It’s one of those contentious issues that will probably never be solved. Like was Deckard a replicant? Where would Flashforward have taken us? And why did f$#k$ng George Lucas think he could make Greedo shoot first?
The issue is this; pound for pound, who would win an Alien VS Predator showdown? Sadly, we will never truly know. Why? Because every attempt to address this, in movies, novels, and even comics (anyone remember Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator?) has been truly horrible. I couldn’t even make it all the way through Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, putting it in a distinguished handful of movies that, for me, remain unfinished (and half of which star Vin Diesel).
So I’m going to ignore the Alien vs. Predator movies (right, like a Predator would ever slow down to help a lowly human survive an explosion!), and instead just consider the first two of each franchise. And on this basis, I have to award the championship belt to the Aliens.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think any of the originals (Alien, Aliens, Predator, Predator 2) are truly excellent movies, although I do think they’re very good. They all suffer, however, from the same ailment infecting all alien-related horror movies: the humans have to ‘win’ in the end. Hah, like humans could hold a candle to either an Alien or Predator. And yet, in countless movies of the genre now, the humans somehow get in the final punch, be it through a glorified bear trap in Predator, the cold, harsh reality of empty space in Alien, or sundry other unlikely scenarios. I have to say, I have for some time secretly desired for the ‘bad guy’ to get the one up on… well, us.
But not the Predator. The Predator annoys me. Perhaps it’s his reliance on technology -- let’s face it, without the tech, the Predator is nothing -- like the cloak, the laser sight (what is this, killing for beginners?), and the pathetic self-destruct (more later). Or maybe it’s all that sitting up in a tree/building, creepily watching the plot unfold but not actually doing anything. What can I say? I like a bad guy who, when he has the opportunity to rip your throat out, does. He doesn’t over-analyze it. Think The Birds or Starship Troopers (oh… come on, has anyone ever dared mentioned these two movies in the same breath?).
For me, this is a major failing of the Predator oeuvre. Admittedly, in both the Alien and Predator movies, the humans, who aren’t ever squeaky-clean themselves (muscle men/women in Predator and Aliens, or scheming corporate/military research types in Predator 2 and Alien) must somehow overcome their differences to take on, and eventually beat, the bad guy(s). As the audience, we’re not stupid. We know who is going to eventually win, even if we sometimes don’t want to believe it. But unlike in the Alien movies, you can easily see just where the Predator is going to go wrong. He’s going to get goaded into something. Or he’s going to get cocky and go hand to hand (has that ever come off? Ask Tommy Lee Jones how it worked out for him). In other words, the Predator is just as fallible as we are.
Meanwhile the Alien just goes for the kill. Mindless, relentless, no game plan, like a swarm of locusts. You don’t really beat the Aliens -- you just don’t lose as badly as you could have.
It is the “personality” and “intelligence” of the Predator that costs him most dearly. First of all, let’s get the big one out of the way: the self-destruct device. How pathetic. I don’t get this one. If, as we are led to believe (Predator 2), they are a proud race only interested in the hunt, then what do you get out of blowing yourself up? Surely a better way to go out is to throw the proverbial kitchen/death-ray sink at your enemy and, if you do happen to still get knocked off, then either (a) you’re just not good enough, or (b) your ‘prey’ is actually pretty decent (and let’s face it, Arnold is more than decent… though I’m not so sure about Danny). If the former, you deserve to die; if the latter, then eventually word is going to get back to the other Predators that there is ‘worthy’ prey out there, and you can at least rest easy (which, being dead, is about all you’re going to be doing) that you set the bar so high for others of your hunt-happy race. It’s like getting the top score on a pinball game. Your last ball will fall through those flippers in the end, but that’s still your name up on the board for all to see.
Would an Alien have this problem? Helllll no! Why? They are mindless killers. Emphasis on ‘mindless’. Sure, occasionally they have to drag a few victims back to the hive to birth the next generation, but Aliens are pretty simple folk. They approach you with little stealth (you just don’t see them) and prefer the head on charge. If you’re lucky you might get to see their second set of teeth, but fairly quickly it’s BOOM! You’re dead (unless you’re a cat).
Would an Alien, upon noticing that its prey (in this case, Cantrall in Predator 2) is pregnant, retreat and not kill her? Not a chance. It might pause for a second to consider what little space she has left inside her to jam another Alien down her face, but would probably just rip her in half anyway.
But for me, the one reason why the Aliens get the nod in this battle is not the acid blood, it’s not that streamlined body perfect for climbing quickly through air vents, and it’s not even that second set of teeth (cool though). The reason is the potential of Aliens plural. Now, you could maybe argue that one Predator would beat one Alien, and you might be right. But take a moment to admire the relentless skill on show by the Aliens in Aliens. You take one down, there are ten others. You bring an army, they just see a bunch of baby Alien incubators.
One could say that the Predators’ biggest weakness is that they are too much like humans. And we know how pathetic humans are. Aliens, on the other hand, you suspect will last much longer than mere Earthlings or even the Predator race. That there’ll always be some humanoid population to stumble upon their eggs and, like a plague, the Aliens will tear through this new race quickly and efficiently. No mercy, no second thoughts, no fancy kills.
Meanwhile, some Predator somewhere will be still playing around with his self-destruct device. How sad.