Wednesday, December 22, 2010
The original Predator, released in 1987 and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is one of those movies whose fame has managed to outlive its decade. Still revered by its fans, it seemed ready-made for a successful franchise, but 1990’s Predator 2 was a disappointment, and the character remained dormant until brought back in Aliens vs. Predator (not as bad as its reputation, but still a little disappointing) and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (It’s impossible to say too much about this one, since it was filmed with a total absence of light. I have no idea what happened in the movie, although I’ve seen it twice.). Various ideas have floated about reviving the titular monster, but none came to fruition, until this year’s Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators.
The movie opens with Royce (Adrien Brody) falling through the air. He has been thrown out of some sort of craft, and is saved by an automatic parachute (although the parachute opens low and slams him to the ground, which seems contradictory to their purpose). Royce is a mercenary (presumably) and he finds himself in the company of Nikolai, a Spetsnaz commando, Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), a member of the Zetas Mexican gang, Isabelle (Alice Braga), a CIA sniper (disregard what is said about her by Royce, he’s wrong), Stans (Walter Goggins, playing his usual racist redneck) and so on. All are obvious killers, except for Edwin (Topher Grace), who is a doctor and is presumably there to act as the group medic. It seems the deadliest of humans has been plucked from their world by the Predators and placed on a “game preserve” planet to be hunted by the Predators. This brings the story even closer to its original Most Dangerous Game antecedent. There are also other species from other worlds, but they barely figure into the story.
The seven surviving humans (one has an unfortunate parachute accident and does not live to take part) soon realize they are being hunted by the Predators and spend most of the movie trying to figure out how to fight back. There’s not much more of a plot than that; this is an action movie through-and-through. Complicating the situation somewhat is the presence of two distinctive (if you look closely) Predators, who apparently don’t like each other very much. I do wonder how a race that spends all its time trying to kill each other ever gain the technology to move about the universe so freely. There is a twist near the end which you may or may not find obvious, and the end sets up the possibility of a sequel, which Rodriguez has promised will be forthcoming.
My main reservation going in was Adrien Brody as a lead. He is a fine actor, but is better known and was seemingly better suited to playing more passive, intellectual roles. I was pleasantly surprised. Brody beefed himself up somewhat for the role, and talks in a lower, gruffer voice, and all in all, comes off well as a soldier for hire who is capable but interested mainly in saving his own skin. The rest of the cast is a bit stereotypical; one-note characters in the movie just so there would be someone to kill. The worst offender, the fault of the script, not the actor, is Nikolai. He is portrayed as an almost mindless brute with a machine gun. The Spetsnaz are the Russian Special Forces, and only take the best mental and physical candidates. It would have been a more interesting film, in my opinion, if Nikolai was the equal to Royce, perhaps pushing an alternative viewpoint, rather than having Royce as the Only Guy Who Knows What To Do. We also meet our old friend Exposition Guy (Lawrence Fishburne, in basically a cameo) in the middle of the movie, but since the only information he ha to dump is “the Predators want to kill you”, he doesn’t serve much of a purpose.
Incidentally, the filmmakers have stated this movie is a sequel to Predator and Predator 2, but not to the Alien vs. Predator films. Good call, although I would have pretended Predator 2 never existed, too.
So, is it worth seeing? I think so, as long as you know exactly what you are going to be watching. This is a simple movie of dangerous people being chased by alien monster who use advanced technology, just like the first movie, and in that it succeeds just fine. If you want something deeper, you probably wouldn’t choose this one anyway.