Junkfood Cinema: The People vs. ‘Alien vs. Predator’

By  · Published on June 18th, 2012

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; always out of order. Every week, we throw the book at an especially, unlawfully bad movie. But just when it seems the movie has absolutely no case, we sweep in as champion defenders and get the charges against it dismissed on a few rose-colored technicalities. We then take everybody out for ice cream…or 3lb cinnamon rolls…or whatever we can wrangle. The last few weeks, we’ve thrown the book out (seriously, we are gonna lose that damn book if we keep throwing it) and abandoned our usual format. This week is no exception…nor is it exceptional…which is also no exception.

Recently, we were able to get our hands on the stenographer’s report from one of the most landmark cases in American history. No, we’re not talking about some white collar stockbroker who shorted millions from the poor, nor are we talking about some drunk driving celebrity who may or may not have gotten wasted and careened into a roadside shark tank. We are in fact talking about a heated trial in the court of public opinion against a 2004 film which melded two beloved franchises. Here now is the recap of case #LV426-PRD; The People vs. Alien vs. Predator.

Prosecutor: Ignatius B. Sensible

Defense: Apollo Gist

Mr. Sensible began preliminary statements by insisting that Alien vs. Predator was a silly, half-baked abortion whose existence is predicated upon the desire for quick box office returns and little else.

Gist fired back in a stuttering, frantic mouth barrage that, while passionate, seemed a lack a general feeling of cohesiveness. He found it somehow germane.

Prosecution: Let’s examine each point of contention one by one. Both 1979’s Alien and 1987’s Predator had memorable characters for which the audience felt compelled to root. Hell, Alien had a cavalcade of established actors even the most novice of film fans would recognize. This is of course essential to building the tension once our respective titular monsters show up. The combination of the two films, on the other hand, has characters as memorable as “that guy,” “her,” and “British beanpole murder fodder.”

Defense: Objection! Relevance? AVP’s central conceit is explained in the utterance of its title. It is about the battling of these two species, the human characters are merely there to advance the plot as neither the xenomorphs nor the predators speak.

Judge: Overruled. It is still necessary to register believable and well-rounded characters within the script even if they are merely mouth-breathing, space-wasting spectators.

Prosecution: Furthermore, it is the belief of the prosecution that the existence of the film itself is frivolous and unnecessary. Did we really want to see these two flat-lining franchises team up to desperately vie for relevance again.

Defense: Objection! I believe precedence for this film is established in Glover vs. Predator 2. The xenomorph skull he finds in the trophy room of the predator ship explicitly exonerates this film from the crime of existing.

Judge: Sustained.

Prosecution: But surely one could argue AVP violates statute of limitations, I mean hinting at a crossover film in 1990 that we then don’t see for nearly fifteen years?

Judge: Counselor, you know very well there is no statute of limitations on sequels, prequels, remakes, or crossovers. I direct you to the case of Indiana Jones vs. Aging With Dignity.

Defense: Furthermore, the prosecution is obscuring the film’s right to be as well as the rationale of their cohabiting in the same film. Laws forbidding cohabitation were almost completely repealed in the 1970s. The franchises are therefore free to crossover as they please. Besides, there is genetic information coded in the DNA of each series that justifies their collaboration and should preclude any notions of the illegitimacy of their union. The Alien franchise revolves around a creature that is a perfectly-evolved animal; a bloodthirsty megafauna. The other revolves around the universe’s most supreme race of hunters. Hunters…animals, the joining of these two film series is not unfounded. This contentious collaboration is as suitable as the one between Fredrick Krueger and Jason Margaret Voorhees.

Prosecution: Very well, if we can’t condemn the film conceptually, let us examine the execution. Shall we start with the involvement of Lance Henriksen? Lance Henriksen, as you know, is indelible to the franchise as the synthetic Bishop from Aliens, and now he’s turning up as Charles Bishop Weyland?

Defense: Objection! Within the boundaries of acceptable homage.

Prosecution: No, your honor, it’s excessive pandering and continuity fraud.

Judge: Overruled, Mr. Gist.

Defense: But in light of discoveries made in Prometheus, it is entirely possible that Peter Wayland modeled the future iterations of his synthetics after the image of his father Charles Bishop Weyland; justifying the similarity in appearances.

