Personally, I consider Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 Sci-Fi Actioner Predator a classic of the genre. Sure, it doesn’t feature Shakespearean dialogue, but it is brilliant in its own right full of quotable lines, “I ain’t got time to bleed”, “If it bleeds, we can kill it”, and of the course the immortal line that I’ve featured in the title of my review uttered by the Austrian Oak himself. It gave Schwarzenegger one of his more memorable roles and indeed one of his best movies. The Danny Glover-starring sequel which followed isn’t as bad as everyone remembers it but certainly not a patch on its predecessor. Then of course we have the Alien V.S. Predator movies. The first AVP movie I have a lot of patience for, I consider it a guilty pleasure of mine. But it was a wasted opportunity, the sequel was more so and possibly one of the most shockingly made big budget movies I’ve ever seen. Both the Alien and Predator franchises seemed to be dead in the water after the crossover movies. But now there is some hope, with two Alien prequels in the works and this sequel, things are looking up. So how does Predators compare to the Arnie classic?
The concept of the movie is what gives the franchise a fresh breath of energy. Not only does it allow for some clever nods to the original Predator, it opens new grounds and new environments for both the Predators skills to develop and to pit the human protagonists against new dangers, rather than one lone Predator in a jungle. Sure, the environment initially appears to mirror your bog-standard jungle very similar to the set up of the first movie, it is what lurks within that gives the group of gung-ho soldiers in a jungle fighting some ‘ugly mother-fuckers’ a unique spin. A group of random individuals, all but one of them appearing to be highly skilled killers, wake up during free fall in a mysterious jungle. The mis-matched group reluctantly join together to gain some idea of where they are, soon discovering that they’re not on Earth at all, but instead a game reserve planet for an extra-terrestrial species who hunt for sport. It is up the humans to pull together and survive as long as they can and turn the tables on their hunters.
The concept is inspired, stemming from an original idea of producer Robert Rodriguez, and the new creature designs (including Predator dogs) stay true to the spirit of the Stan Winston design of the first movie while adapting the alien’s in the new environment. Despite the impressive concept, the plot does fall into the standard conventions of the Sci-Fi action genre, the final act being very reminiscent of Arnie’s one man stand at the end of the first movie. Some actions scenes are exhilarating and down right awesome, a particular favourite being the Yakuza-Predator stand-off in a field. It is very stylishly shot and hands down the best Predator-Human face off yet (sorry Arnie). But apart from that the action is similar to the original and doesn’t feel particularly new. But Nimrod Antal (director of 2007’s underrated Vacancy) knows his target audience and is clearly passionate about the franchise and where the action lacks originality, it certainly makes up for in brutal gore and some genuinely tense scenes.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only surprised at the casting announcement of Oscar Winner Adrian Brody in the leading action-man role, how could he fill the frame of Arnold Schwarzenegger? But Brody certainly silences all his critics delivering a complete bad-ass performance and showing a surprisingly tough physique. His character isn’t terribly likeable, but Brody makes us care, mostly due to the relationship between him and Isabelle, which both him and co-star Alice Braga develop to a degree which probably didn’t seem that clear on the page. Topher Grace is equally impressive as a mysterious Doctor, who no one can really figure out why he’s there amongst a group of military types, resulting in a creepy, if a little predictable, twist. Laurence Fishburne gives a fun cameo as ‘the one who got away’ who gives Brody and co. advice on how to deal with the alien hunters. The rest of the characters are rather 2-Dimensional and you’re obviously not supposed to get too attached as they won’t be around for long. But then again, who cares in a movie like this?
Predators does a smart move by practically ignoring the sequels following the ’87 original, choosing to be a direct sequel addressing the first movie as the plot develops. It definitely feels like a sequel as it manages to recapture the tone of John McTiernan’s effort, the music practically identical to the excellent Alan Silvestri score. Fans of the original will not be disappointed, but those expecting a more ambitious sci-fi actioner may be disappointed. The concept isn’t fully exploited to its whole potential, but this is exactly what you’d come to expect from a movie of this type, with satisfying action scenes and references to Predator. And the future is bright for the franchise, the concept has many places it can go and I for one can’t wait to see what comes next. Now… GET TO DA CHOPPER!!! Oh, and that awesome shot in the trailer that I have pictured on the right? Don’t go expecting to see that in the movie, it’s a tease! Still, there is enough to compensate.