Marketed with the tagline "Whoever wins… we lose," Alien Vs. Predator provides a rare example of truth in movie advertising. Sure, the monsters from two venerable franchises meet and fight, and the film even concludes with a winner of sorts. But anyone expecting a decent film to lumber out of the sparks of corporate synergy that brought this Frankenmovie into existence will likely walk out feeling defeated.
Like last year's Freddy Vs. Jason, Alien Vs. Predator never suggests a reason for existing other than the fact that it can. The logical curlicues used to bring the title beasts together defy description; the plot involves ancient civilizations, an abandoned Antarctic whaling station, and an underground pyramid that changes shape every 10 minutes. Into this lair of subterranean mystery and dimly lit sets marches a ragtag group of scientists and explorers led by overqualified Love & Basketball star Sanaa Lathan and funded by Alien series vet Lance Henriksen. Soon, they discover they've walked into a death trap, an elaborate human-sacrifice machine designed to create Aliens for a ritualistic Predator hunt. Or something like that. Co-star Raoul Bova has the film's funniest line: "It's beginning to make sense."
For all that, director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat) ekes out a few thrills simply by throwing the two iconic monsters together. After all, whose inner geek doesn't want to know who comes out on top? Sadly, the film around them spoils those moments. It would take a true visionary not to borrow from Alien Vs. Predator's predecessors, but Anderson lifts more than most will consider polite, borrowing to the point where some viewers may wonder whether he simply edited in footage from the old movies (or even, at one point, Jurassic Park). Worse, hedged in by the restrictions of a PG-13 rating, he robs his stars of their cool. Even the weakest of the Alien films shrouded its monsters in mystery. Here, they still look menacing, but the film treats them like big, mean lobsters. Always a second-tier bugaboo, the Predators only look like big men in even bigger suits. They could just as easily be posing with tourists at a Fox theme park, which in a way fits the spirit of the piece: Alien Vs. Predator feels more like an attraction than a creative endeavor.