Predators (spoilers)

20th Century Fox

107 minutes.

Rated R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language.

Released Oct. 19, 2010.

New to Blu-ray this week is Predators, a sequel-homage to the 1987 Schwarzenegger-classic Predator.  Ignoring the Danny Glover follow-up, as well as 20th Century Fox's franchise crossover Alien vs. Predator flicks, director Nimrod Antal literally drops his cast of mercenaries and killers onto an alien jungle planet where they become the hunted.

Adrien Brody (King Kong) takes the lead, backed up by an unassuming doctor (That 70's Show's Topher Grace), a female army brat, and some guns-for-hire for the Triad and the Mexican drug cartel, and a death row inmate played by Walton Goggins.  Goggins is best known for his work on the FX cable series The Shield and, more recently, Justified.  It looks like he's having fun here and brings the typical charm and smarm he's brought to the small-screen, making him the most memorable and entertaining of the bunch.  He's able to spout off some truly abhorrent dialogue with an amazing 'aw shucks' whimsy.  Brody, as an actor, isn't known for his tough-guy roles, but he beliveably throws around the machismo, even if some of his lines are delivered with a bit too much gruff (think Batman in The Dark Knight).  Danny Trejo and Laurence Fishburne round out the cast, but are there mostly for cameos and cannon fodder.

The cast as a whole are familiar archtypes for anyone who's seen a Predator movie.  Brody is the take-charge mercenary, which makes him the defacto Schwarzeneggerian lead.  Everyone else is there to provide viewers with some entertaining and gory kills, and the occasional comic relief.  Since the actors are basically there to serve as a cutting board for the alien hunter's high tech blades and guns, there's not a lot of character development and emotional attachment for anyone in the group.  Predators is a straight-up sci-fi action fest.  It's not particularly scary and there are only a few moments of suspense, but it does bring on the bloodshed and heaps of nostalgia.  Fans of the original Predator will notice the many nods to the original, right down to the musical score as John Debney apes on Alan Silvestri's beats.

 

The first half of the movie is actually pretty exciting, as the ragtag band of hunted piece together what's going on.  There's a small scene involving a plant and its paralyzing nectar, which you know immediately will be paid off during the film's climax, although how that pay-off works out is a bit of a surprise.  There's even a cool aside to a previous Predator win over the human race when one of abductees discovers an ancient Samurai sword and then goes mano-a-mano with a blade-wielding alien.  The Predator mask that goes along with the sword even has some ancient Japanese styling to it that begs for its own story.  Predator versus Samurai...it's too cool of an idea to never get its own full-length movie.

The problems start to show themselves during the second half with the introduction of a second Predator species.  Bigger, stronger and fangier, this breed hunts in packs of three to take down the classic, lone Predator types that tried to best Arnie in the first movie (and Glover in the second now-forgotten follow-up).  It's not a bad development, per se, just one that's underdeveloped, unexplored, and too late to the party.  Introducing this late game-changing socio-political aspect to the Predator's hunting culture comes off as a clunky attempt at exercising a deus ex machina for the finale in order to give the survivors (and viewers) a bit of hope that everything will come out fine in the end.  The fact that the film's resolution itself happens to be one of the most nihilistic endings in any of the Predator movies (particularly if Fishburne's cameo is any indication of what the future holds for the survivors) only underscores how unnecessary this development really is, while also throwing the door wide-open for another sequel.

Despite a few missteps in the latter half and a cast of characters that are cardboard cutouts (many of whom are actually cutouts of fan-favorite cardboard cutouts from the first movie), Predators manages to be a largely entertaining, yet very simple, check-your-brain-at-the-door movie.  It's nowhere near as bad as the Strause brothers' Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, but for all its flattery towards the original Schwarzenegger vehicle it never lives up to the original.  It does what it's supposed to do and, in workmanlike fashion, echoes and plays off the nostalgia and memories of its predecessor.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGAIKCOqQ10&hd=1]

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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