[Spoiler Warning: if somehow there’s one other person who hasn’t seen this film, but intend to, then proceed at your own caution. Hopefully your “Spoiler Sense” will protect you.]
Call me a late bloomer, but I just finally got around to seeing AVP: Alien VS. Predator for the first time tonight. I caught a couple Easter eggs in it, and a very lazy limited web search seemed to turn up nothing written about it before, so here I go.
First: Kudos to Screenwriter/Director/Producer/Key Grip/Caterer Paul W.S. Anderson. In seeing the film, I guessed the man was probably about the same age as me. (He’s four years older.) I guessed this when the female lead character, Alexa "Lex" Woods consults her wrist-compass-watch-personal-computer thingie. The first thing you see is 327° at the top of the little display, and 42° at the bottom.
Forty-Two, of course, is the answer to life, the universe and everything, according to the late Douglas Adams, creator of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.
Three-two-seven is a little more oblique, but my hardcore Star Wars fans should immediately catch the reference. The number “3-2-7” appears in each of the first Star Wars films, except Episode III, which mentions “3-2-8.” (I often wondered if that was Lucas’ way of saying “so long” to his movie universe.
OK, so we know that Mr. Anderson knows his Star Wars and Hitchhiker’s Guide.
The inclusion of Lance Henriksen in the cast is another tip of a cap to Anderson’s cinematic forebears. Henriksen played the role of Bishop (an android) in Aliens and Alien3. Because the first Predator films took place in the current-ish day (1980s, and the “near future,”) and the Alien films were set in the future, AVP was a sort of sequel to the Predator franchise while being a prequel to the Alien franchise.
As I watched the film, I speculated, Could Bishop be an android patterned after a younger version of Henriksen’s billionaire industrialist, Charles Weyland? Well, it turns out I had to look no further than the end credits: Henriksen’s character’s full name is “Charles Bishop Weyland.”
While we’re on the subject of Easter egg names, a few of comic book contributors’ names pop up among the characters. Mark Verheiden is an artist who created a lot of Alien books for Dark Horse Comics with a very sharp artistic style. Frank Miller also did some Alien and Predator work at DHC. Among the film’s characters, we have a Miller and a Verheiden. As an author, myself, I’m just as guilty of sneaking the names of my favorite writers into my books.
Another hat-tipping/Easter Egg may have been a throwaway bit between two of the academics as they squabble over the translation of some glyphs. In Predator (1985) there is scene where a terror-stricken villager encounter’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s military group, shouting in his native tongue. The translation is disputed among Arnie’s crew.
My inspiration for the Easter egg hunt stems from a brief glimpse of an Alien skull aboard the Predators’ space ship in Predator 2. That skull caused immense speculation, and eventually gave us this AVP film. Danny Glover saved the world and got an antique pistol. Not bad for a day’s work.
Once the hapless band of scientist, academics and hired guns find the underground pyramid, Sebastian de Rosa notes that everything is in a base-ten configuration, and the pyramid keeps shifting its shape every ten minutes. (Luckily the ancient Predators used earth-based human time by which to construct their 3D Tetris Tomb.) However, once we lose Sebastian and his wristwatch (conveniently set to alarm every ten minutes to warn them of an impending shape-shift,) the pyramid stops changing shape. Maybe if Sebastian had shut off his watch, he’d live to tell the tale.
In the first Alien film, the time from when Kane is first attacked by a “face hugger” until the infamous “chest bursting” scene is fairly lengthy. Apparently in 2004, 2000 feet beneath Antarctica, the process is much faster... unless it was an important plot device to make the victim suffer long enough to not get rescued. In fact, the face-hugging and chest-bursting were somewhat inconsistent throughout the film.
The blood of the xenomorphic aliens is acidic, which is displayed frequently throughout the film. However, when the Predator rather grotesquely pieces together a spear (from the alien’s tail) and a shield (from the alien’s skull) for Lex, apparently either she has developed temporary immunity from the blood, or the Predator was very thorough in cleaning it with his knife.
By and large, despite having the entire group of humans crushed, burned, vivisected and eviscerated, Sebastian and Lex seem to have no trouble picking sides and teaming up with the Predator.
The story was relatively solid for a break-neck-paced picture. I mean, this isn’t Citizen Kane here, but let’s be honest, not many moviegoers would pay to see CK in this day and age. (In fact, you'd have to call it "CK" just to get people to even notice it.)
In the interest of cranking out a film that gets a tale told quickly, Anderson seems to take it as given that the vast majority of his audience is already intimately familiar with both the Predator and Alien franchises. (To his credit, he seems to have made a career of adapting games to film and "reimagining" other people's work.)
Just to bring the uninitiated into the know, a team of scientists and academics is brought together so that everyone can quickly translate ancient glyphs and get everyone else up to speed.
From there, it is pretty much just a fast-paced horror-ride. Anderson's scripting was solid enough that there were a few characters who I really hoped wouldn't die. (Unfortunately, if there's one thing that I've learned from Alien and Predator films, usually just one person makes it.)
I’d like to pause a moment on glyphs. The word “Hieroglyph” is a noun used to describe a pictographic language from early in human history. The word “Hieroglyphic” is an adjective. Hieroglyphic language is pictographic, but there is no such thing as “Hieroglyphics.” To Mr. Anderson’s credit, one of the scientists uses the word “Hieroglyphs.” (In 1994, having had this fact drilled into me by a professor of Egyptology, I stood up in a theatre showing the film Stargate and shouted at James Spader’s character that “no Egyptologist worth his while would say hieroglyphics!” (Luckily, I had two things going for me: One— I was in a college town and was probably the only sober theater patron; Two— I’m six-four and my nickname in college was “Ogre.”))
Speaking of glyphs, there were about a billion of them throughout the film, and there were all sorts of sculptures, structures and bas relief artistry in the pyramid. There may have been a thousand more Easter eggs that I missed.
Did you catch any that I failed to mention? Write about it!
[Addendum: about two days after watching AVP, I watched AVP: Requiem. Fueled by the positive energy I felt from the first one, I thought for sure another review was due. I was wrong. Others may have liked it, but to me, it was little more than a slasher/gore film with Predators and Aliens set in the backdrop. It broke two of my conventions of filmmaking: Children and dogs dying. It was nothing but senseless blood spraying and smearing. Very disappointed.]