Thursday, 8 July 2010

Predators - Review

The Predator franchise has had a torrid time since its first incarnation, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 1987. Since then audiences have been treated to an awful sequel starring Danny 'I'm too old for this sh*t' Glover, going toe-to-toe in a dreadful crossover with the equally terrifying Alien brand and just to make matters worse, they made a sequel to that which was frankly an abominable excuse of fanboy indulgence.

And so the die-hard fans turn their gazing eyes to producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal to restore the creditability the series once had as a, frankly brilliant, survival horror.

Similar in tone to the original, the story features a group of elite warriors hunted in jungle settings by members of the merciless alien race we all know as the Predators. However just to make matters slightly harder this time, this eclectic bunch of killers are stuck on an entirely different world with no way to escape, just fighting to stay alive.

It's risky business to attempt a film which is essentially just a more ambitious rehash of the original, but strangely it worked surprisingly well. What was perhaps more risky was the left-field choice, Adrien Brody, for the leading character, who is often more famous for his straight award-winning acting roles as oppose to these mindless affairs.

Brody performed his duties well, as the lone solider leading this bunch of untrustworthy scum, and was even mildly convincing with a gun. Yes yes, we all want Arnold back but I was pleased with the results, and was certainly a much more compelling protagonist to have than simply drafting in some poor B-Movie substitute ala Vin Diesel or Jason Statham.

This was maybe unintentional - but was bothersome nevertheless - on the writer's part; but the supporting cast was seemingly made up of the most predictable and politically correct bunch ever seen in an action movie for some time. You had a token spiritual African solider, a silent but ruthless Yakuza member, a crazy Hispanic bounty hunter, a geeky, deceptively useless, 'doctor', a serial killer from death row, an Eastern European and of course a woman who probably kicks more ass than the males in the movie. All performed admirably but as you can imagine, were all essentially cannon fodder to the real stars of the piece, the Predators themselves.

The Predators were as foreboding as they have been in any film, comic book or computer game they've ever featured in, but the film-makers seemed to miss the point, once again, of what made them so brilliant in the first place. One of the chief reasons I love the original is because its almost psychological in its approach, this silent killer picking off its prey one by one, toying with the audience until its final encounter.

Though the director tries to capture the spirit of the original film with its setting, and toys with psychological aspects at the beginning, it disappointingly went the way of the later films by transforming into an all out action film instead of a game of pure wits and strategy. However, if you switch off your brain and take Predators for what it is as oppose to what the original Predator was, it was actually a mildly entertaining affair fitting of the Summer blockbuster season.

With risk of crossing into ranting geek territory, the setting of the film could have felt a bit more alien as oppose to just a doppelgänger for the Amazonian rainforest. More risks could have also been taken to include other beasts, bugs, monsters, aliens into the mix but I imagine this was more due to budgetary constraints than, director, Nimrod Antal simply playing it safe.

Upon reflection I almost feel as though this film was made about 15 years too late, as it would have made a worthy - albeit samey - sequel to the original (which is cleverly referenced in this), compared to what audiences were unfortunately subjected to in Predator 2.

Final Thoughts
Fans of the original will be happy to know Predators is not even close to the travesties of the awful sequel and Alien Vs Predator movies. It is however still not a patch on the brilliant original, and if you can accept that and take the film for what it is - a dumb, gory, but still fun, survival horror then you should be satisfied upon leaving the cinema. But I bet I know what you'll still be thinking - I wish Arnie was in it.


See This If You Liked...
Predator, Aliens, Pitch Black.

Predators is in cinemas everywhere now.

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