Monday, 19 July 2010

Review - 'Predators'

This, without a doubt, is the second best Predator movie there has been to date. To a point, that's all it needed to be...

Does it blow open the story universe and flesh out the series mythology? No. Does it redefine the notion of what a Predator movie is? Again, no. But it's abundantly clear from the get-go that this was never the intention. By plunging an ethnically diverse bunch of gruff manly men and a tough Latina into a thick and hot jungle, and bringing them to the gradual realisation that they are being hunted, Nimrod Antal's film immediately evokes John McTiernan's classic original. However, it also seems to demand the viewer forget all about the subsequent Predator films (a little unfair on the not-that-bad Predator 2, but perhaps fair enough on the Alien Vs Predator duo). As was demonstrated by Superman Returns, such an approach doesn't always pay off.  If the filmmakers are too reverential to the earlier movie, the new movie runs the risk of failing to find an identity of its own. On first viewing, I rather feel that Predators has failed to avoid that pitfall, but even so it's agreeable enough as a bit of crash-bang-wallop entertainment.

Clearly the intent was also to craft a stand-alone movie, accessible to youngsters unfamiliar with the series (and yes, such creatures exist, which should of course make the rest of us feel old). There are nods aplenty to the original, from the first gun fired to the song that plays over the end titles, but none of it is conveyed in too showy a fashion, never does it descend into smug in-jokery. No one calls a Predator an ugly motherfucker, nor remarks that if it bleeds they can kill it, nor urges anyone to get to the chopper. Unfortunately, the lines that are delivered are nowhere near as memorable as those that were spat forth like tobacco from the mouths of the original's ensemble. And the next place where this movie seeks to stand up against the original but falls short - the ensemble themselves. They're simply nowhere near as engaging. Given the setup, the group was never going to have the same dynamic - Arnie's team were longtime buddies, whereas Adrien Brody's motley crew are total strangers. And, alas, we never quite get to know these guys that well. Brody and Alice Braga (both giving strong performances) take the spotlight so much, it's easy to forget the others are even there a lot of the time. The much lauded, supposedly secret appearance of Laurence Fishburne midway through doesn't bring a great deal to the table either.

Also, for a movie called Predators - a title which obviously evokes Aliens, a movie notable for its large number of antagonists - you'd be forgiven for expecting a few more of the big bad extra-terrestrial hunters. Alas, there are but a paltry few, not counting the addition of the ravenous, warthog-like creatures used as bloodhounds in one scene; credit where it's due, that may sound like an idiotic device worthy of a Stephen Sommers movie, but it actually works okay here. Less endearing to my mind is the new lead Predator with a shark-like lower jaw and CG red eyes. I get why every successive movie has revised the creature design - it's fair to assume that the features of the species would vary just as they do with us humans, I suppose - but all it ever really does is make the viewer pine for more of the original. Or maybe that's just me.

The ending may leave things wide open for a sequel, but I can't help but doubt whether the demand will be there. The second best Predator film it may be, but there's still only one truly great Predator movie. Yes, in many respects this really is Superman Returns all over again; all concerned clearly have their hearts in the right place, and have done their best to illustrate their love and respect for the original, but the result is still a pale shadow of what went before, and it's hard to see the new movie being as well loved and remembered two years from now as the original remains over two decades later. Still, for anyone who isn't too invested in the first film, it's an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours.

2 comments:

  1. I, also, was surprised at how few Predators there were. Not that I mind. If one can take down that whole Spec Ops team in part one, a clan would be impossible. The handful here are fine. But, I was surprised because in the trailer, Adrian Brody has about twenty target lights cast on him. In the actual movie scene, its one.

    And he does say "I'm here! Kill me! C'mon!" so that carried over. :P

    Overall, yeah, it was good. Definitely the second best. But still, not as good as the sequel I plotted out on some notebook paper a few years ago. I've got better in my brain. I imagine you do too.

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  2. Appreciate your thoughts. If I find myself in the theater with a few hours to kill, it's probably gonna be something else. Sounds like a lovely rental.

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