Thursday, July 8, 2010

Predators (2010). Of Monsters who Hunt Men.

Overall verdict: 7.5/10

The Good: stay's true to the spirit of its predecessor, intense action, believable tension among the characters, expands the scope of a languishing film franchise, underlying themes make it smarter than your average sci/fi creature film.

The Bad: characters more memorable as archetypes than by their names, some underdeveloped parts, geared more toward long time Predator fans rather than newcomers.

After the stunning success in of John McTeirnan's "Predator"(starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) in 1987, the franchise has spawned a decent range of video games, novels and even a long lasting comics run. Sadly that same success has not been replicated in the movie side of things; one lackluster sequel in 1992 and two crossover "Alien Vs Predator" films that many fans consider to be utter disappointments. Twenty three years after Predator's premiere, producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal finally serve up their vision of a true sequel to the classic sci/fi movie.

Within moments of the movie's opening, it immediately drops the audience into the thick of it, which in this case involves a the literal "dropping" of a mercenary named Royce and eight other people into a strange jungle. Despite being complete strangers, every one of them have a bloody history of violence and killing with occupations that range from CIA and Black Ops Commando to Yakuza hit-man and Drug Cartel enforcer; the only odd one out being Edwin, a bespectacled wimp of a doctor. Naturally, the motley crew of killers do not get along well; disoriented and distrustful, they turn on each other at first. But just as they put aside their differences and decide to work together, they discover that they are being hunted by a dangerous alien enemy armed with high tech weaponry, near perfect camouflage and inhuman strength. Back on earth these humans were hunters and killers of their own kind, now on this strange new world, the hunter has become the hunted.

Smarter than your average sci/fi thriller, "Predators" manages to weave in a couple of intriguing themes into the tension filled narrative. Writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch portray the alien Predators as dark reflections of man's own monstrous nature. Their cruel hunting tactics like making traps to maim instead of kill, and leaving a wounded victim in the open as bait to lure in compassionate comrades, are the exact same strategies that the human characters admittedly used on their quarries back on earth. There is also a subplot about a rivalry between two different clans of alien hunters that mirrors mankind's nature to turn on their fellow man in the pursuit of own interests. The cast's excellent acting creates a very memorable set of characters archetypes despite their names being easily forgotten.

The people who worked on this movie have admitted to being big fans of the original Predator and that love for the franchise shows in every single facet of the movie. Fan-favorite scenes are re-created, little bits of familiar lines are slipped into the dialog, even the music by John Debney recreates many of the original themes by Alan Silvestri that any fan of the franchise would recognize. While newcomers to the franchise might not understand "Predators" as much as those who are already familiar with at least the first movie, they would no doubt enjoy the solid sci/fi action it presents. Nimrod Antal's camera-work during fight scenes is clear and concise; none of that jittery-cam effect that so many action directors (see: Michael Bay) are addicted to.

Overall, "Predators" is a like well worn hunter's blade, just like the original classic. Although like any blade, a couple of parts could have used some "sharpening". The first act for example manages to maintain a constant state of tension, but viewers expecting wall-to-wall action might end up bored. Events like the civil war between the two tribes of Predators are only implied, leaving the viewer to put the pieces together. Also Laurence Fishburne's deranged Vietnam veteran Nolan, who has survived on the planet for "ten seasons" could have used more development.

Robert Rodriguez's intention was that 2010's "Predators" be to the Predator franchise what James Cameron's "Aliens" was to Ridley Scott's "Alien". Like the rival tribe of alien Predators, this movie is a bigger, meaner and fiercer affair that successfully fulfills the creative team's intention by expanding the scope of the Predator's fictional universe. Not to mention, a much needed jump start to a waning film franchise.
*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you are a long time Predator fan disenchanted by the 3 other lackluster film sequels or heard great things about the Predator film franchise from friends.
Avoid it: if you never did like sci/fi creature films to begin with or think that such movies should not come with anything deeper than "kill", "blood" and "violence".

Entertainment: A-
Story: B
Acting: C+
Characters: B-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": B

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