In Paul W.S. Anderson's "Alien vs. Predator," two famously nasty extraterrestrial species (and 20th Century Fox franchises) are pitted against each other in a heated battle royale to control a large, Rubik's Cube-like pyramid in Antarctica, 2,000 feet below the surface of the Earth. Given the particular characteristics of these two aliens — one is an incubating parasite, the other is an armored hunter fortified to the teeth with rotary saws and whatnot — the movie had an opportunity to raise some broader philosophical questions about the nature of evil. Does it coil deep within us or come at us with a retractable spear? Anyway, it passed on that.
Instead, "Alien vs. Predator" offers this (and I only just saw it Friday, so, as Jesse Ventura said in the original, I ain't got time to bleed): Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) reprises his "Aliens" and "Alien 3" role as a billionaire industrialist and robotics pioneer. He discovers an ancient pyramid that contains aspects of Aztec, Cambodian and Egyptian cultures. A multi-culti pyramid requires an equally diverse crew, and so Weyland acquires the best exploration team money can buy.
The expedition leader is Alexa "Lex" Woods (Sanaa Lathan), an arctic explorer and environmentalist with an upper lip stiffer than a dead penguin. Sebastian De Rosa (Raoul Bova), the lead archeologist, is a smarty-pants Italian, underfunded and impossibly good-looking; not that Lex notices much. Scottish actor Ewen Bremner rounds out the team as the unattractive chemical engineer, Graeme Miller.
Me, I miss the early "Alien" days, when crews were sweaty and sadsack and in over their heads. At least they got nervous and freaked out once in a while. If Lex and Sebastian were any cooler they'd be hypothermic. (Come to think of it, if they were any hotter they'd self-combust.)
Despite an encyclopedic wall of helpful hieroglyphs and some lightning-fast conclusions, the story takes its time to get started. In ancient times the Predators came down to Earth and taught humans how to build pyramids. The Predators brought the serpent creatures with them and farmed them on Earth, using humans as incubators. (Apparently, fertility treatment advances make it so that the Aliens only need a few seconds to gestate; the whole thing, from face-sucking to incubating to bursting forth from the thoracic cavity takes only a few moments.) It's also surprisingly free of gore, unlike its predecessors.
But it's not until the team mistakenly removed some weapons from a sarcophagus filled with dry ice that Lex and Sebastian figure out that they are in a prison, that the two species are at war and that they have inadvertedly disarmed the guards. This is a big step, because it allows them to figure out that the key, here, is triangulation.
This is good foreign policy, but it makes for some ludicrously tender moments between Lex and a Predator. But why would an advanced civilization, able to build a pyramid that reconfigured its walls every 10 minutes, build it of stone? That's a mystery for another time. Set your Maya calendar.
'Alien vs. Predator'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, language, horror images and gore
Times guidelines: Violence, slime, language, ectoplasm sniffing
Sanaa Lathan...Alexa Woods
Raoul Bova...Sebastian De Rosa
Lance Henriksen...Charles Bishop
Ewen Bremner...Graeme Miller
A 20th Century Fox release of a Davis Entertainment Co./Brandywine production. Director Paul W.S. Anderson. Producers John Davis, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill. Executive producers Wyck Godfrey, Thomas M. Hammel, Mike Richardson. Screenplay by Anderson, story by Anderson and Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett, Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.
In general release.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times