October 25th, 2004


Shaun of the Dead vs Alien vs Predator

I thought Shaun of the Dead was really quite boring.

Apparently, this might be a crime amongst the people I know, but still. It was boring. The first twenty minutes of it, where the zombies begin to appear around London, is the best part, but that isn't, by any means, a reason to go see the film. I'm reasonably told that it's me. That it's my dislike for everything and everyone coming through again, but I don't reckon. I reckon the simple fact is that I have standards and the whole world is failing to live up to it, once again.

Shaun of the Dead follows Shaun, a twenty nine year old guy who is stuck in life that he doesn't have much love for, and is about to be dumped by his girlfriend, who doesn't want to wake up and find herself at the age of forty and looking around and wondering where her life went. It's not the most original premise, and the film makes all the easy hits on comparing the dull, daily grind of life to being like a zombie, but there's still the vague hope that it'll provide a bit of a laugh before the end.

But no, not really.

Once the zombies appear, slow and stupid and quite dead, the usual zombie affair begins: rescue someone, find (regain) love, and watch your friends get eaten by zombies while getting your life back on track. Sadly, the promise of humour dies in the middle of lurching zombies, and it becomes a fairly straight affair, with the cast being knocked off in fairly standard ways.

A while back, I went and saw Alien vs Predator, because I had some spare time and, you know, I wanted too, and I left thinking that that was a pretty, but fairly obvious affair. I had a better time in the film than in Shaun of the Dead, but this was down to expectation, really. I expected nothing from Alien vs Predator, because the director has a history of shit, the idea sounded shit, and reviews were shit. The exact opposite things were said about Shaun of the Dead, so my expectations were up, despite an earlier warning. However, what I found amusing, was that I began to compare Shaun of the Dead and AvP to each other, and found that they followed the same narrative structure and outcome and were, in many ways, an identical kind of film.


First, they establish the cast. Are they pleasing enough? well, certainly in Alien vs Predator the lead actress is prettier than the lead in Shaun of the Dead, but none of them disgust you, though there are still token ugly people in each film. Indeed, racially speaking, the film about aliens has a more diverse cast, with an african american woman leading it, and a bunch of accented people throughout. It also has aliens. In the zombie flick, there's the cliched Indian corner store owner, but beyond that, everyone is pretty much white. Now, I don't need a racially diverse cast to enjoy a film, but I'd just like to take this moment to point out that one film did have one, and one film didn't. I'm just saying, is all.

Second, establish the main character's narrative arc for the film. In Shaun of the Dead, you basically have Shaun wanting to have some meaning in his life, to mean something to his girlfriend, to have a purpose. Hence, you know, the zombies. In Alien vs Predator, you have Alexa, who has some sort of goal to protect the environment, but more than that, wants to protect people on the ice. In a way, she wants to have the same meaning the Shaun does, except of course, in the genre of the two films, Alexa is a proactive go out and do something about shit kind of girl, while Shaun is a slacker.

Not that it matters, because soon enough, both Shaun and Alexa are doing everything they can to save people and themselves.

Third, give the audience a bit of romance. Well, Shaun of the Dead is promoted as a romantic zombie film, and a lot of it is about him trying to get his girlfriend, Liz, back. I could never quite figure out why Liz was with him in the first place, since you never learn much about her, but she serves this valuable plot device, so I knew I wasn't meant to look at it to deeply. Likewise, in Alien vs Predator, our heroine Alexa goes all weak for the European archealogist. (I've forgotten what he's called, but he will be referred to from now on as the Dark Haired European, or DHE for short.) I'm not quite sure why Alexa goes for him, either, since the two never really have a moment together, but in a film like Alien vs Predator, it's fairly obvious that DHE exists only to die and provide one of the few emotionally charged deaths in the film, thus leading Alexa to kick some serious alien ass.

Four, establish some threat. Well, there are zombies in one, and aliens (two kinds), in the other.

Five, spend the first half of the film putting the characters in the location where they are surrounded by the threat. Right, well, in Shaun of the Dead, it's the pub the Winchester, where Shaun spends most of his time. He takes his girlfriend there quite a bit, so it serves as the emotional weight that presses down against him for his personal journey. He is freed from it when the zombies break in and burn it to the ground. In Alien vs Predator, it's a giant pyramid beneath the ice. Frankly, it doesn't really serve as any kind of emotional metaphor for Alexa, but Lance Henrickson's character sees it as a place to make androids just like him for later films... oh, wait, sorry. He sees it as his destiny, because he knows that when all things are said and done, he will be linked to the franchise for years in the eyes of a generation of movie goers. Of course, this doesn't have much narrative weight, and here, at least, Shaun of the Dead is ahead.

Six, everything goes to shit. Here, the majority of the cast die, either eaten by zombies, impregnated by aliens, or stabbed by predators. There's a bunch of running and screaming and the lead characters learning to fight and kill their respective threat.

Seven, the hero triumphs. Well, in Shaun of the Dead, Shaun and Liz survive by being saved by the army, but the true triumph for Shaun is that he has his relationship back. For Alexa, she and the remaining predator have a fight with an alien mother, and at the end, Alexa... er, well, gets a sharp pointy object that symbolises the predator race accepting her into their warrior like culture. So, really, she too begins a new relationship.

Then the credits roll.

And you know, I can't believe I wrote this entire thing.