Notable Cast: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo
Review: I’m in total macho mode for this review. For too long I was subjected to watching my beloved Predators be butt raped on-screen by awful attempts to keep the creature created in the original Predator alive. Predator 2 blew (GARY BUSEY!!!), Alien vs. Predator sucked even harder, and Alien vs. Predator 2: Requiem sucked right in between the two. But, every one failed equally on living up to one of the most testosterone-filled action bonanzas ever created. Predator holds a very special place in my heart among action movies because it had everything a guy could ask for. Gargantuan actors with big bulging biceps (swear I’m not gay), heavy-duty weaponry (jungle explosion scene?), an enemy that appears unbeatable, and quotability that will never lose its reference (GET TO THA CHOPPA!). So when I heard the king of modern-day grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez, was producing a Predator movie in no way attached to the horrors of the AVP series, I thought “Wow, my generation will now have its own Predator film that we can grow up quoting and gushing over.” To say I was fully on board is an understatement. And if you’ve read anything on Rodriguez, you’d know he’s very hands on so even if he hired and incompetent director, Rodriguez would make sure every shot is still the way he would want it to turn out. But then things got a little weird. First, he brought on a director not known well in the US and who had two very “meh” movies. Then, it was announced Adrien Brody would be the lead militant. Then Topher Grace popped up. And the aging Laurence Fishburne. And a woman (in a totally NON-sexist way, just, they’re freakin’ Predators). And questions began to arise in me. Obviously, the film would lack the muscle-bound jarheads from the original, but hey, it was still Rodriguez and it was still fuckin’ Predator. I didn’t let that bum me out. Predators was my #1 priority for the summer (yes, even over Inception and Scott Pilgrim, that’s how much Predator means to me), and when the release date finally came I was ready for the midnight release. And I waited. And I watched. And it ended. And then there was silence. And when I walked out, I was filled with a mix of sadness and disappointment that came from a movie that I wanted so much more out of and whose quality I wanted actually rival the original. Time to reflect was actually good because those feelings have gone away finally and I can rate the movie in a non-biased mindset, but just because I can say Predators is easily the second best in the series, it does not mean in any way that it lived up to the expectations of the dream assembling that Robert Rodriguez and the Predator franchise created.
What Predators does is throw a group of military specialist on remote planet which acts as a game reserve for Predators in training. Our lead character Royce (Brody) wakes up plummeting through the sky towards the ground with no recollection of how it happened while a shoot pops open making the landing a little softer. As he explores the terrain, Royce encounters several others that suffered the same fate and they form a team to try and escape their situation. They range from Yakuza, Rebel fighters, Black Ops, and a doctor (Grace) who seems out-of-place. Slowly, they all realize they have one thing in common: they were all abducted during battle. These are the best of the best, and things become suddenly clear when the Predators make their presence known: the hunters have now become the hunted (Bum Bum BUM!). With no way off the planet and no idea what is even hunting them, the team has to devise some sort of plan before the Predators pick them off one by one. Simply stated, Predators is a fight for survival.
I read an interview with Rodriguez where he said Predators was going to go back to the atmosphere of the first film. In Predator, the hunter doesn’t really show himself till the end of the movie while Arnold and his men are picked off one by one off screen. And while Predators does achieve this style, it felt dull watching it again. There was a lot of walking, and I mean like Lord of the Rings type walking. Frankly, I was downright bored at parts. Too many parts. I love that Rodriguez and Natal were trying to show their love for the first film, but this was their chance to do something different. Predator was amazing for the tension it created by having an invisible killing machine that was basically toying with a group of soldiers for fun. But don’t try and re-create the exact same feelings. I wanted a new edge to the Predators, but instead got a retelling of sorts of the first film. And the thing is, a lot of people loved it for that reason. Someone I know with equal love for the first as me tried to explain to me that Rodriguez and Natal created the best possible sequel basically because it stayed true to the original. And while I agree it did hold some weight and the film was better than the rest for it, Predator did it infinitely better and instead that was all I could focus on.
Sure the new film introduced you to a new planet, a new breed of Predator, and new Predator creatures, but I also feared the Predator much less in this film. I know the whole idea is that the planet is a training ground so you won’t have the Jean Claude Van Damme Predators yet, but still these humans should have had no shot. *SPOILER* (Highlight Text to Read) And yet the Yakuza character was able to take down a Predator in hand to hand combat by simply charging at him with a sword. The theater of fanboys cheered as the mighty warrior was taken down, but at that moment the Predator lost the feel of an unstoppable killing machine and changed the thrill of the entire movie for me. *SPOILER OVER*
Predators turned out more like an homage to the first film instead of a film that can stand on its own. It’s not that anything was done wrong per say, it just wasn’t that enthralling. There’s a lot of walking, not enough action, and some questionable plot points the film really could have done without. Topher Grace’s character twist could be predicted a mile away, and I would have appreciated it much more if his character was just swapped out for another brute warrior to help the cause. It got to the point for me where Adrien Brody threw an Arnold quote in from the first when he was screaming “DO IT!! KILL ME NOW!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!!” and instead of being able to appreciate/respect the nod to the first, I was instead angry and thought to myself “No, that’s Arnold’s line, don’t ruin that quote for me too.” I wanted to so much to love Predators and I wanted so much to grow up with my own amazing Predator film, but instead it just felt like one big fanboy tribute to the original. All the walking/hiding, the reused quotes, how the Yakuza character was a straight rip off of Billy from the first film; the list goes on. This really turned out to be my biggest disappointment in a while sadly. Maybe with this out of their system though, Rodriguez and Natal and get another Predator film going and take the genre on the crazy trip I dreamed Predators could have gone. Until then, I’ll stick with the classic.
Final Rating: 5 times still better than AVP out of 10