Prosecution: Objection, until such time as we can establish paternity, and about seven other vague ways in which Prometheus supposedly connects to the rest of the franchise, this is conjecture. Besides, the synthetic in Prometheus looks more like a sexually-confused glam janitor than it does any member of the Weyland family.

Judge: Sooooo noted.

Prosecution: And what of the film’s rating? Alien was rated R, Predator was rated R, as were all their respective sequels. And yet AVP has the audacity to be rated PG-13?

Defense: I-uh-well…

Prosecution: Your honor, this egregious rating indicts AVP for the crime of withholding evidence… evidence of the badassitude of its titular monsters.

Defense: Objection, double jeopardy! AVP was duly prosecuted for this crime in the court of public opinion and made restitution in the form of an R-rated sequel.

Prosecution: Yes, but it has also been well-documented that this restitution was woefully insufficient and only lead to the infliction of further harm.

Judge: Duly noted, but we cannot judge a film for a crime for which it has already been convicted.

Prosecution: Really? Aren’t we making up this whole courtroom metaphor as we go along anyway?

Judge: Quiet, you.

Prosecution: No matter, there is still the offense of AVP’s operating weapons-grade schlocky CG without a permit. I mean, isn’t a significant portion of the appeal of the original tentpole films the artistry and craftsmanship of its outstanding practical effects? The inclusion of rubbery, screensaver-y monsters made this feel more SyFy than Sci-Fi.

Defense: Objection, the slow-mo face-hugger shot is incontrovertibly awesome

Judge: Sustained.

Prosecution: And what of the lumbering, digital drunk-monkey that is the liberated queen at the end of the film?

Defense: It is unreasonable to expect a creature of that size to be done practically in every shot. A good portion of the film does in fact rely on practical effects. At this point, the prosecution is simply harassing the movie.

Prosecution: Oh, so I suppose it’s also mere harassment to point out the wholesale theft perpetrated by AVP of other, better movies. Never mind the cribbing of visual cues and lines of dialogue from its own parentage, AVP also steals from Jurassic Park (the two aliens attacking from the side that you never see) and even Krull (the predator has a goddamn glaive!).

Defense: First, your charges of theft are spurious. Neither Jurassic Park nor Krull holds sovereignty over the meager plot devices of which you speak. Second, did you not just hear yourself say the predator has a glaive? How is that not fantastic?! You actually just saved me the trouble of introducing my next argument. On top of that, AVP advances the canon of its predecessors by exploring things like the xenomorphs’ immunity to their own acid blood and how the predator can use that to construct a shield out of an alien skull.

Prosecution: The bottom line here, your honor. Is that entertainment value alone does not validate a film. AVP fails to meet any acceptable standards of plot, character development, or even setting for that matter.

Defense: What’s your beef with the setting?

Prosecution: Oh, you mean the giant Rubik’s Cube of a pyramid that actively tries to kill the explorers as if sentient and somehow managed to avoid destruction even though the expository flashback showed a massive nuclear device detonating at the top of it?

Defense: That’s a bit assumptive, it could’ve been —

Prosecution: Or how about the fact that all the action looks like it was lit by a single blacklight bulb one hundred yards away, giving us all the glorious luminosity of a tapeworm inside a cow’s intestine?

Defense: I don’t find it that —

Prosecution: It’s poorly edited, poorly shot, and especially poorly direct —

(Stenographer’s note: It was at this point that a pattern of three dots appeared on Mr. Sensible’s forehead. A fire-based projectile entered the front of the skull and created a grapefruit sized exit wound. He fell dead to the floor. At that point, director Paul W.S. Anderson emerged from behind the witness stand, dressed in the iconic Predator garb with fully-functional shoulder-mounted cannon and raced out of the courtroom.)

Result: No Contest

We’re currently searching for the transcription for the trial of the alien who forcefully inseminated a predator; the judge presiding over the custody battle for the resulting hybrid.

Junkfood Pairing: Reese’s Puffs

For years, Cocoa Puffs and Peanut Butter Crunch existed in separate universes much as did xenomorphs and predators. But when the two phenomenal breakfast foods were surreptitiously combined into the unholy delicious conglomeration that is Reese’s Puffs, it made for one of the greatest pre-noon dining experiences of my, and I’d hazard your, entire life. The difference here is that Reese’s refuses to acknowledge that those are the two tastes it categorically proved went so well together, but still it may very well be the AVP of cereals.

If you survived this, why not test your mettle with more Junkfood Cinema?

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.