Jul 12, 2010

[Movies] Predators (2010)

Predators (2010)As hokey as the initial concept may be to some people, I've always been a fan of the Predator franchise. Their species was always pretty cool and they were like lighter versions of Klingons or something. Let's face it - yet another race whose entire culture is based around hunting and ceremonial combat of other species.

The first two movies were unique icons of an older era of movies. While the Alien franchise went on to become rather epic with a very complex story, Predator kind of remained a movie that danced along the borders of campier horror and science fiction. The characters gained new life in the realm of Dark Horse comics and later on in the crossover movies for Aliens vs Predator.

They remain to be rather interesting characters - tall, physically imposing aliens armed with a variety of high tech weapons. They operate secretly using advanced cloaking technology to help make up for their limitation of only being able to see using the infrared spectrum. It made for a very unique cinematic experience, an alternative brand of stories and lots and lots of trope-potential behavior. And now they're back, campier than ever!

Predators is the latest attempt to inject new life into the Predator franchise. Produced by Robert Rodriguez and directed by Nimród Antal, the movie acts as a sequel of sorts to the prior two Predator films and a way to get new fans introduced to the series.

Adrien BrodyImage via Wikipedia
The movie begins with a soldier falling out of the sky (Adrien Brody). After managing to get his parachute open, he soon discovers other soldiers and dangerous individuals who had also been air-dropped into this jungle. Their diverse group includes a Russian Spetsnaz soldier (Oleg Taktarov), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), an IDF sniper (Alice Braga), an ROF officer (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a convict (Walton Goggins), a Yakuza assassin (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and a doctor (Topher Grace). The group now needs to find a way home but eventually realize they're not just in some unfamiliar jungle. They're on a completely different planet.

Brody's character, who chooses to remain nameless, decides to make for high group as they try to figure out why such a dangerous group was assembled. He eventually realizes that they're being hunted and the challenge becomes to figure out who exactly is hunting them and how to get themselves home. But of course they have limited ammunition, are on an alien world and with little resources to truly call their own.

The movie felt like a blatant attempt to sort of return to the roots of the franchise. This meant a group of armed individuals being hunted down and killed by aliens with superior weaponry and technology while in a jungle. In this regard, the movie certainly built up some great moments of tension. The movie was designed to recapture the classic horror movie feel of the first movie along with slowly reintroducing the audience to the Predator mythos.

However I never really understood the full logic behind the group of individuals selected for this hunt. Sure, the soldiers make sense given they are seen to be armed and perhaps the Predators witnessed their deeds as killers. However how can you explain the reasons behind abducting the convict or the doctor? To understand the reasons why they might be dangerous or essential would require an understanding of our language and culture. Plus there's the big question of why no one has noticed all these high profile warriors and skilled individuals just disappearing one day from different locations around the world. Really, just think about that.

Where the movie did shine in the beginning was your classic tension as your group is being hunted. They had the elaborate traps and the Predator trick of copying voices. They had the chameleon field ripple as the cloaked Predators moved through the jungle. They had moments for most of the classic Predator weapons, although I really missed the razor disks. And yes, there was also the momentary need to use mud to mask one's heat signature.

Most of the cast didn't seem very important (even Topher Grace given his lackluster performance) apart from Brody and Braga, and so you kinda know they're going to go far in this story. I still can't get over how, well, pumped Brody managed to get himself to be just for this movie. He's sort of muscle-y and defined, rather wider than I remember him but still pretty narrow if viewed from the side. I don't see Brody becoming a major action star anytime soon, but this was certainly an interesting attempt to expand his range.

Overall, the movie felt more like a homage to the Predator franchise. Or worse, a homage to the Predator movies through their tropes. However it suffered from a rather weak premise, strange Predator behavior and third act issues in terms of the story as a whole. It was still an enjoyable movie (like all the other Predator movies) but nothing spectacular nor worth extended discourse.

Predators remains a nice way to revisit the series and hope for bigger and better things in the future despite this not being a perfect revival. It gets 3.5 alien (not Alien) corpses out of a possible 5.
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