A long time ago, a little comic known as Aliens vs. Predator appeared. It took the comic fans by storm.
For one, the idea of a franchise crossover was new. Most people didn't realize the same company owned rights to both (due to a series of mergers). And rarely had movie franchise transferred over to comics. Because the stakes are lower in the comic world, a comic like Aliens vs. Predator was possible.
What was far more entertaining is that the comic actually made sense. It kept the respect for the Predators and their ancient hunting techniques, while at the same time portraying the Aliens as the ultimate prey. Given the nature of the two diametrically different franchises, this is no small feat. Predator was a testosterone pumping challenge to men everywhere that we've somehow lost what makes us men; Predators remind us that the real manly thing to do is pick up a spear and kill stuff. Aliens, on the other hand, are all about the violation of the human male. It reduces men to whimpering crybabies as the aliens force themselves down our throats, impregnate us, and then kill us. Now combine these two critters together. Who do you think you'll sympathize with more?
Yep, the Predators. Which is exactly why Aliens come out on the bottom of the rung all the time. Aliens are, well, alien. It's hard to root for them, care for them, or otherwise feel anything but disgust. The presence of an alien queen helps things a bit--it personifies the endless drones--but it hardly makes them a viable choice to root for.
The original Aliens vs. Predator series took place on another world. Humans got caught in the middle, and a tough woman ended up proving herself as a warrior at the side of Broken-Tusk. That Predator was stranded, like her, on a planet swarming with Aliens. So the two unlikely allies had to band together and fight back.
The comic concept combined the masculinity of Predator with the maternal war of Aliens, and it worked. Fortunately, Paul W. S. Anderson had enough sense to follow the same formula, with one concession: he placed the events on Earth in the near future. By doing so, we realize that the threat of Aliens is more than just killing the characters (who, let's face it, we don't really care about anyway). It's that they might get out and spread, thereby overrunning the entire planet.
It also explains why nobody knows about Aliens yet. Of course they don't, because the Aliens movies took place in the far future. Predators, on the other hand, have appeared twice (Predator and Predator 2, respectively). So we've got the "Thing" scenario: isolated and yet the fate of the world is in our heroes' hands.
So back to the movie. This is a Predator movie. The Aliens are just bad guys. The Predators, though technically hostile to humanity, are more anthropomorphic than Aliens (heck, they at least wear clothes), and are thus de facto team to root for. You could argue that you should root for the humans, led by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), but there's not particularly likeable or comprehensible anyway. The heroine is Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan). She struggles to hold her own in a massive cast dominated by two guys in suits.
All this adds up to essentially a Predator slice-and-dice fest mixed with the scenery shifting antics of Thir13en Ghosts. What, you didn't know that the pyramid where the Predators are shifts around every 100 years?
Aliens and Predators are now kiddie fodder, boogiemen that are no longer scary in the way that Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman are no longer scary. In the golden horror days of the 80s, these guys were king. Now, they're pretty much there to bolster ticket sales, in the same way that the above trio of bad guys faced off in horror movies as their popularity waned.
Ironically, Freddy Vs. Jason set the template for crossover films in the 21st century and AVP actually fails to live up to the (admittedly low) standard. FVJ knew how ridiculous the concept was but at the same time stayed true to its roots. AVP is pretty hollow in comparison, and that's saying something.
Standing on its own, without knowing too much about AVP, the film's actually not a bad way to spend two hours. But who goes to see a film about two legendary bad guys that DOESN'T know their history? The expectations are simply too high to actually pull off a film of any substance. All the digital effects, rubbery suits (aliens seem to bounce when they hit the ground), and stumpy actors (Predators look...chubby), can't save the film.
After seeing Dreamcatcher just before, it's enough to give fans..."the Ripley."