While I haven’t seen the original Predator for years now, Nimród Antal’s Predators was pretty high up on my list of anticipated movies. The idea of a group of soldiers and criminals being hunted as game in an alien jungle, by creatures who are both scary and have an awesome array of sci-fi weaponry…well, it has a lot of potential. But does the movie live up to it?
Hmm…let’s start with the good stuff. The first act of the film (let’s say the opening 30-45 minutes) is great. I was really into the film during the beginning. It starts off with a level of Lost-like mystery, as the characters try to figure out what’s going on, and there are a number of intriguing things presented that successfully fuel the Iwanttoknowwhat’shappening part of your brain. In this first section of the movie, Antal also sets up a wonderful atmosphere of isolation within the jungle, along with a feeling of impending dread…it kinda reminded me of Jurassic Park, in a very good way.
Unfortunately though, after an engrossing introduction, Predators falls prey to the tenets of the many cheap films that you can catch late at night on Zone Horror or the Syfy Channel. The whole thing becomes incredibly predictable, and the film doesn’t throw in any sort of stimulating plot twists or anything new. Everyone figures everything out very quickly and there’s no new mystery present in the second half. The chase between the Predators and the humans plays out with lots of running and a few explosions, and by the end it was so tedious that I was just sitting waiting for it to finish. Any form of suspense that had been built up is simply destroyed. To the point that I would definitely not call this a “horror” film.
Perhaps all the chasing and the action would have been more exciting if there was a single character to care about. There are about eight characters juggling screentime here, meaning you don’t get to know any of them, and don’t really give a damn if they’re ripped to shreds in a gruesome manner by a dreadlocked alien who kills for fun. They might not even have been engaging characters anyway, seeing as the cast is made up of the clichés that appear in movies with names like Piñata: Survival Island or Komodo vs. Cobra; the wisecracking ex-con, the geeky doctor, the white badass, the black badass, and the hot, feisty, female Latina badass. Great actors like Laurence Fishburne and Walton Goggins (Shane from The Shield) are essentially wasted here. In fact, the sequence featuring good ol’ Morpheus brings the film to a slow, grinding halt, and is outright boring.
People like Adrien Brody’s character may be cool, but there’s just no development. Maybe this would’ve been passable if the plot wasn’t as predictable as the characters were. That said, there was one twist involving one of the characters towards the end. Regrettably though, it was an awful twist that I found completely absurd and unnecessary.
There are other species being used as part of the hunt in the jungle, and this would have been a cool opportunity to utilise other aliens alongside the Predators. However, this opportunity was mostly a missed one, as the other things that appear aren’t terribly exciting, and are completely computer-animated. Also, the one that did look the most interesting wasn’t fully revealed on camera. I know the movie is called Predators, but some variety would’ve been nice.
While I applaud the filmmakers for using as many practical effects as they could with regard to the Predators themselves, there is still some not-too-great CGI lurking around. At one point there is a CGI explosion that looked really, really horrible, and I don’t understand why the crew couldn’t just have blown up something real. Hell, it might even have looked better if they shook up a bottle of Coke and dropped a few Mentos in. I don’t know if others are more convinced by CGI than I am, but basically every time I see something computer-animated against a real backdrop, it stands out like a sore thumb and completely removes it from any sense of reality that the film has achieved.
Another thing that Predators shares in common with the ocean of horror b-movies (both modern and old) is an incredibly intrusive soundtrack. My brother told me that it was almost identical to the one used in Predator, and I think it’s cool that it makes that connection. But it’s hard to feel any fear or tension when there’s a huge trumpet blasting noise into your face. Don’t get me wrong, some of John Debney’s work was actually good, somehow reminding me of John Williams’s scores for Jurassic Park and Star Wars at different points – it just should have been used in a more subtle way.
There is one scene in particular that I had an issue with, but it’s something that I wouldn’t want to know about if I hadn’t seen the film yet (it’s slightly spoilery), so I’ve made the text invisible:
Out of context, a Yakuza using a katana in a one-on-one duel with a Predator, in the middle of a moonlit field…sounds awesome. In context however, it just didn’t work for me, and came off as pretty ridiculous. Especially seeing as the Predators are meant to be huge, tough, and intelligent warriors who have been fighting humans for hundreds of years.
And the following paragraph is about the end of the film:
I can’t figure out how else they could have done the climax of the movie, but I have a big problem with a Predator helping out the humans. It takes away any inhuman terror or horror or mystery when one of them is actually trying to help the prey, and is fighting against another Predator in order to do this. The script did create a circumstance to justify this, but I didn’t like it. Just as I didn’t like the “helpful” Predator in AVP. The ending as a whole was pretty unsatisfactory, leaving itself open for sequels. To be honest, I wasn’t desperate to see one after this.
And this might be considered spoilery, but it’s about something that doesn’t happen:
You remember that awesome bit in the trailer where it looks like about 15 Predators all have their laser-sights on Adrien Brody (pictured above)? That never happens in the actual movie. The same shot occurs, but there is only one sight on Brody. Looks like somebody decided to add all those extra dots into the trailer to make the film look more exciting.
Just in case you were wondering, seeing the first Predator film isn’t essential at all. This sequel references it a few times, but if you haven’t seen it, you won’t be left out by a load of in-jokes, and you’ll understand everything just fine.
In summary, Predators was a mildly entertaining movie that managed to not be a waste of time. And it was better than AVP. However, without the legacy and appearance of the Predator aliens, without that interesting beginning, and without the larger production values, I fear that it might not have been any more exciting than the thousands of straight-to-DVD and made-for-TV horror and sci-fi films that are available. I hope Ridley Scott’s new Alien films fare better.