Saturday, May 5, 2012


it's kind of funny that my very next post after completely praising Predator is my reaction to it's 2010 kind-of sequel, Predators. This is the first movie-game-or-thing that I've had much of an opinion on lately, and dammit you're gonna hear about it.

So, in 2010, after the release of two Predator movies and two AvP franchise movies, Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker studios took the Predator license and produced Predators. I was excited about this movie, but never got to see it because video rental stores had died by that point (in my area at least), and the film was not available for VOD. So I had to wait until I was willing to buy a copy, and finally in 2012, I got tired of waiting for Netflix or Amazon to pick it up and bought a copy. On Blu Ray no less, because if it was awesome I didn't want to have to buy it again.

And that roll of the dice did not work in my favor, because while it's not bad, I have no plans to watch it again. I hate having to say negative things about things like movies if they are made in earnest, and this movie was. Unfortunately, the end result was still unremarkable. Competently and earnestly made, but unremarkable. I could have gotten it used on eBay for like $2.99 if I'd looked hard enough. If you have no plans to finish this article because I have put my conclusion up front, the quick and dirty on this film is that it probably that it didn't need the Predator license to exist, and that everyone was trying hard, but the project sadly just fell short. Let's dig deeper though, because an article's gotta get wrote.

The movie starts out of the blue with Adrien Brody falling out of the sky, parachuting to a vaguely alien jungle. Not a bad device, really. He meets a sampling of all of the other "killers" humanity has to offer as they slowly parachute in one by one: The Convict, The Mercenary, The Gangster, The Soldier, The Guerilla, and ... Topher Grace.


They all slowly figure out that their "killer" status is the reason they've been thrown together, and are slowly attacked by alien species up to and including ... Predators! And this is where I will start to nitpick, wasting no time. It's that "up to and including" part. In many respects this movie resembles the original one, with a troupe of commandos marching through the jungle talking in angry whispers and occasionally joking. And these scenes, for the most part, work and measure up to equivalent parts of the original. Where I think the filmmakers kind of messed up a golden opportunity with this license was to step too far outside of the established canon. In attempts to expand Predators' history, they introduced multiple species of Predator and even "dogs" for them to use like a hunter would. A little more detail on that in a sec.

As for the characters themselves, we are introduced to them as they walk, exchanging backstories. They are fairly cookie cutter, don't really give any personal detail, and a lot of time is spent on this. Even our lead isn't terribly interesting, because  he's a jaded mercenary, and they do spend a lot of time letting you know this. This is confronted via the plot later, but as the action scenes pass, you really don't get excited for lack of character connection. It's not dissimilar to a horror film; these characters need to be unsympathetic to die and honestly, what do you expect with an indescriminate band of killers? They're not a tight-knit band of commandos with a long history like before; most are distant and cold and there's no real warmth between them, and I can't believe I didn't notice that it was there in the last movie. Not having this camaraderie really hurts the film, or at the very least finds it wanting.

There is action to break it up, but the story bits that go nowhere take up a good amount of the runtime. Action slowly creeps up and is well paced, and there is some excitement in recognizing the infra-red view, shoulder canons and the iconic 3-dot laser as they come up. They even reference the first movie, with one soldier recounting a field report that a lone survivor killed one of the creatures using mud in the 1980s. But the action just falls flat, because you really don't get acquainted enough with these characters before they die.

By the end, honestly it doesn't really resemble the previous movies. There is sadly very little here to make the movie "feel" like it's actually within the universe created by John McTiernan and Arnold Schwarzenegger 30 years ago. It wouldn't necessarily take a leap of faith to say it is, but they have made too many variations here for my taste. I imagine what they were trying to do was "up the ante" to make this entry uniquely memorable and intense. For instance, the new species of Predator that are introduced are supposed to be stronger than the ones we as viewers are familiar with (the exact vocabulary used is wolves to dogs). But there's an intrinsic problem there: As viewers, we are not familiar with them. The only consistent element from film to film is the garden-variety or "dog" species, and now it's gone. It's introduced shortly for sake of foothold; something to compare the new ones to. Kind of like how in Jurassic Park III they had a T-Rex lose a fight to a Spinosaurus to show that our heroes were facing a more dangerous villain. But that sucks, because we love the T-Rex.

So, not a bad thing necessarily, but very disappointing. There were a lot of ways to go about making the movie and I think they might have reached a little too high. Gripes aside now, let's do some positives. The acting is actually fairly well done. You can tell that everyone involved was actually trying to do a good job, and while I had immersion problems, I was at least able to take some joy in seeing everyone come together and try. The plot is fairly simple, just like I was expecting and was totally okay with before I even saw it. No need to fix what ain't broke there. Also, where CGI was used somewhat, there are actually a lot of practical special effects and puppetry to be enjoyed here. Good to see it alive and kicking. They did make a few moves towards throwing in a "save others to save yourself" humanity element, and while it was fairly well done it kind of felt out of place; no points, no penalty. As is typical and expected of the series, you do get a last-battle payoff at the end, but by the time it comes we are really just waiting for the thing to wrap up. Again no points, but no penalty for at least keeping this element intact. It's a competently done last battle.

So, like I've been saying all along, it's just okay. Not a bad thing, but expectations have a lot to do with the bad taste. You'll react differently to food that's just okay depending on whether it's served to you at the Cheesecake Factory or Del Taco. Expectations have a lot to do with it, and the high bar that was set by Predator was just too high in this case. If you were able to enjoy Jurassic Park III (the more I think about it, they're very similar), you will enjoy this movie. Rent.

... Oh, wait. Okay, don't buy. Or, buy it cheap anyways to satisfy your curiosity. You don't need it on Super Special Limited Edition Blu-Ray. Save that extra $13 and go see The Avengers.

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