Spoiler Level: High
I was totally prepared to not like this movie. It's hard to find anything good said about it on the web (but you know my feelings on that-- "I am fanboy, hear me bitch,") and to be honest I wasn't thrilled with the premise.
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of Aliens and Predators fighting it out, but I don't want it to be on present-day Earth. These are freakin' Aliens with a capital A and alien Predators. I want to see them fighting it out in their natural habitat of outer space. I went along with the contrived concept of a Predator-built Alien Tomb on Earth in the first one because I really wanted to see a bunch of Predators and Aliens have it out, and since that was all I wanted from the movie I enjoyed it enough. My complaint wasn't that it was only rated PG-13 and not violent enough; my complaint was that it wasn't set in space in the future. And so this film comes along, and not only is it still set on modern-day Earth but now in a town and the big deal seems to be that it's now rated R, so it can be much more violent! So I never got around to seeing it when it came out.
But now Predators is out on DVD and I want to see that, and since AVP-R is the only movie I haven't seen from both franchises I figured I'd watch it first.
And you know what? It didn't suck!
Maybe my standards were low. Maybe fandom's standards are too high. Maybe I'm too easily pleased. Maybe it's all of the above.
For starters, I didn't expect it to be a direct sequel to Alien vs. Predator. I didn't expect it to follow up directly on the Predator-Alien we saw hatch at the end of that movie, so I found the fact that it was to be very cool. It also made sense why it would take place in an American town on Earth, since the "Predalien" makes the ship crash and all the face huggers escape. (Although I'm a little hazy on why the drop ship left Saturn and headed back to Earth in the first place.) So again, while I'm not thrilled with the premise of an Aliens movie taking place on modern-day Earth, they way it came about made more sense to me than in the previous film.
When I walked out of the first AVP film, some of my friends were talking about how disappointed they were with it. I said "I just wanted to see some Aliens and Predators fight. I'm happy." In that sense, I'm just as happy with this film, as the one lone Predator who received the ship's distress call has to face off against an infested town full of Aliens, a super Predalien, and the planet's locals (ie, the human stars of the movie). That makes for a cool movie of Aliens and Predators fighting.
On the down side, once that's all established it becomes every other horror movie of some alien menace picking off townsfolk one by one. The only thing it has going for it here is that the menace is Aliens and Predators. Not long into the movie I started playing the Scream game where you figure out who's going to die and who isn't based on horror movie rules.
The other big drawback is the movie is shot so dark that it's really hard to tell what's going on a lot of the time. When you're only going by shadows it becomes hard to tell if the dreadlocks you're seeing belong to the Predator or the Predalien. That frequently got very frustrating.
But those elements notwithstanding, I think I actually enjoyed this one more than the previous movie, since it doesn't take place in a tomb but in a wider environment with Aliens running around everywhere. But then again I always did like Aliens better than Alien, for pretty much the same reason.
I also liked the way it was handled. The locals start to realize they're in over the head and call in the National Guard. The National Guard gets wiped out, and after reviewing their camera footage the military decides the only way to contain the infestation is to nuke the city. So now they have the only three survivors in custody, a Predator weapon, and footage of the Aliens. That's got potential. Will it have any impact on Predators, or will that film ignore this film entirely? Beats me, but I'm glad I watched this one first, just in case.