Most combative film titles — "Ecks vs. Sever," "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster," "Kramer vs. Kramer" — don't generate the kind of pre-release wagering we've seen with "Alien vs. Predator."
Everyone's got an opinion on who'll win. I'm not a betting man, but if I'd put money down before the screening it would've been on the Alien. Two words: acid blood.
Fans (read: nerds) have been waiting for this matchup since 1990's "Predator 2," in which we caught a glimpse of an Alien skull in a Predator trophy case. It was the best part of a very bad movie, and was a sly wink to the 1989 Dark Horse comic, "Aliens vs. Predator," which first brought the two 20th Century Fox properties together.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Resident Evil") figures the nerds have waited long enough and zips through whatever exposition is deemed necessary:
Quick: A satellite picks up an unidentified heat signature emanating 2,000 feet below the arctic surface.
Quick: Field guide Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), ice-climbing à la Tom Cruise in "MI: 2," is picked to lead an expedition, along with a handsome Italian archaeologist (Raoul Bova), a Scottish comic-relief engineer (Ewen Bremner) and a crack team of expendables.
Quick: Billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen, Bishop in "Aliens"), walking a metal catwalk with an ear mike like a member of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation, informs them that an ancient pyramid has been found down there.
Quick: Hey, there's a giant hole dug 2,000 feet through the ice! And it wasn't there yesterday!
Quick: Let's go.
Quick: Start dying.
To its credit, "AVP" doesn't take itself seriously. It borrows heavily from its own franchises (the "Alien" female heroine, the "Predator 2" ending), as well as more recent movies (there's a "Matrix"-like slow-mo camera spin around a flying Alien embryo), and most of the dialogue is winkingly laughable. "What are those things?" the handsome Italian asks of the Aliens. "You tell me — you're the pyramid expert," the pretty field guide answers.
But it's a sugar rush of a movie. It begins quickly and ends quickly. (The studio claims a runtime of 101 minutes, but the actual story — without credits — isn't even 90 minutes.) The explanation for the pyramid is lame.
And why are Predators in the Arctic anyway? I thought they liked heat.
Humans are mere pawns in this battle, and the movie treats them similarly. They aren't even caricatures anymore; they're caricature-blips.
"AVP" will probably satisfy its fans' most basic desires. But, like most sugar rushes, it won't satisfy them for long.
Erik Lundegaard: firstname.lastname@example.org