I co-wrote a feminist and anti-racist action movie blog for 6 years. In all that time, how in the ever-lovin’ heck did no one ever say to me “Skye, you MUST see AVP?”
AVP: Alien vs. Predator, for those who don’t know, is an action/horror film that takes place on Earth when an ancient pyramid is discovered under the ice in Antarctica. Wouldn’t you know it, the darn thing turns out to be a leftover from when super-powerful extraterrestrial Predators subjugated the Earth’s population and used them to breed super-powerful Aliens so the Predators could hunt and kill them. Now the pyramid is active again and things are about to get messy.
This is NOT a particularly gripping film. (You could tell that from the plot summary, couldn’t you?) It turns out that Aliens are much scarier when you don’t see their complete bodies running around for a whole movie, and also when it’s generally dark. And when there isn’t another super-powerful race of aliens on screen that can hurt them and/or kill them.
I really liked most of the characters and thought the actors’ performances were great, but my personal investment in the fate of the characters took a fatal blow when they looked at a deep hole in the ice that was obviously made by an unknown force shooting a giant laser cannon from space and thought “We should all go down there.” So there wasn’t much dramatic tension left at that point because I pretty much figured they were all dead.
I was SO wrong about that.
Because, and yes I am going to spoil a movie from 2004, one person lives. The only woman of color in the whole group. African-American and Native American actor Sanaa Lathan plays Alexa Woods, a professional outdoor explorer, ice climber, guide, and environmental activist. (I didn’t realize until writing this review that I had seen Lathan before, in her leading role in Love and Basketball and as Blade’s vampire-ized mother Vanessa in Blade.)
Woods didn’t want to go on this mission in the first place, especially not with an untrained group. Once she realizes she’s their best chance for survival, though, she agrees, and spends the rest of the movie keeping her head, protecting the people in her care, and doing what needs to be done. She’s hella smart under pressure, including reading the dynamics of the Aliens v. Predators conflict and figuring out how to use it to survive.
Also? She kills an Alien with a spear.
To continue spoiling the plot, since I promise the movie isn’t good enough for it to matter, she not only survives, but manages to kill/imprison an Alien queen in cooperation with a Predator who couldn’t do it alone. The Predator race then accepts her victory as the last one standing, meaning that not only did she surive, she beat them at their own contest.
Warming my heart, she does all of that without having her clothes half ripped off for no plot reason and without any romantic involvement!
There is also another woman in the cast, albeit briefly. Agathe de La Boulaye, a white woman, plays Adele Rousseau, a mercenary working for Weyland. Rousseau and Woods have one conversation, and it’s not about a man. It’s about a gun. So the film passes the Bechdel test. We liked Rousseau’s character because she had cool spiky hair, and because she displayed more clarity of thought than quite a few of her companions. Too bad she didn’t survive as well! That would have been awesome.
Lathan isn’t the only person of color, either. British actor Colin Salmon, who I’ve previously enjoyed seeing in Resident Evil and Blood: The Last Vampire, plays another Weyland mercenary. Too bad about his untimely death as well.
On the scale from my old Heroine Content blog, I’d give this three stars, meaning “Strong Contender.” It may not be a very good movie, but it now has a special place in my heart because of Woods’ victory and general badassery.