BBFC Classification: 15
Director: Nimród Antal
Starring: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Walt Goggins, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Oleg Taktarov, Derek Mears
Much like the Robocop series that started around the same time, the Predator franchise never really hit the levels of quality that the first instalment promised. 1990’s Predator 2 was a fairly dull affair, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action movie profile and presence replaced by a gruff Danny Glover basically reprising his Lethal Weapon shtick and doing the best he can with a plodding and occasionally ridiculous plot. Since then we’ve had the team-up with the Alien franchise for two movies – one mediocre and one downright dreadful – that has seen the once-intimidating hunter become nothing more than a slightly chubby and quite cartoonish bit-player (we all know the Alien is the real star!).
But luckily Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror/Machete) was taking note and gave – or had a big hand in giving us – Predators. Ignoring the Alien vs. Predator movies and bypassing Predator 2 (although apparently that one still counts), Predators tries to do to the 1997 original what James Cameron’s Aliens did for Ridley Scott’s original Xenomorph adventure by adding an ‘s’ to the title, upping the ante and giving us more of what made the first movie so great. Does it achieve its goal or is the Predator franchise destined to stay as one awesome movie and a series of cack follow-ups?
Plot-wise this pretty much follows the same course as the original, and that isn’t a bad thing as the franchise’s history has taught us that straying from the basics too far makes for a crap film. The movie opens with Royce (Adrien Brody – King Kong) waking up to discover that he is hurtling towards the ground at a serious rate. After landing in a strange jungle he is joined by several other characters – including Cuchillo (Danny Trejo – Machete), Edwin (Topher Grace – Spider-Man 3) and Isabelle (Alice Braga – City of God) – who have all had a similar journey, none of them knowing how they got there or why they are there. It soon transpires that the group all have something in common; that in some form or another they are all killers, and that they are being hunted in a deadly game by an unseen and seemingly indestructible force on a strange planet.
Of course, we all know who the invisible hunters are, as this movie is relying on the fact that we have all seen the original Predator and is really playing to all the fanboys out there who have craved a decent sequel to Arnie’s actionfest. To add to the action, there is also something of a ‘blood war’ going on within the Predator ranks, as a stronger and more powerful breed is at loggerheads with what we may now call the ‘classic’ Predator.
The newer Predator design is fantastic and – at last – the beast is once again intimidating like it was the first time around. With minimal CGI and some decent camera shots – instead of the ultra-fast quick-edits we’re used to seeing in action movies these days – the battle scenes are pacey and adrenaline-filled but still with a sense of clarity, so the action is never muddled. There is less of a focus on the technical gadgetry of the last couple of movies, so the hunter is back to using more of his basic tools and this gives it more of that primal edge that has been sorely lacking. Combine this with some stunning visuals and a claustrophobic atmosphere and the fanboys should be able to rest easy.
But there are faults here, namely the casting. Somebody somewhere decided that Adrien Brody – fine actor that he is – was a suitable candidate to step into Arnie’s no-doubt huge shoes (or boots) and carry a macho, testosterone-filled sci-fi /action movie such as this – and they were wrong. Putting on a silly and unnecessarily gravelly voice doesn’t make you any tougher or charismatic than you are; just ask Christian Bale. And looking like a gangly version of Alistair McGowan (English impressionist, for our overseas friends) doesn’t do much for the action hero stakes either.
Also, the characters aren’t as rounded as those in the original, and there is a distinct lack of the quirky humour and quotable lines that peppered that movie. Not that the movie suffers too much for it but a bit of light relief would have been welcome, especially about two-thirds of the way through when the pacing dips and there’s still too many characters onscreen, ushering in a rather rushed final act.
Overall, though, Predators does its job and provides a decent action/sci-fi adventure in the spirit of its timeless source material. Casting and pacing issues aside, there’s plenty here for audiences get their teeth into and although the original is still the definitive Predator movie, for those fancying something different but with enough familiarity to keep you interested then you could do a lot worse than this.
Special Features: Crucified – animated motion comic
UK Release Date: 1st November 2010