Sometime back in the 1930s there was a Little Rascals short film in which two of the kids argue endlessly about whether Tarzan or Flash Gordon would win in a battle that pitted one against the other. I don’t know that this kind of preoccupation—combined with desperate screenwriters trying to keep a dying franchise going—was the seed from whence sprang Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) and all such movies from then on through Freddy vs. Jason (2003) and AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), but it might as well be.
In all cases, the idea hinges on the interesting notion that audiences—like the Little Rascals—think these characters/monsters are real. After you encounter a few dozen Web postings with titles like “Fifteen Reasons Why the Predator Can Kick Alien Ass,” it’s hard to argue with Hollywood’s judgment and the public’s credulity. When you consider that actually “settling” the question of who (or which?) is the badder assed of the two would kill the franchise, you should be able to guess that the answer’s going to bear a striking resemblance to a small yellow citrus fruit. Remember how a testy villager blew up the dam to put an end to things before the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man could decide the issue? Well, just keep that in mind here.
According to friends of mine who find merit in these high jinks, I’m supposed to find this sequel to the cheesy original AVP better because it goes for the R rating rather than PG-13. What this actually results in is cheese with more blood—and the obnoxious delusion that it’s better than its parent film. If anything, it’s worse. What was simply silly junk is now mean-spirited, gloomy and ineptly made by the Brothers Strause (that’s how they’re billed), who here find themselves promoted from special-effects experts (4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) to filmmakers (in name at least).
The premise this round has the predator having to hunt down a colony of aliens (actually aliens crossed with predators—don’t ask) in a small town in Colorado while a lot of refugee TV actors meet fates various and bloody. The big invention of the alien-predator hybrid isn’t so big, since it really amounts to no more than aliens with intergalactic dreadlocks (blessedly, only the predator makes that noise that sounds like a basso profundo cicada with asthma). Nearly all of it is shot with the murky cam, meaning you can scarcely see what’s going on, and the action is the usual jumble of close shots frenetically hooked together. The screenplay by Shane Salerno (whose work on Armageddon Michael Bay called “brilliant”) is peppered with observations like one character noting that a sewer “smells like something died down here” (it’s a sewer, folks). OK, there’s one bright moment where someone claims that the government doesn’t lie to people, but that’s a single line.
It’s all pretty damn dumb, badly acted and strictly for folks who want to see baby aliens rip their way out of pregnant women’s stomachs (a concept that caused a firestorm of complaints back in 1980 with Humanoids from the Deep). Rated R for violence, gore and language.