Film Corner: Aliens vs Predator

Alien vs Predator

Alright, here we go. Movie night. Aliens vs. Predator has a soft spot in my heart because my spouse made me watch it and I expected to absolutely HATE it and instead ending up liking it a lot. That was a few years ago, though, so let's see how it holds up. I tentatively select "extended version" on the play screen, though sometimes that's a mistake. We'll see.

We start in a snowy place where a panicky man is running around willy-nilly. Invisible Wolverine stabs or shoots him, it's unclear, and we cut away. I'm sure that's fine. In space, a Weyland satellite exists. It locates an identified heat signature in somewhere. Everyone seems very excitable about it. A Black woman climbing an icy mountain gets a call on her bluetooth headset from someone claiming to represent Weyland Industries. They offer her a bribe to meet with Weyland, and when she reaches the top of the mountain a helicopter is there waiting for her.

Smash cut to... somewhere warmer and people speaking Spanish. A person excavating a dig locates a pepsi-cola cap before HE takes a call from Weyland as well. Weyland is clearly putting together the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A Scottish man takes a picture of the Black woman while she sleeps. She has the extreme patience to not slap the camera out of his hands. He asks her to take a picture of him for his boys. He's a chemical engineer. She splits her time between environmentalism and taking scientists on the ice. I love her and would die for her.

They land on a ship and get a briefing from Weyland. I like this Weyland better than the one we got in Prometheus. He is also, bewilderingly, the Bishop actor. I have a hard time understanding why Weyland would want all the service droids to look like him, and a further hard time understanding why the "real" Bishop in Alien 3 happens to look identical to the Weyland-Yutani founder. Let's ignore the resemblance.

Look, it doesn't work as a 200+ years later "tribute" to the original Weyland because we meet the original human Bishop and he's hurt in Alien 3 as proof that he's not an android. That headcanon is nice but it doesn't fit the facts. I could maaaaaybe accept cloning. And, of course, sometimes people really do just look exactly like their ancestors; I know a couple folks who look just like their grandparents. But still.

The Weyland satellite picked up a heat image: a massive structure containing hundreds of rooms built around a central core. "My experts tell me it's a pyramid" is just such a hilarious line. Like, you really need experts to be able to suss out the pyramids from the cuboids and spheres, you know? But anyway, nobody can figure out who built it and when. MUST BE ALIENS.

There's a lot of bullshit about it being kinda-Aztec, kinda-Cambodian, and again I'm going to remind you that the whole "aliens gave humans their culture" is racist as fuck, so I'd prefer to believe that the predators have a thing for trying to make their architecture look local and are just really shit at it and end up taking from multiple cultures. They call it "fusion architecture".

"This might be the first pyramid ever built [because it contains features from all three cultures]" says the Professor and that's NOT how architecture works so we're going to assume he's a fraud. Weyland blinks at him like he's having his mind blown, but I like to believe he's thinking what a colossal waste of money this guy is.

Ms. Woods says it'll take 3 weeks to train everyone to safely navigate the ice. Weyland says that isn't fast enough. She says his rush is profoundly unsafe and will kill people. When he refuses to listen to her, she tells him to find another guide. I LOVE HER. I have seriously seen so many "recruit an expert" type of scenes in movies, and rarely have I seen the expert just walk the fuck away because the planning is godawful and they don't consider the money worth ruining their reputation and being complicit in an on-site accident.

Woods gets ready to leave but asks who they ended up getting to replace her. Then she goes to Weyland to point out that her replacement is a novice who is going to get everyone even more killed. She suggests 2 other experts and they also turned Weyland down. He says he just needs someone to take them to the pyramid and then wait at the door. "Mr. Weyland, when I lead my team, I don't ever leave my team." I love her. Woods goes out to watch the aurora borealis and the Engineer and the Professor beg her to come with them because they really do want the money but they would also like to not die.

In space, Predators look at graphics. Probably not important.

Woods stays because she doesn't feel right letting these assholes die. She tells everyone they can't go off alone, they mustn't try to be a hero, and they have to stay in constant communication at all times. A woman with short blond hair loads a gun and Woods questions her on it. She says it's the same principle as a condom: "I'd rather have one and not need it, than need it and not have one." I LOVE YOU BLOND WOMAN. Woods and Blondie have more chemistry than anyone else and I start building my ship to launch.

