Predators (2010)

Predators (2010)

Fear is Reborn

A group of mercenaries and killers find themselves being parachuted into a remote tropical jungle. Soon realising that they are not on Earth anymore, the group find themselves being hunted for sport by an alien species of hunters and must band together to survive.

 

Although I’m a fan of Predator 2, the movie world hasn’t been too kind to the Predator series since the classic original, culminating in the two “let’s just forget they ever happened” Alien Vs Predator films. Let’s face it, Predator pretty much did everything that could be done with the Predator monster and the rest of its cinematic appearances have been poor imitations and regurgitations of what made the original such a classic (minus Arnie, of course). So it was with great trepidation that I found out that Fox were planning to re-launch the series with a reboot-sequel (not quite sure what it’s supposed to be). Given how poorly-conceived a lot of sequels/prequels/remakes/re-imaginings have been over the last few years (The Thing anyone?), I was worried for the future of the franchise. especially since it had been so long since the last stand-alone Predator film. Could Predators be a franchise killer?

Surprisingly not though whilst Robert Rodriguez’s film doesn’t do the series any harm, Predators is still such a wasted opportunity because it does little to kick the series back into life. There’s plenty of nods to the original right down to John Debney’s rehashing of Alan Silvestri’s epic soundtrack. Taking things back basics with the return of the jungle setting, albeit on an alien planet, brings back both the colourful backdrop and the isolationist setting of the original. They’ve assembled a bunch of heavily-armoured people and thrown them into the same pressure-cooker situation as before. Jesse Ventura’s awesome mini-gun makes a welcome return. Heck, the film even has the main character cover himself in mud to avoid the Predator’s thermal vision. Whether they’re gentle nods to the original or just lazy writing remains to be seen. My pick is the latter.

So once the novelty of seeing all of these nods to the original has worn off, what is left of Predators is a standard sci-fi-action flick with only an iconic cinematic monster to lift it way above its genre brethren. As it follows the original’s story and structure virtually to the letter, it means there’s little in the way of surprises because we all know what is hunting the characters and what tactics it has up its sleeve to do so (though it does have a few new tricks). Characters are little more than stereotypes, killed off when expected and in predictable fashion. Set pieces are replicated almost like-for-like. If only Arnie or Bill Duke or Carl Weathers was around to fire off some quips to liven things up – the problem here is that everyone takes it all way too seriously. At least they brought some extra macho factor to the scenes of them blowing the jungle to pieces or tussling with the aliens.

The script is the film’s biggest problem. Between ripping off the best moments and lines of the original, it fails to provide any sort of new spark of life into the franchise. The uneven script throws in some attempted twists but they make little sense (including a pointless character turn in the finale). The pacing is also way off, with the first half of the film a slow-burner as the group attempt to piece together what has happened whilst avoiding traps before the second half crams in almost all of the action into a hectic forty-five minutes. Then it’s all guns blazing until the finale which again heavily borrows from the original. It begs the question of why I’d want to watch an inferior scene-by-scene remake when I could just go and watch the original again.

Adrien Brody may have raised some eyebrows when he was cast into the Schwarzenegger-type lead role as the gruff mercenary Royce but I’ll give the guy some major credit, he bulked up for the role, got himself into shape and really gets his teeth into the anti-hero role. Brody is no traditional leading man and he doesn’t fully convince the audience of his tough-guy persona but it’s a damned good effort. Lawrence Fishburne shows up for no apparent reason other than to cash another cheque – it’s an embarrassingly throwaway role that anyone could have played but it seems like Fishburne was cast to add another star name to the poster. Funnily enough, his pointless appearance mid-way through the film signals the start of a downturn in the film’s pacing and it never recovers.

The rest of the cast make up the token roles, all with an ethnic slant just so the audience can distinguish who is who. Remember these are mercenaries and killers from across Earth so any racial stereotype you can think of is here: Russian rebel, African mercenary, a member of the Yakuza, Israeli Special Forces, South American drug enforcer, etc. Unfortunately the ethnic distinctions are the only way you’ll be able to tell most of them apart and its lazy writing to rely on our pre-conceived knowledge of such real-life stereotypes.

I thought I’d save discussion of the title creatures until last. We all know what they look like by now and there are a few variations on the late Stan Winston’s classic original design which do him justice. Despite the shambolic AVP escapades, the predators have somehow managed to retain their intimidating presence, appearing once more as the bad ass hunters that they should be. You really wouldn’t want to be caught in a fight with one of them. They’ve got some new tricks in their arsenal but the old favourites like the shoulder cannon are back and given modern day special effects makeovers. In fact most of the special effects look great including the infamous invisibility cloaks. Coupled with the impressive jungle cinematography, Predators gets top marks on the visuals right across the board.

 

At least Predator 2 tried to do something different, albeit with mixed results, whereas Predators just comes off as too underwhelming and content to rehash the original. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed Predators but it tries too hard to be the original, instead of crafting out its own niche. So much so that I feel bad for any younger people who had never seen Predator before this. For everyone else, the powerful sense of déjà vu and a longing for the return of Arnie and his mercenaries is too strong.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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