If you aren't familiar with original "Predator" film, get out now. I'm not trying to be smug about it, but before you should even think of checking out this film, you need to watch the original. A bona-fide, five-star classic that remains a top tier outing for Arnold Schwarzenegger, it eventually launched a franchise that more or less merged with the "Alien" franchise. Nimrod Antal's 2010 sequel/pseudo remake/homage, "Predators" owes 100% of its success to John McTiernan's original and not just because of the titular creature. It's a film that tries so hard to remain faithful to everything that was great about the original, it ends up fumbling over it's own cartoon like shoes.
What worked so great about "Predator" was the way the titular hunter was introduced, slowly, as a secondary, unknown threat to a group of mercenaries led by Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Dutch's team had the primary goal of taking out some Val Verdian (any 80s action fan worth their salt knows of Val Verde) soldiers. Once the film switched focus to the hunters becoming the hunted, viewers had already been treated to a great action set piece and some truly creepy, unknown buildup. Unfortunately Antal's film working from a script by Michael Finch and Alex Litvak apes this buildup to a tee, but forgets two key elements: a great action set piece and a cast of memorable characters.
The first 40-minutes of "Predators" revolves around a group of various Earthlings dropped on an unknown jungle planet. Granted, the cast consists of some very competent and memorable actors, including Adrien Brody as Royce, a mercenary, Walton Goggins as Death Row inmate Stans, and Danny Trejo as a cartel hit man, to name a few. The problem lies with the completely broad, cartoon characterizations. Every single member of the group has a colorful background, save for Topher Grace as an out-of-place doctor and is equipped with a colorful weapon, from Trejo's dual MP5s to the chaingun carried by a Spesnatz soldier played by former MMA star Oleg Taktarov. The original "Predator" had a memorable cast of mercenaries, solely due to their personalities and Ol' Painless, the original chaingun. In "Predators" though, the extreme backgrounds and character traits instantly build a false sense of internal tension, which is shattered by the time a dull CGI attack by the Predator's "dogs" occurs.
From there on, the group gets taken apart on a fairly consistent schedule and the Predator's make their first appearance, all three. Not content to merely follow the pacing of "Predator" the writers don't just amp up the personalities of the heroes but the number and style of the Predators, with all three having unique looks. To Antal's credit, once the creatures we all paid money to see come out to do what they do best, it's a very exciting ride. The initial attack, ignited by a cloaked spear through the back of one the more underdeveloped group of humans, is claustrophobic and chaotic, with our tough talking heroes hightailing it to safety. Yet, it takes almost half the movie to get here, fine back in 1987 when we didn't know what the Predator was or was capable of; in 2010 with one direct sequel and two "Alien vs. Predator" movies that followed, to try and replicate that tension is an endeavor that nearly derails the entire movie.
However, the viewer isn't in the clear yet, as the movie comes to a screeching halt with the introduction of Noland played without any boundaries by Laurence Fishburne. While it's initially fun to see Fishburne unhinged and the movie finally deviate from the "Predator" recipe, the character kills the precious momentum that just begin to take form. His character serves absolutely no purpose other than pad the time to a level equal of the original. The ensuing action scene feels cheap and obvious and Antal is forced to fast-forward everything to a finale complete with a few false endings and final stand that blatantly shows the movie is less sequel and more of a remake of the original.
"Predators" is a fun movie, but not the sequel people were hoping for. Adrien Brody deserves the biggest kudos of the movie for playing a convincing tough guy, shedding the awkward hero image of "King Kong." His gruff voice should be studied by Christian Bale, it's pitch perfect. Additionally, director Antal makes a $40 million dollar movie look like it cost a lot more, although that could also be due to the king of the ultra-cheap, producer Robert Rodriguez. "Predators" is likely to satisfy the thirst of any fan of the series and in a sea of watered down PG-13 action vehicles, a return to semi-hard R form is also welcome. The bottom line though is the movie doesn't hold up on repeat viewings and for those very familiar with the original, the insane devotion to it is frustrating. If nothing else, the movie might make people respect "Predator 2" more if only for it's willingness to actually try something new. "Predators" falls just below "Predator 2" in my book and is on par with "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" a movie I felt had great action but laughable characterization. It's an earnest, but imperfect endeavor.
As Fox only provided a screener copy of the film, a proper review of the video quality cannot be given. Should a final copy be provided, this section will be updated to reflect the final version.
As Fox only provided a screener copy of the film, a proper review of the audio quality cannot be given. Should a final copy be provided, this section will be updated to reflect the final version.
The extras are sparse on the DVD for "Predators" but the highlight is a commentary track from director Nimrod Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez is always a welcome figure for any commentary for behind-the-scenes documentary and he helps keeps the discussion going covering numerous aspects of the film.
Not so great is "Decloaking the Invisible," a ten-minute standard promotional behind-the-scenes featurette that tells you nothing more than the cast and crew feel they made a great movie.
A series of three motion comics provides unnecessary back-story for two characters in the film, Isabelle and Mombassa. The third, brief motion comic shed some light regarding the mysterious captured fourth Predator that the group encounters just before meeting the trio of baddies. Last but not least, the film's theatrical trailer is included.
The casual fan is likely to enjoy "Predators" more than the truly devoted "Predator" fan. It's a very well-made film from a technical aspect, but in an attempt to appease those who have nothing but contempt for anything outside the '87 original, it falls into a trap of repetition, turning a men-on-a-mission film into a slowly dying group of cartoon characters. Rent It.