Damn, it's almost midnight and I have to DM tomorrow. I'd better sleep. But I'll pick this up as soon as I can!

I am awake, barely, and Crisp is licking fracuppino out of a bottle cap. Let's do this. On the way to the dig site, one of the people observes that the full moon outside is called a "Hunter's Moon". FORESHADOWING. The dig site is covered in an "abandoned whaling station". It looks like the place that guy at the very beginning was running around while being chased by Invisible Wolverine.

"The station was abandoned in 1904; it was just abandoned overnight. It was a big mystery then." (1) Why does no one ever connect the "big mystery" in these movies to the OTHER big mystery they're here to investigate? (2) The equipment all looks surprisingly....intact? For ~100 years later in a place that gets snowstorms and brutal winds, I'm pretty impressed. They don't build whaling stations like they used to, I reckon.

Despite being told to never be alone, people are already looking through the snowy buildings alone because that always makes sense in a snow-covered ghost whaling station! Lex Woods saves the Engineer's ass from a penguin (#UntitledPenguinGame) and reminds him to stay with the fucking group. Outside, the diggers notice a bottomless pit in the ice "drilled at a perfect 30 degree angle".

The hole wasn't there yesterday and goes all the way down to the pyramid and the expert driller has never seen everything like it. "I'm telling you: there's no team and no machine in the world that could cut to this depth in 24 hours." Everyone is like, well okay but we're not going to pass up the FREE TUNNEL so let's ride this train all the way to Bad Decision Station and I have a lot of concerns about how incurious this team of scientists and researchers is.

Weirdly, I pause to reflect that it's never really explained *why* Weyland is so obsessed with this pyramid to the point where he's come on the potentially lethal expedition himself. Why is he, personally, here? The movie anticipated my question and Lex discovers Weyland with some kind of medical inhaler. She expresses concern about having sick people on the expedition. He tells her that at the end of your life you start thinking about your legacy.

Lex is not impressed and points out that she lost her father because he was determined to do something "big" at the end of his life, and doing so just killed him faster. I love her. "I need this," Weyland says. I'm so used to bad movies (*cough* prometheus *cough*) that I'm genuinely impressed that the movie paced itself well enough that we actually followed this natural arc of "wait, why is he here?" / "boom, here's the answer".

Like, whatever else you want to say about this movie, it understood how to tell a story. Anyway, everyone makes their way down the 30 degree tunnel with care. Weyland's rope snaps and he starts sliding down the tunnel, but Lex stabs his hoodie with her pick and stops him. It's an emotional moment, considering everything they just talked about. This movie has made me feel more emotions about Weyland in 5 minutes than Prometheus and Covenant managed in 2 movies.

At the bottom of the tunnel, Lex looks around with a flare. I surely hope they have more lights than this. Also, jesus that looks cold. Ice everywhere. They see a very pretty, very BIG pyramid, and I have a lot of questions about why the cavern containing the pyramid isn't filled with ice or snow or whatever. I'm sure there's reasons, I just don't understand how caves work, it's FINE.

Predators watch the humans walk up the pyramid steps and inside the pyramid we see chains lurch into action and haul up an alien queen from a cryofreezing chamber. She's bound and chained into place. (We really need a better name for the Alien aliens; Predators are *also* "aliens" and "xenomorph" isn't a name for the aliens, just a classification meaning "foreign form" i.e., not something the humans were yet familiar with, i.e., "alien". I'm going to call them "biteyboys".)

The Professor in the group looks at some carvings on the wall and decides that it's a mixture of Egyptian, Aztec, and Cambodian. They somehow manage to "decode" the words into "You are chosen to enter." This is not how languages work. There were some wonderful tumblr posts going around a while back that were about how actual translations would go in archaeology movies and I need to find those again. They were hilarious.


I'm not sure why the pyramid says "only the chosen ones may enter" when (a) there's no sense that the Predators "choose" these humans in any meaningful sense, and (b) there's no apparent reason why they would, anyway. Pretty sure the humans are just here to be facehugged.

