Predators

Cast:
Adrien Brody as Royce
Topher Grace as Edwin
Alice Braga as Isabelle
Walton Goggins as Stans
Oleg Taktarov as Nikolai
Laurence Fishburne as Noland
Danny Trejo as Cuchillo
Louis Ozawa Changchien as Hanzo
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as Mombasa
Carey Jones as Berserker Predator / Tracker Predator / Falconer Predator
Brian Steele as Black Super Predator / Falconer Super Predator
Derek Mears as Classic Predator

Directed by Nimród Antal

Summary:

Story:
A group of elite soldiers and killers are dropped onto an alien jungle planet where they become the target for deadly alien hunters known as Predators.

Analysis:
In a summer that’s been full of remakes and sequels, it’s certainly refreshing when it’s evident a filmmaker really gets the appeal of the movie they’re trying to reboot or follow-up. In that sense, “Predators” is a more worthy successor to John McTiernan’s beloved 1987 creature classic than “Predators 2,” more like what James Cameron did with “Aliens,” while using a similar high concept as the original, this one thought up by the film’s producer Robert Rodriguez.

The movie opens with a quick series of events as an ethnically-diverse group of soldiers, prison convicts and a nerdy doctor who couldn’t be more out of place are dropped into a jungle. Having been pulled out of combat and other situations without any knowledge of where they are or how they got there, the group soon learns they’re being hunted as part of a regular ritual by a group of alien killers trying to stay in practice while challenging themselves with the various species have to offer. The first 30 to 40 minutes does a good job building the tension as the group tries to figure out exactly what’s going on, and similar to the original, it’s quite some time before we actually see any Predators, instead getting some dog-like CG creatures that probably wouldn’t have felt far out of place in James Cameron’s “Avatar.” (Little known fact, but Cameron had a small part in the design of those crazy Predator jaws.) The Predator M.O. is still pretty much the same as before with them hunting and collecting trophies from the unfortunates who end up being picked for their games.

For a movie that starts off at such a fast pace, it’s surprising when it hits a number of lulls for the characters to talk amongst themselves so we can learn more about them. By the second or third time the movie does this, it almost kills the momentum completely, but at least Antal has a solid cast of actors who can handle that sort of dramatic material. Brody does an acceptable job playing the tough guy Royce, who takes the lead on figuring out what’s going on. As is normally the case with an alpha male hero, you never really feel he’s in danger, which is a problem. Alicia Braga does a fine job keeping up with the guys in a movie that’s so full of testosterone you’re likely to get a 5 o’clock shadow while watching it. (Most of that machismo comes from Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo, and it’s surprising how quickly it drops when he’s not on-screen.) Walton Goggins and Topher Grace bring a suitable amount of comic relief to the otherwise serious situation with a few lines that could easily become popular quotables, while Laurence Fishburne brings another dynamic when he shows up roughly half-way through, as someone who has been surviving on the planet despite the insurmountable odds.

As a long-time fan of director Nimród Antal, it’s exciting to see him playing with someone else’s toys, because he’s very creative with the visuals and plays around with different genres, including a very cool homage to Kurosawa. Even so, he’s somewhat limited by the predictability that comes with making a movie about Predators. Most will realize that the group of characters we meet as the movie will be picked off one-by-one, and really, there’s only a few ways that such a simple premise can be resolved. Then again, Antal clearly knows what appealed about the first movie, and the entire movie looks fantastic with some impressive production design in terms of the environment and some of the modified creature design. As the title would make evident, there are far more Predators this time around, but unfortunately, none of them really have enough of their own personality to set themselves apart from each other in the same way the humans do. That’s not to say anything bad about the creature performers who really go all-out to make the Predators feel as menacing as the original.

Because there’s only so much you can do with the premise, it’s not particularly surprising when it goes there, but there’s a last act character twist (also somewhat predictable) that seems somewhat unnecessary. The ending of the movie also may be somewhat disappointing to anyone hoping for a conclusive resolution to the story rather than creating an opening for a sequel. As we saw with Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes,” that’s a recipe for disaster.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of the original “Predator,” then Nimród Antal’s movie makes for a far more satisfying sequel than the weak 1990 follow-up or any of the “AVP” movies, maybe because it makes more of an effort to create the vibe and tension that worked so well in the original. That doesn’t necessarily make it a great movie, since it does get bogged down in exposition a few too many times, but otherwise, it’s certainly well done and your mileage will probably vary depending on your expectations.

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