Film Reviews


By • Aug 13th, 2004 •

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20th Century Fox / PG-13 / 101 minutes

QUOTE: Who wins? I said “Alien.” My guests disagreed.

My husband, at my insistence, brought me back a black burqa from Afghanistan.

Before reading how much I liked AvP I thought you would like to read an interesting historical fact on the hijab and the Muslim institution of the veil, according to religious scholar Karen Armstrong, from her book “Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet.”

“It is often seen in the West as a symbol of male oppression, but in the Qu’ran it was simply a piece of protocol that applied only to the Prophet’s wives….In fact the veil or curtain was not designed to degrade Muhammad’s wives but was a symbol of their superior status. After Muhammad’s death, his wives became very powerful people: they were respected authorities on religious matters and were frequently consulted about Muhammad’s practices or opinions….It seems that later other women became jealous of the status of Muhammad’s wives and demanded that they should be allowed to wear the veil too. Islamic culture was strongly egalitarian and it seemed incongruous that the Prophet’s wives should be distinguished and honored in this way. Thus many of the Muslim women who first took the veil saw it as a symbol of power and influence, not as a badge of male oppression.”

Regarding AvP, neither franchise is put to shame or the brands devalued here. Critics are always suspicious when a studio refuses to hold press screenings. How to circumvent this affirmation of “They’re afraid of it”? Have a promotional screening with critics invited the night before opening day so critics cannot get their reviews in for Friday. Well, as far as I am concerned, AvP miscalculated. I really enjoyed it and so did the packed audience. This is critic-proof.

Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, AvP uses archaic tribal initiations as the jumping off point. It is a clever device. For the Predators, humans are like pets with toy guns. They don’t bother hunting humans anymore.

To get ready for AvP, I watched ALIEN immediately before the screening. Anderson failed to give his human cast members the kind of force of personality that both ALIEN and PREDATOR achieved. The characters in ALIEN, ALIENS and PREDATOR were all highly individualistic and each had defining moments. This is the only problem I had with the movie: I didn’t care about the cast. This meant they were all going to die fast! Okay, the fact that the team could read alien pictographs was also a problem.

Billionaire Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) puts together a group of international scientists to go to a remote area of Antarctica (I too got summoned and will be going in December) where his drilling team has detected an underground pyramid 2000 miles below the ice.

The team, led by no nonsense Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan), should have questioned the fact that miraculously a tunnel is made so they can descend quickly to the pyramid. Weyland, who has respiratory ailments, should have stayed on his yacht. Do we really care about a sickly person who insists on going on a dangerous expedition just because he financed it? Anyhow, amazingly, the race of Predators have built a pyramid with markings Sebastian de Rosa (Raoul Bova) can read. While I might have done some rudimentary deciphering of the hieroglyphics (my Egyptian tour guide, the terrific Sameh Taha, taught the willing), I could not understand anything Graeme Miller (Ewen Bremner) said. And sadly, Tommy Flanagan (as Mark Verheiden) was just filling a snowsuit.

It is quickly indicated that the Predators – like some sub-Saharan African tribe – have a ritual for reaching manhood or getting a bride: kill aliens. (And when they kill an alien, they do mark the kill but not by putting alien ears on a string necklace.) They need human hosts to nurture baby aliens to maturation. This initiation happens once every hundred years (I can’t wait around for the sequel). So the Predators send a message drawing humans to their Antarctica battlefield.

This is a smart ploy by the Predators: keep some of the humans alive as bait for alien incubation.

The battles, and how Anderson brings Woods into play with a Predator, makes AvP a fun ride.

As far as who wins – Predator or Alien – I said Alien. My 3 guests disagreed with me and said Predator won. Well, I don’t care what the critics say on this one, the audience will decide on an AvP sequel. Considering they still have those Predator costumes, I say Aliens vs. Predators will have a production start date after first weekend receipts are tallied.

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