The PG-13 rating of “Alien vs. Predator” alone tells the story of this grudge match between space beasties.
Before the lights go down, you know this will be a defanged resurrection of two venerable action franchises, crassly fashioned to bait the broadest opening-weekend audience possible before word spreads about how dumb the movie is.
Its six predecessors — two great “Alien” movies and two inferior sequels, one decent “Predator” flick and one so-so sequel — had hard R ratings for graphic gore, violence and terror.
Bringing this hybrid in at PG-13, the studio and filmmakers are sending a cynical message to viewers: We want your money, but don’t expect to see anything new. In fact, we’re going to show you less than any of the half-dozen previous movies did.
Less is precisely what you get with “Alien vs. Predator.” Lots less.
The movie did not screen for critics until opening day Friday, a sure sign that a stinker is at hand.
The skimpy story is about as clever as anything two teenage gamers might dream up over down time during a minor power outage. The human characters are little more than munchies for one space species and shooting-gallery targets for the other. Seriously censored by the PG-13 rating, the action is tepid, more a kitten fight than a to-the-death alien smackdown.
And there’s simply no suspense. The weakest of the “Alien” and “Predator” movies packed chills in triplicate compared to “Alien vs. Predator.”
The movie is written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, maker of such sci-fi twaddle as “Resident Evil” and “Mortal Kombat.” Like those video-game adaptations, “Alien vs. Predator” plays out like a linear joystick pastime: Kill this creature, move up one level, vanquish that foe, advance to the next round.
A prequel to the “Alien” films and a sequel to the “Predator” movies, “Alien vs. Predator” is set in Antarctica, where scientists are scoping out an ancient pyramid discovered below the ice.
The gang stumbles onto two extraterrestrial races duking it out under the tundra (why they couldn’t have chosen a more hospitable climate, like the French Riviera, is never explained).
In this corner is the hissing, acid-slobbering alien race introduced in Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic “Alien,” which made a star of Sigourney Weaver. In that corner are the clicking, clacking creatures that debuted in 1987’s “Predator,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a commando whose unit is being stalked by a space hunter seeking human trophies.
Lance Henriksen, who played an android in “Aliens” and “Alien 3,” stars as billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland, who finances the expedition. His name is a dual nod to Weaver’s future battles with aliens in deep space: Bishop is the name of Henriksen’s android character, while the company that dispatched Weaver’s ship was the Weyland-Yutani Corp.
Sanaa Lathan plays expedition leader Alexa Woods, essentially a poor director’s substitute for Weaver’s intrepid Ellen. Raoul Bova and Ewen Bremner fill up the principal cast as scientists along for the ride.
The team learns that Predators have been holding an Alien queen captive, using her offspring for blood-sport initiation rites.
Animatronic and puppet creature effects are solid enough, a mere technical accomplishment, though; the real creativity came with the earlier movies, which gave Anderson and crew easy blueprints to filch.
Computer animation to create some creature effects looks cheesy, particularly in a flashback to an ancient Predator-Alien battle.
The movie’s tag line, “Whoever wins, we lose,” could not be more appropriate. Any member of the human race who buys a ticket to “Alien vs. Predator” ends up losing.