Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Predators (2010) Review

If it bleeds, you can fix it

Forget every Predator movie made after the year 1987. Erase the tainted memories of the Alien vs. Predator movies from your head and forget that Predator 2 even happened (seriously people, it has some cool concepts, but deep down it’s pretty bad). None of them do justice to John McTiernan’s testosterone-soaked original, which you would think shouldn’t be too hard of a task since it’s really just a story of crack commandos entering the jungle and encountering an invisible and seemingly unbeatable hunter. Give the men some personality, memorable one-liners, imagine a unique creature unlike anything else, and an action classic is born. This is precisely why Predators succeeds at being the true follow up that should’ve happened 20 years ago; it takes everything we enjoyed about the first one, puts a creative spin on those old elements, and then introduces a few of its own.

Plot Synopsis: After waking up from unconsciousness in freefall and parachutes to the ground, mercenary Royce finds himself lost in an unknown jungle environment. Eventually, Royce comes across an assortment of soldiers, convicts, a Yakuza officer, and a doctor all named Cuchillo, Nikolai, Isabelle, Mombasa, Stans, Hanzo, and Edwin whom are similarly confused about their current location. While walking around the jungle looking for answers, they come across some open cages and American soldier’s dead body. Still confused about the situation, they travel to higher ground where they get a view of the sky, which includes planets and moons that are certainly not in Earth’s view. And finally, after surviving an attack from a pack of unknown beasts, Royce concludes that someone (i.e. the predators) is hunting them, and they are in a game preserve on another planet.


While it’s hard to top Predator’s cast of impossibly muscled men of action (which includes Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, Carl Weathers, and Arnold Schwarzenegger), Predators smartly sidesteps the comparison of the casts by offering wildly differing people coming together unwillingly rather than a group of friends who know each other well. You may never have thought Adrien Brody could play action antihero before, but god damn he completely wins you over with his hardened performance as the selfish and surprisingly unlikable Royce. Brody bulked up considerably for the role, and it’s refreshing to have a protagonist who is generally an asshole most of the time rather than being a heroic leader. He’s also aided by a great supporting cast of various oddballs that includes Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins (hilarious comic relief on his part), Topher Grace, and a wacked-out Laurence Fishbourne. While Fishbourne’s quiet and crazed character Noland provided some great lines and interesting ideas, the role is too short-lived and ultimately slows the pace down for a great chunk of time. Grace’s casting was questioned by many at first, but let me tell you that his character has more up his sleeve than you may think, providing an unsettling development that worked quite well.

In addition to the great assortment of different actors, the story takes a return back into the jungle setting, recapturing that sweaty, grimy tension before finally letting loose with the carnage. Those looking to get into the action right away will slouch in their seats, watching as the plot slowly allows the characters to find new discoveries, piece together what happened to them, and lets us know that something (you know, the predators) is stalking them which will soon pick them off one by one. And at the heart of things, that’s the real reason why Predator still works to this day since its release; the suspense of waiting for that moment of release when the predators will finally strike, and it’s why Predators succeeds too. And when things begin happening, it gets down and dirty. The action is put together crisply, clearly, and isn’t afraid to linger on the more gore-filled moments. Believe me when I say there will be blood (unlike the squeaky clean, PG-13 AVP).


Now while the movie does play as an homage to the original, sprinkling moments here and there that reference it, it also has a few new tricks to distinguish itself as another entity. Like Predator 2, Predators expands on the predator’s hunting abilities, but unlike that previous entry it does it in ways that also help us understand their culture more. The race war, for instance, is one of those factors, which means that not only will you see predator/human fighting, but also predator-to-predator. In fact, most of the predators we see are from the new opposing race, but rest assured that the classic design makes his entrance by the films climax. This new race proves to be just as tough, lethal, and cunning as the one we know from old though, like in one memorable sequence where its revealed that this race likes to employ its version of hunting dogs. The only problem with these new ideas is that while they are very cool to learn about, they seem to be dropped very quickly (with the exception of the war). The dogs only show up in one scene, and there is a part that hints that the predators also abduct other alien species for the game preserve, yet this is never followed up on.

There are also some occasional moments of cheesy dialogue, some plot holes left unexplained, and ropey CGI in a couple of points (oh, dear lord, were those fire effects horrible). Aside from those unconvincing effects though, all of the on-camera practical effects are seamless and never take you out of the moment. And just to tie the whole package together, Alan Silvestri’s thumping score has been faithfully recreated just for the occasion. Even if you did actually like Predator 2 (or are one of the three AVP fans out there), Predators still outclasses all of those and posits itself as both a nice companion piece to the original and a natural extension of the established story.


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