Like, if I'm understanding this right, the Predators built the pyramid so they could occasionally do epic fights with Xenomorphs (biteyboys) and they use the local populace for breeders so that the pyramid franchise will have a sort of "collect them all" Hard Rock cafe vibe. "Sure, you killed xenomorphs on Earth, but have you done Alpha Centauri 6 or Betelgeuse 5? POSEUR."

Up in the abandoned whaling facility, Predators are picking off the humans. I'm not sure why. These drillers have a LOT of machine guns. Were they expecting armed penguin resistance? I've never really understood Predators in the classic sense, I won't lie; I'm not really understanding the Honor or Challenge in hunting humans while invisible. They're like the galactic version of those rich kids who "hunt" big game after it's been tied down.

The humans reach a strange room in the pyramid, which the Professor immediately dubs "THE sacrificial chamber." Not *a* sacrificial chamber, but THE one that he's decided all early cultures must've had. I remind you that the Professor is a hack. There are bodies on the altars, all of them with their ribcages burst open from the inside. Gosh, I wonder what killed them.

Kickass Blond Girl asks about the ribcage. "It's common in ritual sacrifice to take the heart of the victim," a man tells her condescendingly. "That's nice," she says with a smile. "But that's not where your heart is." I LOVE HER. If there's something annoying here, it's that nobody listens to her or considers this alarming in any way, but that's kind of a theme of the alien series: men not listening to women.

Downstairs, the alien queen starts laying eggs on a conveyor belt. She's chained in place and this is interesting because we see more of the anatomy and capabilities/limitations of a queen within this setting where the predators have managed to "contain" one.

They find an Aztec calendar that is set to 1904 (the year the whalers disappeared) and then they set it to today's date: 10/10/2004. I'm....pretty sure Aztec calendars didn't have Julian months? Setting the "calendar dials" to the Julian date on an Aztec calendar opens a chest of Predator weapons. There's absolutely NO way that Predators can legit use our calendars--our calendars are based on an earth-rotation that their home planet--doesn't *have*, so I'm taking this as more proof for my theory that the Predator architects made an effort to try to match their holiday home to the "local" planet's culture and calendar. For the aesthetics.

"This is like finding Moses' DVD collection," one of the men observes.

Lex says they're going back to the base camp to rest since Weyland is coughing; they take the weapons and this apparently sets off... something in the pyramid. Doors slam closed and the predators look peeved. In the "sacrificial chamber", Kickass Blond cleverly slides a piece of heavy equipment under the closing door in an attempt to jam it, but it cuts through the equipment like butter. (I love her.) Behind them, eggs come up through the floor. A facehugger gurlges in one of the eggs and I'm really glad blondie brought her gun but I don't think it's going to help much.

Oh, yeah, that was a neat little slow motion jump but everyone got facehuggered. Like, five minutes later my blonde is being chestburst; I feel like a lot of the more recent movies cheat a little with how long the alien growth is supposed to take. They're not magic!

Everyone is separated and people start dying and this is where the movie feels MUCH more Predators than Aliens. The aliens are here, don't get me wrong, but all they do is kill people (and predators). To me, the scary thing about the aliens has never been the killing. It's the way they collect people to cocoon them up for more harvests. The whole fate-worse-than-death thing and sometimes-it's-better-to-die thing. If they're just killing, it loses a lot.

The Predators don't really come off a lot better, though; they are so anxious and impatient to get the high-tech weapons from the humans that they're easily ambushed and killed by the aliens, and their armor is vulnerable to the alien acid blood, which... if you're going to be hunting an enemy which you *know* bleeds acid and you have hundreds or thousands of years to prepare, wouldn't you try to make some weapons and armor that won't be ruined the second your prey bleeds on you??

Their unpreparedness actually makes all the human-killing seem worse to me; it'd be one thing if their society was such an amazing hunter-species that they just assume (against all evidence) that humans are equally as good and therefore worthy foes. But since they're so crap at this, it looks like they're just bullies with high-tech who don't know a damn thing about hunting when placed in a survival situation where their prey *isn't* at a massive disadvantage.

