Deadly Movies | Reviews
The Predators get their fifth cinematic treatment and third solo outing, but make no mistake this is very much a sequel to the 1987 monster classic. In effect the sequel that never happened. ‘Predators’ strips everything back to basics, back to the jungle, back to military types pitting their combat wits against the Predators. This time, rather than Arnie’s group of US special forces, we get a rag-tag bunch of soldiers, mercenaries, murderers, and gangsters from every corner of the Earth, all with their own set of specialist combat skills, all abducted and parachuted onto a hostile alien planet. The planet, it’s worth noting, isn’t so much the Predator home planet, but rather their training ground, and all action safari park or game reserve as Adrian Brody’s ‘Royce’ terms it.
The film kicks off at admirable break neck speed, little is given in the way of build up or exposition. And that’s to its credit. It doesn’t need an elaborate setup, as its audience is well up to speed with the Predator story thus far. This is a movie with more than one eye on genre fans. Forced to work together the human group go about exploring their new surroundings, oblivious to where they are, how they got there and most importantly of all, who their tormentors are. These first scenes of cat and mouse are some of the movies strongest moments. The Predators toying with, and studying their prey, and the humans adapting and working together. True it’s hard to emphasise with humans who have so little in the way of redeemable features, but then again the monsters vs monsters motif (the humans being the monsters of Earth) is a neat little idea.
Following the formula of the ’87 film closely, the movie is fairly formulaic with members of the human group dropping one at a time to various Predator kill methods, some very inventive, and thankfully gore is restored to the franchise. There are no real surprises as to who bites the dust. The actors are well chosen, avoiding the pit falls so easily stumbled upon when playing, what are essentially, stereotypes. Oleg Taktarov’s Russian Special Forces officer and Louiz Ozawa’s silent Japanese Yakuza are especially good, with Brody doing well as the brooding action hero. The Predators themselves are thankfully restored to their former glory. Gone are the hulking WWE wrestler style Predators of the AVP films. Emphasis here returns to style, iconography, and movement. Special praise also goes to director Antal and producer Rodriguez for location shooting and holding back on the CG. The action, the environment, and the Predators all look real. It’s sweaty, grimy, and dirty.., and so it should be.
Strangely the film’s attachment and affection for its 1987 forefather is what anchors it as a solid genre film, but also what stops it from being a great new Predator movie. It’s overflowing with visual, verbal, and tonal nods to the original. It’s almost as if the Predators themselves are aware of the first film and have set about recreating it. There’s the Ventura style minigun, the waterfall, the mud camouflage, Alan Silvestri’s famous ‘Predator’ score, and it’s no coincidence that Alice Braga’s Isabel resembles Elpidia Carrillo’s Anna. While these nods and winks are essential to re-establish the franchise, they also act as a weight around the film’s neck, stopping it from flourishing. For example, the alien planet they find themselves on serves little narrative purpose other than to be an alien planet. It has nothing alien about it save for a beautifully realised sky, one plant, and a few creatures. But on the whole we could just as well be back in Val Verde. There are also some lovely concepts that aren’t fully explored, such as the other life forms that have been parachuted in for the hunt. If this film serves as a reboot to the franchise then it has done a fine job. If on the other hand, this is a one off, you can’t help but feel it’s somewhat of a missed opportunity for Predator expansion. Still, a very satisfying romp in the jungle.
PS: If you love ‘Predators’ then you will have a joygasm over the song that plays over the end credits!