Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at just what made it so poor (note that there are some spoilers in the following text, so anyone still planning on seeing this film unspoiled should stop reading now).
Number one, the plot. It’s contrived, poorly paced, and really just serves to get the audience from one action or effects scene to another. Both of the original Alien and Predator film series were known for building tension at key moments. AvP doesn’t do this, even when the opportunity is given. For example: At the very beginning of the movie, a bunch of people head directly for Antarctica to investigate some strange satellite readings. When they get there, they find a huge hole drilled deep into the ice that leads to some ancient buried temple. There's no build-up here -- it's not like some naval crew is lost at sea and uncovers some weird ancient temple after days of exploring some strange sightings. Nope, they find a convenient hole, and go straight to the main event. If memory serves, one character even says something like, “This hole could not have possibly been dug by any man-made tools” (The Predators dug it with a giant laser, apparently), the characters all nod and look at each other for about 12 microseconds, and immediately proceed down the hole. I could practically hear the director shouting: “Hurry up, get to the temple, the action sequence starts in 20 seconds!”
Number two, the characters. Granted, the plot gives no real opportunity for character development, but even the base material is flawed. None of the human characters, save the single “tough female” Ripley rip-off, lasts much past the first 30 minutes of the film. During that 30 minutes, you are introduced to some extremely two-dimensional, forgettable characters: Some French scientist guy, the pretty blond woman, Lance Henriksen, some gun-carrying military toughs, and so on. The non-humans aren’t much better. It’s easy to forget that there are actually three Predators in the movie, probably because they look and act similar, don’t actually speak, and two of them are also killed off rather quickly.
Number three, the “fan service”. I’m not really sure what to call it. The movie felt like some 15-year-old boy had just watched all the films in the Alien and Predator series while drinking a gallon of Mountain Dew, and decided to write a scrap-book script that contained only the “really cool” parts of all the movies. Face huggers leaping across a room in slow-motion? Check. A giant queen Alien, angry and unstoppable? Check. Shoulder-mounted Predator Plasma Caster? Yep. Interesting well-developed plot and characters? Well, no.
Let us not forget the incredibly awkward and disturbing sequence near the end where the surviving Predator and surviving human female, standing comfortably in near-freezing temperatures, are staring into each other eyes and seem on the verge of sharing a cross-species intimate moment. I kid you not. I retract my statement – it is better to forget.
When I actually saw this movie some three or so years ago, I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I liked (most of) the predecessor Alien and Predator movies. I figured I could waste a couple bucks on a matinee. The one thing I figured would be worth seeing was the key “reveal” of the movie, which I assumed would be the explanation for how Aliens and Predators finally made it to Earth. Imagine my disappointment when it’s revealed, very early in the movie, that these two species have just been hanging out on Earth for thousands of years. Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?
While trying to wrap my mind around this, I heard a baby crying somewhere in the theater. Some parent had brought their young impressionable infant to this awful film. Perhaps they thought the PG-13 rating was the sign that these sorts of films were becoming more family-friendly. Perhaps they were insane. Regardless, as the poor emotionally scarred child continued crying, I realized that I myself was on the verge of tears, for different reasons.
Yes, I paid money to see this movie when it came out in the theaters. Yes, I’m still recovering from it. Yes, people are actually working on a sequel to this movie as I write this. May God have mercy on my soul.