The one thing they *do* do right, as far as I'm concerned, is the Predator who picks up Weyland then sets him down because he's an elderly dying man and it's not Honorable to murder him. That at least suggests some culture and cultural taboos. I also like that Weyland and Lex care more about each other in a father-daughter sort of way than most people do in horror films. Sanaa Lathan does an amazing job conveying Lex's concern for him without it becoming glurgy or unrealistic.

The last predator takes off his protective face mask to mark himself with alien acid in triumph but lol whoops there goes a facehugger. Wear your protective masks at all times, kids!

The fraudulent professor immediately spins a whole mythology about space aliens teaching humans "to build" and being worshiped as gods. You just know this hack has been reading a lot of CHARIOTS OF THE GODS or whatever. (Again, this is hella racist because it ascribes all the accomplishments of various early cultures to aliens instead.)

Lex wants to give the remaining Predator back his gun on the grounds that letting him kill the aliens seems better than letting the aliens escape to the surface. This is true, clever, and brave, but almost feels a little too easily intuited; we've seen facehuggers and whatnot but the only thing *Lex* has seen of the aliens is that one "saved" her from a Predator. For all she knows, they're the gentle protective sheepdogs of the universe.

Lex runs into a Predator and uses carefully submissive body language to throw him his high-tech weapon. He then completely screws up and Lex ends up having to spear an alien by herself. This proves she's a warrior to be trusted and the Predator suits her up, sorta. I mean, it's silly but it's a good kind of silly; it's nice to *finally* see a woman in this series being taken seriously as someone who knows what she's doing.

The aliens have remembered the cocoon people, so Lex has to mercy-kill one of her friends as part of the ongoing theme in this series. Meanwhile, the alien queen has been chained with chains that are VULNERABLE TO ALIEN ACID, WHY?!?

@sapphixy. It was the line about how the pyramid reconfigures itself every ten minutes because DECIMAL TIME that made my brain crawl out my ear.


Dude says that the Aztec calendar was "metric" because it was based on tens, so he correctly guesses that the pyramid reconfigures itself every 10 minutes. As if minutes are a physical unit we discovered and not a cultural invention.

@InbarFink. Fun Fact: "The Aztecs used the metric system, so this Pyramid will reconfigure itself in 10 minutes" used to be a meme\running gag in a movie forum I used to frequent a long time ago.

This is so perfect that nothing I can add will improve it.

@arthur_affect. Logically, the one material that MUST be impervious to being dissolved by Alien blood must be Alien flesh, and forging Alienhide armor and the like is a really cool worldbuilding idea for the Predators that they unfortunately totally slept on.

Weirdly, it seemed like they were going there with Lex's "armor" of the alien head on her hand, plus if this were a "harvest" for armor, that would make the whole thing seem more sensible. And yet...they don't go there.

Anyway, Lex saves the Predator and they go FAST up the ice tunnel with a bomb going off behind them because that's the best way to take care of aliens, as seen with Ripley's nuke advice. All well and good. The Predator takes off his mask and marks Lex with acid as One Of Them and it's very sweet except bam there's an Alien Queen and she is officially not happy.

Lex kills the Alien Queen by chaining her to a heavy thing and pushing her into the frozen ocean, but not before her new friend is killed. Then his buddies instantly show up and check out Lex's sweet Predator facial scarring. Lex is offered the dude's spear as a trophy and they fly off. I know the novels offer her a chance to join them, but honestly I don't think it would have fit her character here: she protects people and isn't about macho toxicity.

I *do* like movies where the character doesn't go back to their old life because they've been irrevocably changed, but this Lex would only join them if their thing was "protecting the galaxy from the aliens" rather than "making aliens for fun laser-tag". Anyway, the dead Predator on the ship chestbursts (remember that facehugger moment?) and it's kinda silly since their tech was explicitly shown to be able to show gestating aliens inside a body.

We will NOT be watching the other Aliens v. Predators because this was the only one I liked; I felt like the rest were a triggery mess. And, yeah, this AvP is silly because the science is so soft you could spread it on cold toast but the themes of a kickass woman trying to protect people and being hampered by their total unwillingness to listen to her is FRONT AND CENTER. In that respect, AvP is much more of an Alien movie than Prometheus and Covenant which were ultimately both about David being existential and dilemma-y.

I miiiiiiight do Predators, which I consider to be the best of the standalone Predator movies, but first I need to find a food.


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