headgear or their breath turning to vapor in the sub-zero temperature. Tropical penguins frolic. And, worst of all, it takes 30 minutes before anyone dies the sort of squishy death that is the raison detre for this sort of film. Then the pyramid begins to change its configuration while our team is inside, the better to prolong the agony for 100 minutes of running time, while the archeologist reads a few glyphs and susses out the history of ancient civilizations around the globe and our intrepid explorers meet their fates in ways that are remarkable only for their banality at the hands, or tentacles, of the monsters who are also in the pyramid for reasons that arent worth going into.
If writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson had managed to inject a few genuine shocks into the proceedings, it would have helped. Instead we have a murky film that looks as though it were shot through several layers of black tulle, where the most frightening thing around is a surfeit of slime. Now, I will grant you that there is a primal sort of yuckiness to slime, especially when dripping from the double mouth of our Alien friends, but after a while, its just another, albeit viscous, part of the very shadowy scenery. The Predators shimmer in and out of invisibility, while lobbing very sharp objects with wild abandon and tussling with the Aliens while completely managing to avoid being interesting. Alas neither Ripley nor Arnold is on hand to save us from the tedium. There is no wit, there is no flair, and because we already know all there is to know about the monsters modus operandi, there is no suspense. There is viscosity and the gradual increase in unintentional humor as the action become more and more ridiculous while striving for what may have been intended as something profound, but isnt.
There is no suspense. There is no energy. The acting is bland, the pacing is perfunctory and there is no sense of dread, except that this yawn-fest will never end. While that last is undeniably effective, there are more fun ways to scare an audience.