Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Redemption of Alien Vs. Predator

I was watching AVP the other night on television, and while it is still quite horrendous in some areas, I saw that their were some qualities worth some attention. These qualities kept it form being irredeemably bad, at least from my point of view. So sit back and listen to me ramble on about them. Like for instance:

The Protagonist: Now, if Alien wasn't the first sci-fi movie with a self sufficient female hero, then it was the reigning champ, only to be supplanted by its own sequel. Interestingly enough, in Aliens, while the stereotypically butch female soldier character dies, Ripley survives and triumphs due to her particularly aggravated mothering instinct. That would lead to a whole other rant about the mommy-on-mommy battle in the end, and that can wait for another time. Point is, I don't know if it was intentional, but in the age before Whedon, such clear femininity being shown as not only an asset, but a necessary component for victory, was (and kinda still is) quite unique. The Predator movies, on the other hand, had clearly defined male protagonists. The first was choked with testosterone and one-liners. The second basically put the standard old guy cop in the mix. Neither really had any female characters of notice. So, on the surface at least, both movies seemed to be polar opposites.

Then comes their bastard child, AVP. Not only does it have the female protagonist in Alexa Woods, but like Ripley, she isn't a stereotype; she is adventurous and athletic, but she doesn't look like they stuck a dude into a stuffed bra. She isn't a girly-girl or an Ah-nold with a vagina. She looks....credible, in a way. There is also the added bonus of her being African-American. An actual, distinctively non-Caucasian minority. Name three sci-fi movies where a minority character not only makes it alive to the end, but does so without being constantly saved by a white person, and they aren't some variation of the "mystical Negro" formula (in other words, Matrix Trilogy doesn't count, but funnily enough, Predator 2 does). So we have a female minority who manages to hold her own against both alien forces and the stupidity of everyone else involved. And leads me to another good point about the movie...

No Tacked-On Romance: I mean, it is kinda hard when all the humans but your hero dies by the last third of the movie. About the most romantic thing that ever happens to Alexa is when the Predator she teams with (another point to be discussed below) gives her his clan insignia, marking her as a true hunter/warrior in his eyes. That is it. No awkward declarations of love due to repeated trauma. No desperate kisses "hello", "goodbye", or even "Happy Birthday". Although, it would be kinda tough to make out with a Yautja, with those mandibles flying everywhere. As far as her reluctance to shoot the last guy, that could be chalked up to her not having to kill another human before. She was an explorer, not a soldier.

Actual Critical Thinking: For one thing, Alexa (being a proactive and smart woman) demanded to help the surviving Predator in order to escape and destroy the base. In fact, she was the one who figures that siding with the Predators would be better than going it alone. Another nice little touch of common sense was the Predator making makeshift weapons out of Xenomorph carcasses. I mean, it makes sense that their bodies would be somehow immune to their acidic blood, so why not use parts of it as a shield and weapon? It not only makes sense on a logical level, but it shows the realistic hunter instinct and training of the Predators, and shows how long they have been hunting the bastards.

Even the Predators Were Idiots: They basically took the place of the gung-ho mercenaries of the first films. They acted all big and bad, and managed to do some neat tricks, but they still died because of their own stupidity. Heck, the entire plot is based on the fact that they were dumb enough to leave their base intact enough for some dumbass humans to discover and reactivate. They were sent down to rectify a mistake. That is kinda hilarious if you think about it. And that experience I praised them for previously, apparently didn't apply to checking the dead Predator body for any infestation. I would have his ass roasti...I mean, burned on a hero's pyre. Just to be safe.

And that is why I feel AVP is not nearly as bad as it seemed. Not worth losing the Aliens sequel that would have brought back James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and Sigourney Weaver, but not complete garbage either. Of course, my judgment may be clouded by Sanaa Lathan, but that is neither here nor there.

I am so pathetic.

What are your thoughts on it (he asked, as if he needed to when ON THE INTERNET)? Agree? Disagree? Want me to do more? Want me to stop? Then respond, dammit!

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4 brain pickings:

  1. I have been instructed to respond and so I shall. It's nice to see a well thought out defense of AvsP rather than the only one I've ever heard ("It's two bad-ass alieny things kicking the shit out of each other - it's awesome") unfortunately it still doesn't redeem the film (and I know you only said "partially redeem" but I was dragged to see this at the cinema and I'm bitter dammit!) when it could have simply been so much better. Think the "Die Hard 4.0" argument again, although the chances of anything good coming from a cynical attempt to expand on the franchise are slim to none there's still a tiny glimmer of hope that the result might be brilliant. And it never is.

    I will agree with you about the lack of tacked on romance though - its one of my pet peeves that most movies now are expected to have some form of romantic sub-plot. Sometimes a girl jsut wants to watch stuff get blown up, ya know?

  2. Huh. Well, at least it's a well thought out argument. But the movie is still a colossal disappointment, especially since it seems like such a no-brainer. But excellent points on no love interests, and the lack of black protagonists in sci-fi. I can think of only a couple... Glover in P2, as you mentioned. Snipes in Blade, but that's not really sci-fi. Um... Will Smith in I, Robot? Yikes. This is harder than I thought. Oh! I know! Eddie Murphy in Pluto Nash!

    I fucking hate Hollywood.

  3. This one's been hanging out in my husband's queue for a while. Now you've convinced me that when it finally does arrive in it's little red wrapper I might just sit down and watch it with him.

    The Alien series is one of my family's favorite. My parents actually took me to see Alien when I was four-years-old. Mom told me to cover my eyes when the bad stuff would happen. Many years later at Halloween, my mom dressed up as Ripley (complete with Jones in cat carrier)and my dad as Kane (complete with chest-bursting alien).

    Okay enough of my goofy personal history.

    I agree with you on the protagonist and tacked-on romance points. I get tired of female protagonists who are supposed to be all tough and kick-assy but probably weigh all of 100 lbs with no muscle tone. Good to see they actually use a woman who is fit but not 'roid scary. And there's nothing worse than a romance wedged into action and horror flicks to gum up the works. I'm with Alex; sometimes I just want to see shit get fucked up.

  4. Bless me father, for I have sinned... I saw this movie twice... in the theater.

    Thank you for such an eloquent review of a movie that disappointed so greatly that I had to see it twice to make sure it wasn't just because I was belligerently drunk the first time.

    The part that killed it for me was Sanaa Lathan's translation of the purpose of the Predator's forearm device, "Oh - it's a BOMB." I wish we had video comments so I could show you the Predator's hand "poof" motion that led to such an assinine sentence. Le sigh.

    But seriously, didn't you totally want to see Sanaa get it on with the Predator at the end? Talk about tacked-on romance!!


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