Predators Review (3 of 5) With Some Mild SPOILERS

MILD SPOILER ALERT! MILD SPOILER ALERT!i drop a few mild spoilers within the review. Nothing major, I don’t think (things that you could get from the trailer), but they’re still SPOILERS. I’ve warned you. I had decided that I wouldn’t see the midnight screening of Predators. I figured it would be a step up from all of the atrocious sequels that were spawned by the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, but would not come close to the original. As midnight drew closer, the urge to see it kicked in and I scrambled to get to the movie theater. I got what I expected: a predictable B-movie with some laughs,  some light gore and decent FX that made for a mostly forgettable film. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. The movie had its moments.

The movie begins with a group of assassins, mercenaries, soldiers and assorted murderers who all awaken to find themselves in freefall over a jungle. Luckily, they have been outfitted with automatic parachutes.

Of course, what  they have been dropped into is a ‘game preserve’ where a race of  bloodthirsty aliens hunt for trophies of the human variety (and other kinds too, I guess). Led by a mercenary (Adrien Brody) who goes through almost the entire movie without a name), the group quickly realizes their situation.

The movie worked pretty well.. all the way up to the point where Lawrence Fishburne turns up. Not because of Fishburne, the movie just unravels a little bit at that point. It became increasingly more predictable as it lumbered to the finish. There are still some laughs, but never any real suspense to it .

There are several good points to the movie. It has ALMOST the same ‘on location’ feel that the original had. Almost. And it has plenty of respectful nods and mentions of the original source material. Even the soundtrack echoes the original (ending with a Little Richard tune that had an important part in the 1987 film). Adrian Brody is convincing in a role that I personally would’ve never pictured him playing. This was a nice rebound for him after starring in that movie-turd ‘Splice’.

The reveal that the characters are not in Kansas anymore was done well.

Alice Braga was likeable in the (platonic) love interest role.

She was also the only one in the film with a conscience which is lacking in most films of these types that are made these days.

Brody’s character has to be reminded by her that he may have one deep down. These two actors worked pretty well with one another.

Walton Goggins provided several laughs as did Topher grace (who I think plays the same sarcastic aloof character in every movie he’s in). The thing that gets me, though is that theses are supposed to be the biggest badasses of Earth that were chosen as worthy ‘game’ for this race of hunter/predators. But I’m lookin’ at ’em and I’m not gettin’ that from them.

The Yakuza member of the group for instance hardly says anything in the film. He gives a reason, but… He’s mainly thrown in to have a ‘cool’ one on one with one of the Predators, much like Sonny Landham’s character Billy had in the Schwarzenegger film. In that one, though, Billy had accepted that he was going to die and decided he would go out on his feet rather than running away. Here it just seemed like, “okay, here’s the cool scene with the Yakuza guy fighting the Predator with a sword. Go.”

Combined, these guys had almost as much testosterone as Floyd Landis...

The original ‘Predator’  had an interesting cast and all played their parts at full tilt, but the movie didn’t tell you how ‘badass’ they all were. The movie showed it. The first part of that film gave an idea of who the characters were and what they did. Then the ‘Predator’ turns up and turns the hunters into the hunted.

This new cast (although,  I think they all did reasonably well) just don’t seem nearly as impressive as the group from the original film.

I think Dutch and co. from the original would make short work of this new group.

The Arnie Classic had a nice beat to it. It kept raising the stakes as the film progressed.

The thing that truly made it suspenseful was that Arnie and crew were finding out about the alien creature as the audience did. There was a real air of mystery. The creature was revealed a little at a time. First evidence of its presence. Then a sighting of something camouflaged in the jungle.

Then we get a look at the beastie and it was definitely different. But that wasn’t what it REALLY looked like. When we got THAT reveal, it truly was an impressive countenance.

Then they still weren’t through and the creature takes an aggressive posture, goes mano y mano against ARNIE and even tears him a new one. I also have to say, along with Stan Winston’s makeup FX, the late Kevin Peter Hall (who played the original Predator) was both physically intimidating and nuanced enough to give the alien some personality (see also Harry and the Hendersons).

