The most generous way to look at the clumsily-titled AVPR is as a sequel to a clod-hopping Paul W.S. Anderson film based on some comic books and video games rather than an actual extension of either the Alien or Predator franchises. The saddest thing about it is that Colin and Greg Strause, the whiz-kids who get to direct, are the sort of people who have no ambitions beyond making theatrically-relased fan fiction. Even as schlock, this is thuddingly ordinary – though it is a marginal improvement on AVP, thanks to a few tiny character licks in Shane Salerno’s by-the-numbers screenplay (this batch may be two-dimensional, but that’s one dimension more than the AVP victims) and one interesting production decision (setting most of the film during a horrendous, Aliens-inspired downpour that makes the alien battles even more difficult to survive).
Taking up where the previous episode ended, the film has an Alien-Predator hybrid being (Tom Woodruff) slaughter the crew of a Predator ship and return to Earth with the new-found ability to directly impregnate humans with alien eggs – which it exercises on a father and son bonding on a hunting trip in the vicinity of Gunnison, Colorado. To deal with this crisis, a Predator trouble-shooter (Ian Whyte) heads for Earth, intent on wiping out the aliens and any human witnesses – with a vial of dissolve-anything acid among his kit of alien-fighting weapons. For a reel or so, the film brings on regular folks to get caught between the hostile species – Dallas (Steven Pasquale), a young ex-con and incipient hero (named after the Tom Skerritt character in Alien, we assume) who wants to look after his tearaway brother (Johnny Lewis); Kelly (Reiko Aylesworth), an Iraq vet mom trying to reconnect with her Newt-like daughter (Ariel Gade); a struggling Sheriff (John Ortiz) who has a naïve belief that the government aren’t as ruthless as the average predator (their ultimate game-plan owes a lot to the save-the-village-by-destroying-it gambit from Return of the Living Dead); a pretty blonde high school girl (Kristen Hage) who trails a couple of bully characters who need to be told ‘you’re too dumb to speak’ before they get predictably chomped (the most creative aspect of the script is that a few characters who ought to be fireproof get killed – though in the wake of the little kid’s gunshot accident death in Planet Terror these murders have only momentary impact, even when a baby is sucked out of a pregnant woman by an alien). The lower-case cast, which doesn’t even stretch to a Lance Henriksen, try to pretend that they aren’t deadmeat deadweight between the effects scenes (Robert Joy does best in a tiny bit as the creepy corporate-government baddie), but the film soon whittles them down and gets on with the predator-on-alien action, skirmishes in sewers and the high school swimming pool and scrappy chases through a post-breakdown hospital.
As in AVP, there’s a problem in the characterising of the inimical species: in theory, there’s a neat theme in that the Predators, who have a high-tech but savage civilisation, are morally far worse than the Aliens, who are just survival-minded insects, but no one who has worked on either of these films bothers to think beyond the monsters-are-cool level. The predator here isn’t hampered by any of that nonsense about hunting or honour found in the earlier films, and is just a ruthless bastard – but he is also a walking plot device rather than a character. The predalien, who is somehow born with dreadlocks, is an action figure rather than a new breed of monster, and its alien spawn are just cannon fodder. The Brothers Strause, who naturally have a background in effects rather than drama, stage individual shocks and chases with something like flair, but have no idea how to add value to a franchise with ideas, drama or even fresh visual kicks – there’s nothing here which isn’t lifted from earlier films in the Alien and Predator sagas or related items, and a last-reel introduction to ‘Ms Yutani’ (Francoise Yip) just plays to the fans while falling flat with everyone else.