isn't bad, but it isn't good, either, and it's really, really unnecessary.
Predators probably would have been more effective had it been released
twenty years ago as a direct sequel to the 1987 Schwarzenegger original.
It has the feel of the first Predator, and some of the spirit
of 1980s action films in general, especially in its creative use of
gross-out effects and gore. But we already know what the monsters look
like and how they behave, a mystery that provided much of the original
movie's suspense, and although a valiant effort has been made to script
a new and unique group of ragtag characters, and good casting choices
fill those roles, Predators
doesn't feel like a sequel. It feels like a desperate grasp into the
past in search of material that is more than twenty years past its sell-by
A great opening sequence places us in mid-air, tracking a startled Royce
(Adrien Brody) as he hurtles down through the clouds, opening a parachute
just in time to break his fall before plunging through a tropical canopy
to the forest floor. As he collects his wits, he also collects a group
of strangers around him, all of whom have been kidnapped, knocked out,
and thrown from the same plane. They include a death-row inmate (Walton
Goggins), a Mexican enforcer (Danny Trejo), a Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien),
a sniper (Alice Braga), and an American doctor (Topher Grace), among
others. The group is a little slow on the uptake, but they ultimately
realize that someone has dropped them into these unfamiliar environs
to be hunted - but by what, they don't know. Unfortunately, we do
know, which kills much of the movie's suspense before it hardly begins.
Predictably this group of anti-heroes is killed off one by one, until
they are given a brief respite by the appearance of an alarmingly bloated
and wickedly funny Laurence Fishburne. He plays a left-over, surviving
member of a previous group of humans dumped on what is now known to
be an alien planet - not just a strange rainforest.
From here, the suspense simply disappears. Fishburne goes for a Colonel
Kurtz-ish eccentricity, but his character as written goes precisely
nowhere. His role, like much of the rest of the script, is just one
big McGuffin. We don't know who is behind the conspiracy to transport
our human anti-heroes to the Predators' planet, or why they are doing
it. The film is, like the other Alien and Predator
features, a desperate struggle for survival against unthinking demonic
killers. That's a scary premise in and of itself, but the first two
Alien films explored that concept so splendidly and thoroughly that
everything else just looks sad next to them. Director Nimrod Antal delivers
the goods when it comes to staging and editing exciting action, but
in terms of plot, character, and style, Predators
is old hat.
The enhanced widescreen is decent but not stellar. I've seen far
better from Fox. There is a fair amount of break-up in the blacks, although
contrast is good during daylight scenes. It's not the first time I've
had the feeling that as studios focus more and more on Blu-ray releases,
DVD transfers are getting short shrift.
The 5.1 surround soundtrack provides an aggressive and convincing
soundscape. Surrounds are very active and ambience is quite strong.
The forest is alive with odd animal, bird, and wind effects; explosions
and gunfire incorporate a wide range of bass effects. It's far more
impressive than the transfer.
Not much, unfortunately. The commentary track with director
Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez is colloquial and entertaining.
Rodriguez does leave a certain creative stamp on the movie; I suspect
he took a whack at the script, which bears evidence of his trademark
pithy dialogue. There is also a short behind-the-scenes featurette,
some clunky motion comics, and the theatrical trailer.
A retread more than it is a reboot or a sequel, Predators embraces
the tone of the original film without adding much new, let alone surprising.
The film offers nothing lasting, but does provide an acceptable night's
entertainment. Rent it.
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.