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Friday, July 09, 2010


Having witnessed the PREDATOR franchise since its inception in 1987, I have to admit that I never quite cottoned to it the way most people did, mostly because the films following the initial installment did not live up to the potential of the concept. I wasn't all that keen on the first one either, despite its classic status, for reasons I've already outlined elsewhere, so when yet another PREDATOR flick was announced I didn't really care. That is, not until I heard Robert (PLANET TERROR) Rodriguez was involved. I really like what the guy brings to the table in all of his films, so when I heard he was producing the new one after seriously examining what worked in PREDATOR and what did not work in the execrable subsequent movies, I was filled with hope. Though Rodriguez did not direct, PREDATORS was well-helmed by American-born director of Hungarian films Nimrod Antal, and it looked and felt to me like a story from the classic era of Britain's 2000 A.D. sci-fi comics weekly. Before I go any further, though, it's only fair to state that HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.

The plot's pretty simple: a group of eight people, several of whom are heavily armed — a tough-as-nails seasoned mercenary (Adrian Brody), a Guatemalan sniper (Alice Braga), a huge Spetznatz operative (real-life bad motherfucker Oleg Taktarov), an African death squad member (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a serial rapist who's scheduled for execution (Walter Goggins), a silent Yakuza soldier (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a Mexican cartel enforcer (my man Danny Trejo) and a meek doctor (Topher Grace, shaking off the shame of SPIDER-MAN 3) — find themselves mysteriously transported to a dense jungle locale and soon come to realize they are on another planet (the three neighboring planets seen in the sky being the dead giveaway).

Bear Mountain it ain't.

In short order they figure out that they are in what amounts to an extra-terrestrial game preserve and that they are the game, there to be hunted by alien sportsmen who wield projectile and energy-based weapons, as well as tech that renders them pretty much invisible to human visual perception while allowing them to track their prey via their infra-red signatures. The aliens have also unleashed other vicious life forms, so the humans must do everything in their meager power to stay alive, and it sure as shit is not an easy task. And even if they did manage to survive, how the hell would they get back to the Earth?

The narrative is one long, briskly-paced hop from one insanely deadly situation to another, so here are the pertinent bits:
  • The title refers to not only the aliens, but also the chosen humans.
  • This time around there is less invisibility than previous, and that suits me just fine. The aliens already have a clear advantage with their size, strength, physical resilience and shitloads of very effective weaponry, so considering that they consider themselves sportsmen, the cloaking tech always seemed like cheating to me.
  • All of the characters are interesting, something unusual for a piece of "action figure cinema."
  • The events of the original PREDATOR are referenced, so this is less of a reboot than a continuation that wisely makes no mention of the sequels.
  • The majority of the decisions made and the actions taken by the stranded humans make recognizable sense.
  • As also mentioned in the original film, the aliens have been kidnapping Earthlings for sporting purposes for a long time. This is noted when the Yakuza soldier finds a katana that he states is very old.
Yakuza soldier Louis Ozawa Changchien engages one of the alien hunters in formal combat.
  • The fact that the humans are not necessarily good people is an intriguing angle, and we root for them mostly because they're the hopelessly outmatched unwilling home team.
PREDATORS gets my vote as the first summer blockbuster of the season to fully deliver on everything the viewer goes into it expecting to get, and it actually has a lot more intelligence than something like this has any right to possess, although after the ALIENS VS. PREDATORS films that may not be much of a shock. PREDATORS is very much a "guy" movie, but it's solidly entertaining and has nothing in it that I would not allow kids ten and older to see; it's got cussing and some gore, but it's nothing they couldn't handle (personally, I could have done with a LOT more gore, but that's just me). RECOMMENDED.

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