It’s probably not a good thing when a feature film reminds you of the Three Stooges. It’s especially bad when the reminder is that the Three Stooges handled a similar idea with much more intelligence. Unfortunately, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR is a film that does just that.
A recent Los Angeles Times article (sorry no link) outlined some of the concerns involved in merging the two science-fiction franchises. One of the main ones was revolved around: Who should the audience root for, the aliens or the predators?
For me, the answer was obvious. The aliens, as frightening as they may be, are — in at least one sense — innocent: they act from instinct, doing what is in their nature to survive. Hating them — or calling them evil — would make as much sense as hating a tiger, a shark, or a T-Rex.
The predators, on the other hand, truly are vile beings. They’re from a highly technological society, which means they’ve had plenty of time to evolve, and yet they still haven’t moved past the primitive notion that killing other forms of life is noble. Sure, they seem to have some kind of code that governs their hunt, but they don’t kill for food or to survive; they kill for trophies.
As if realizing this distinction between the two species, about a third of the way through ALIEN VS PREDATOR, the film has its one great moment. After several humans have been killed already, a predator is closing in on a trio of potential victims, including the female lead. When all hope seems lost, the predator is suddenly impaled by an alien tail and hoisted helplessly into the air. You want to cheer as this ruthless killer suddenly finds the tables turned.
Alas, the film does not fulfill this early promise. The human characters conclude that the aliens are a far bigger threat, because they could overrun the entire Earth if they escape from the subterranean pyramid in the Antarctic, where the story is set. Adopting the dubious philosophy that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” our protagonist teams up with one of the predators to kill the aliens, and we’re supposed to feel gratitude when the predator saves the heroine’s life.
Here’s the problem: This pyramid was built by the predators specifically for the hunt, and they use humans as hosts to breed aliens as their prey. In other words, the human-predator detente isn’t really a matter of two species teaming up to fight a common enemy; in fact, the situation exists because the predators created it and lured the human expedition into it, killing almost all of them in the process.
This is what brought the Three Stooges to mind. In one of their many short subjects, Moe slams a cabinet door onto someone’s head (Larry, if memory serves) and holds it pressed tight. Larry howls in pain, “Help, help — get me out!” When Moe lets his victim go, Larry gratefully says, “Thanks. If it wasn’t for you, I would have never got out of there!”
The joke is pretty obvious: it’s ridiculous for Larry to express gratitude to Moe for releasing him from a situation that Moe caused in the first place. Yet for some reason, the makers of ALIEN VS PREDATOR have played out a similar scenario, and they don’t realize it’s a joke; they want us to take it seriously. We’re even actually supposed to sense some kind of bonding between the human and the predator.
It’s a colossal miscalculation that undermines the movie. Our heroine not only teams up with this monster (we might forgive that as being necessary for survival under difficult circumstances); but she also seems to feel some sympathy for the predator, forgetting that it and its brethren are the ones morally responsible for getting her into this lethal mess in the first place.
If the Three Stooges –not noted for their subtlety — could see the humor in this situation, why is it such a mystery to Hollywood?