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Josh Bell

Alien vs. Predator is a film that's been teased and speculated about for so long that most people will either be disappointed or elated simply by its existence. No doubt many will wish it was based on one of the Alien vs. Predator comic books, one of the scripts that has been floating around online for years, or one of their own ideas. Others will be so grateful that this film—once considered a Holy Grail of dream movies—finally made it to the big screen, that they won't care what the story is.

The film's actual quality places it somewhere between disappointing and amazing. Although writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson has a reputation for turning second-rate franchises (Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil) into surprisingly watchable films, he's not known for subtlety or style. So Alien vs. Predator is, like his other films, a case of taking lemons and making lemonade. Not particularly flavorful lemonade, either—more like Crystal Light. It's bland and pre-fabricated, but it'll quench your thirst on a hot day.

None of the human characters from the four Alien or two Predator films show up here, though Lance Henriksen, who played the android Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3, takes a major role as Charles Weyland, a billionaire industrialist who may or may not be related to the android's eventual creator. In 2004, centuries before the Alien movies take place and seven years after the events of Predator 2, Weyland's company discovers an ancient structure deep below the surface of Antarctica. He assembles an exploration team, including an ice-climbing expert (Sanaa Lathan), an Italian archaeologist (Raoul Bova) and a wacky Scottish chemical engineer (Ewen Bremner). Little do they know that the facility is an arena for the extraterrestrial Predators to hunt the Aliens.

The best thing about the Alien series was that it used the sci-fi and horror genres to explore interesting subtexts while serving as stylistic director showcases. Even the original Predator boasts some of the best work from action wizard John McTiernan. Anderson turns all that off and just focuses on the fights. Character development is non-existent and Lathan, who essentially carries the picture on the human side, is decent but no Sigourney Weaver. In the end it comes down to one simple thing: There are aliens. There are predators. They fight. What more do you want?

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