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Movie Review: Predators

July 8, 2010
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While its 1987 predecessor Predator took its sweet time setting up the action, Predators starts off at breakneck speed, with a man hurtling through air, frantically trying to get his parachute open.  The wind whips around him, and as he plummets toward a certain death, he appears to be a goner.

Of course, at the last second, he gets it to open, and it breaks his fall enough to allow him to survive.  All around him, other people are falling out of the sky, but some of them are not as lucky,  and die upon impact. It’s a thrilling action sequence, and immediately sets this film apart from the original.

The first thirty minutes of this movie has a distinct Lost-like vibe to it. The survivors start rounding up one another, and it becomes apparent that nobody knows how they got to this jungle, or where they are.  One man even asserts that they must be in hell.

They discover that they are all combatants of some sort.  Most are military mercenary types, one is wearing a prison jumper, and one claimed he worked for a drug cartel.   It’s a bad-ass assortment of individuals, that much is true.

Everyone has landed with appropriate weaponry and ammunition strapped to their bodies.  The lone exception is Edwin, a bookworm type who claims he is a doctor, and seems woefully out of his element among the soldiers.

Royce (Adrien Brody) emerges as the de facto leader of the motley crew, and while they all bicker and generally mistrust one another, they start noticing some strange things in the jungle surrounding them. For instance, there are cages, and lots of them. They appear to have been dropped from the sky as well.  Soon, the gang finds itself being pursued by a terrifying pack of bloodthirsty “dogs” that resemble a cross between a dog and a dinosaur.

Royce concludes that they are being hunted in a giant game reserve-the dogs were sent in to flush them out of the jungle.  The Predator creature we are all familiar with is the one doing the hunting, and the group has to employ their brawn,  cunning,  and weapon arsenal in order to survive against the creatures.  Once again, the creatures can cloak themselves from vision when needed, which further complicates things.

Director Nimród  Antal (Vacancy) does a nice job of paying tribute to the original movie while also modernizing the franchise, and putting his own spin on the story.  This time, there are two warring factions of Predators inhabiting this land, and the Predators have base camps where grisly carcasses and trophies from their  prey are collected and displayed.

Predators also seems to lean more toward the horror genre than pure sci-fi.  The gore is a bit more pervasive, and the base camps are particularly gruesome.  These creatures are faster, and they have pets to do their bidding.

There is a direct reference to a 1987 group of mercenaries in Guatemala who encountered the same type of creatures, which can be traced  back to the original movie.  The overall look of the Predators has been preserved, but technology has allowed for the “visible” to “not visible” transformation to be more fluid and natural.  I thought the dog creatures looked pretty good as well.

A lack of character development and a sloppy story line bog this film down a bit.  With the exception of Royce and Isabelle (Alice Braga), you don’t get a chance to learn anything about the characters.  This seemed like a wasted opportunity, because there could have been such interesting back-stories.  They are basically all trained killers, so there is plenty of material to explore.

The story is sorely lacking, and most questions you might have will go unanswered.  How did they get there?  Who sent them there?  I wanted to know who was responsible for rounding these individuals up.

How did the man in prison get out?  Many said they were on active military duty at the time of their disappearance. How were they removed from active battle?  I really wish some of these questions would have been addressed, and perhaps they will be with a sequel.

As for the casting, Adrien Brody is not the name that  comes to mind when I think of an action star, but he admirably pulled off this role.  He delivers some pretty cheesy lines without the slightest trace of irony, and he is fully believable as a desensitized soldier who can’t be mired  down by weak human emotions.

Thankfully, Isabelle was not cast as a  blond bimbette.  As played by Alice Braga (I Am Legend), Isabelle is a capable, no nonsense female protagonist.  The film also stars Topher Grace (as the doctor),  Walton Goggins (as the prison inmate), Oleg Taktarov, and Danny Trejo.

Laurence Fishburne makes an appearance as a survivor who has been living on the planet. Unfortunately, the scene he appears in seriously slows down the pace of the movie.

Despite these flaws, I had a really good time at Predators.  It is a worthy entry in the Predator franchise, and revitalized the source material.

Rating 3.5/5

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