By Joseph Viney
Despite “Goooo! Get to da choppah!” becoming a part of the common nerd lexicon, the Predator franchise has always lagged behind its competitors. Series like Star Trek and Star Wars are (excuse the pun) in a completely different universe and so the main rival to the Predator series has been the Alien franchise. Unfortunately for the majority of us the battle between the two rivals was recently explored in the Alien vs. Predator movies, both of which can be fairly described as awful. And now in 2010 we have Predators.
With Alien having so far avoided the modern reboot epidemic that is sweeping Hollywood (though rumours of a Ridley Scott directed Alien 5 are gathering pace) it has been left to Predator to take up the mantle. Predator however was crying out for a new direction. The original sequel, Predator 2 (1990, directed by Stephen Hopkins) was far from a cinematic masterpiece and overall wholly unnecessary.
Producer Robert Rodriguez is keen to point out that the film is neither a direct sequel nor a remake of the preceding films. Rather it’s a bit of sideways step; exploring the original film’s universe and remaining in the parameters set by it. The title itself (i.e. the emphasis on plurality) seems to be embossed with a moral lesson. In an interview with MTV Movies Blog, Rodriguez said: “The title Predators is intended to have a double meaning, in that it refers to both the film’s alien creatures, as well as the group of humans who are going against them”.
The most notable absence in the film is obviously Mr. Ahnuld Schwarzenegger himself and it would be wholly unrealistic to expect an appearance, what with him being Governor of California nowadays (though look for him to appear in The Expendables this summer.) Replacing him as the gung-ho hard man this time is Adrien Brody, a choice which has no doubt provoked a lot of quizzical looks amongst film-goers.
Frankly, the film is somewhat of a failure on all levels. Based on an alien world instead of Earth, the film sees Royce (Brody) and various other hard nuts parachuted into a jungle with no prior explanation. Unfortunately that means the first third of the film is subject to queries like “Who are you?” and “What are we doing here?” repeated ad nauseum. Our group of protagonists include three mercenaries, a Yakuza operative, a convicted rapist and a weakling doctor. Last, and perhaps least, there is a Mexican drugs cartel boss, the type of role that an unimaginative casting director would pick Danny Trejo for. It stands to reason then that this role is played by… Danny Trejo!
Despite their best efforts, there is no way that filmgoers will be able to stop comparing Brody to their beloved Arnold. Brody has obviously spent some time in the gym to develop a rather impressive set of muscles but it’s hard to forget his poorly-acted and unintentionally hilarious turn as a mentally disabled man in The Village and then focus entirely on his new tough guy image. He has also managed to replicate Christian Bale’s vocals in Batman. By that I mean he sounds like a gravel-gargling sex pest and can be slightly disconcerting. Whilst respect must be paid to both Brody and the filmmakers for trying to break the usual action movie mould, the gamble has more negative attributes than positive.
Interestingly, and just like its predecessors, Predators has the lead female role occupied by an actress of Latino origins. Hardly shocking perhaps, but coupled with the fact she looks like exactly like the actress in Predator gives more credence to the opinion that this is more a remake than a legitimate sequel. A nod to the fans or more lazy production? It’s hard to determine.
Standard movie laws apply here; a group of confused people are picked off one by one via increasingly gory methods. With the Predator’s aesthetics already being common knowledge with filmgoers, the place wherein we normally have the ‘big reveal’ is instead spent watching Royce hack through jungle and talk in his unnaturally growly voice. One major disappointment is a scene where the group finally discover that they are on a world far from Earth. Instead of provoking an hysterical reaction at the futility of their survival effort, they simply sigh and move on. Awfully understated acting that is only saved by the gorgeous special effects; the horizon eclipsed by Jupiter, Saturn and their many respective moons.
As is the case with all summer blockbusters these days, the films are merely an advert for the reams of merchandise that follow. Two brand new species of Predator are introduced to us and only the most naïve would think that this is for the audience’s benefit. Sure enough, a flimsy plot (a Predator civil war) is created to vouch for their sudden appearance and existence but it does absolutely nothing for the film’s overall story or progression.
Predators is also marred by too many references to the original film. As much as somebody might suffer from ‘second child syndrome’, it seems like all involved with Predators are hampered by the long shadow cast by the superior original, constantly seeking reassurance from the audience that they are doing it right.
Do you recall the off-screen death of Billy in the original film? He draws his knife and urges his companions to go on without him. He dies an honourable death and much is left to the imagination. This scene is recreated in Predators but taken too far. Far from dying off-screen, one character’s death is drawn out in a clumsy hand-to-hand battle. Two things are made apparent; this is why actors wearing huge rubber costumes should not be urged to jump and run lest it make them look like a cheap Godzilla. Second, if it is not easy to spot just which character will decide to stay and fight, allowing his comrades to get a head start, then perhaps a copy of Action Moves 101 would suit you?
The one bright spot in an otherwise tepid movie is the cameo of Laurence Fishbourne. His stay is brief but he is responsible for the best turn in the film by far. Too much talk of his involvement is a spoiler minefield but it’s almost worth the ticket price for his appearance alone. Almost.
Predators does nothing but head dutifully towards its unsatisfactory conclusion, preceded by gratuitous use of expletives, explosions and questionable acting. The lead up to the final scene will cause much eye-rolling both for its alarming lack of originality and for its utter ludicrousness. As luck would have it, the film is more open ended than a wind tunnel and a sequel depends on how financially successful it is.
Watching Predators only confirms the suspicion that Rodriguez might have saved himself both time and money by buying the rights to the original and re-releasing it in cinemas. Old fans would appreciate the gesture and it would introduce new fans to a classic sci-fi/horror film that set a high precedent for the genre. This is the modern age though; there is merchandise to be sold, sequels to be made and original ideas cast aside in favour of pretty awful retreads.
5 OUT OF 10