None of that is the case here. The Predators quickly reveal themselves and remain on screen for far too long. These things are supposed to be at home in the trees, but here are referred to as ‘heavy’ implying a lack of the agility of the alien from the first film. At times they looked very much the ‘guys in rubber suits’ that they are.

The movie also seemed to be written by a nerdy fan writer. Fan first, writer second.  Nerds always have to have something that’s ‘even more powerful’ than the last version. Instead of writing something interesting, we’re told there are other Predators EVEN MORE POWERFUL than the one that Arnie fought. What does that mean? Nothing really. The first Predator  killed what looks like a superior unit. There are THREE in this film and don’t really seem to have a sizeable advantage, BUT they hunt the smaller ones of their kind. And not surprisingly, there will be a team-up with the predator alien hunted by its own kind. Nerds love that, too. They loved the villain SO MUCH that they want the villain to fight side by side with the heros and ruin all of the villain’s street ‘cred’. That happens in this.

Just breaking things up with another pic of Alice...

There’s a Predator vs Predator face off that was probably the most uninteresting moments of the movie and recalled some of the worst Japanese giant monster movies. There is also unnecessary and needless info given about the Predators. Much like the Sith, there are only a certain number of them that can pop up at once aopparently. In this, there are always 3 Predator Aliens that show up to hunt. “Always 3”. There was also quite a bit of borrowing from other films. Obviously, there was an attempt to emulate the success of the the first installments of the Alien franchise (Alien/Predator/AlienS/PredatorS) and the formula is followed noticeably close, having the action take place on another world. Adding more of the aliens to fight. The first being a singular noun. The sequel being plural.

A good bit of this movie is dedicated to the other alien creatures that turn up instead of the race of Predators. The Predators themselves turn out to be rather ineffectual compared to the lone killing machine in the original. The tactics used by Arnie in the original to fight the Predators are the same here. The weaknesses of the Predator are exploited to a somewhat non believable level.

These new Predators are drastically more stupid or at least they’ve been written that way. A lot of time is spent on characters talking about how bad the aliens are instead of showing how bad they are.

Is this as good as the Schwarzenegger film? HELL NO. Not by a long shot.  And this even had something that is one of my little pet peeves: scenes from the trailer that never appear in the film.

In the movie...

It’s like the trailer editor thought the Predator’s gun pointed at Adrian Brody wasn’t scary enough so he/she added 5 or 10 more.

Not in the movie...

There are only 3 or 4 of the aliens in the movie, so isn’t this once again false advertising?.  Maybe. Is this something to bide your time until Inception comes out? Sure. The movie has its moments. The cinematography and locale is nice to look at. The characters are likeable enough, even if most of them are somewhat stereotypical. There were some very artistically lit shots scattered in the film. Brody and Braga were good in the leads. There is maybe one twist that wasn’t blatantly predictable involving Fishburne’s character, but it didn’t make much sense after I thought about it. There was just enough provided by the secondary characters that gave the slightest shred that they were just important enough that one of them MIGHT survive along with the leads. All of this made the movie a tolerable 3 of 5 whatevers. This might have sounded like I was being overly hard on the movie, but I don’t think so.

I think it gets worse the more you think about it, so don’t think too much. Ultimately ‘Predators’ suffers, as a lot of sequels do, when the original star doesn’t come back for the sequel.  It lacks Arnold.

Even the supporting characters of that one (Carl Weathers, Jessie Ventura, Bill Duke, etc) had more chutzpah than the leads in this film, but Arnold Scwarzenegger, especially when Predator was made, was the very definition of  a movie star. He had the proverbial ‘bigger than life’ persona (and Brody drinkin’ the creatine shakes and juicin’ up still isn’t going to be a physical match for the former Mr. Olympia). Watching a sequel of one of Arnie’s movies without him makes for inferior entertainments, at least in my opinion.

I can’t imagine a Commando or a Running Man sequel without him and it’s apparent here that unless there is a really good director attached, this series will never recapture the magic of the original without Arnold.  At least for me.

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