There are films that are so good that they are created into franchises. Some of these films are well done and the franchise is successful because all of the succeeding films are good as well. There are films that are good that are made into franchises that aren’t successful. Then there are films that are bad that are also made into franchises that turn out to be way more successful than the original movie. Hope that wasn’t too confusing. Everyone still with me? Good. This film is somewhere in-between if there is an in-between. Some films cannot be outdone, remade, revamped or whatever you want to call it. It’s just impossible. Whether it’s because of the story, acting, directing, cinematography, controversy or it may simply hold a special place in your movie heart. The year 1987, governors Schwarzenegger and Ventura, Carl “Action Jackson/Apollo Creed” Weathers and director John McTiernan brought us one of those kinds of films, Predator. A marvel in its own time and a classic that will forever live on in movie lore, I remember watching this with my father as a kid and recall being scared of the alien monster and rooting for “Ahnuld” at the same time. Not to mention the trauma and nightmares I received from seeing the kind of gore that a child should never be subjected to. But, what doesn’t turn us into insane serial killers only makes us into movie critics.
After one solo sequel and two “collaborations” with another Alien franchise powered by Sigourney Weaver, this installment takes us to their world. It takes place 23 years after the very first film. The “ugly motherf***ers” apparently seek out and transport some of the galaxy’s most dangerous killers and use them for their own sport. This group consists of some of Earths most deadly citizens. We aren’t introduced to the characters names until later on in the story but the audience can tell they were all crafted from basically similar molds. The eight unsuspecting prey range from ex-military to Japanese Yakuza to black ops to Mexican drug cartel enforcers, oh yeah, and a seemingly misplaced doctor (Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo and Topher Grace among others). The killing and hunting experience is extensive in this group to say the least. All of them freefall and awaken in a jungle with no knowledge of how they all came to be there and obviously no idea of just where they might be. After exchanging some pleasantries, and un-pleasantries, they go off on foot to try to find out just what is happening and why.
Their first encounter with the armored clad aliens is not with the ones we have come to know and love over the years but with what seems like their dogs. Used to attack and flush out their human prey before officially engaging them in the hunt, the Predators choose not to show themselves during this exchange. This is the first time the audience is introduced to relatively new styles of Predators and it turns out to be a rather bloody introduction. As the story and hunt unfolds, our heroes (or prey depending on what you want to call them) eventually come into contact with the super warriors and learn just exactly what they are up against. They know now that their odds are not looking too good and try to compile a plan to try to give them an edge on the expert hunters. While attempting to execute their strategy they come across a lone survivor of the hunt (Laurence Fishburne) who is mildly crazy assumingly due to his unfortunate experience of being trapped on an alien planet alone for quite some time. He fills the group in on some of the Predators tactics, culture and weapons of choice while they attempt to remain hidden from the killers and decide on their next move.
The sheer concept for this story was brought about by producer Robert Rodriguez while he was waiting to film Desperado. As expected it works very well, especially considering that what this alien species does. They hunt and kill to prove that they are the most superior warrior species in the galaxy and simply because they can. The plot escalates without dragging or ever becoming boring, never too far away from the next action (or extermination) scene. Classic Predator special effects return to combine with some state of the art new costume designs to produce new Predators not contained in previous films. Not too many new weapons are introduced but many of the very entertaining and very deadly ones do make a return.
The casting for this film was apparently a big deal. Producers of the film said they wanted to make it so each character could possibly be the main protagonist in their own action movie. I agree the casting was pretty spot on but I don’t think there is enough face time in any movie to make it seem like every character could be the star. That film would last forever. I know they probably meant the presence that each character brought the film but for a movie such as this, I would have to see each character in their own respected project to believe they could carry one on their own. I was surprised and a little frustrated at the same time by Adrien Brody’s performance. Surprised to see him casted in a strictly action based film as well as to see what a nice job he did. My frustration came from his character, Royce, himself. He’s that loner type who would fit as a great leader but would rather be alone and show off his cold heartedness. But I guess he was supposed to frustrate some of us but still try to come across as the hero, so Brody did his job there. Another notable was Alice Braga, who played Isabelle, an Israeli black ops sniper. I’ve only seen her in I Am Legend before this movie but she was a delight as well playing the positive headed “second in command” out of group who is trying to look out for everyone and make the right choices in this male dominated film and genre.
Loving the original and thinking the second with Danny Glover which took place in Los Angeles was entertaining but mediocre at best, I’m putting this latest adaptation right between the two. Nothing will ever be better than the first but there is potential to surpass and improve on this latest chapter with high expectations of sequels and/or prequels on the horizon. I give Predators “4 little to no chances of survival while being hunted by a superior warrior alien race out of 5”. (I think that was my longest rating scale yet)
-“How do you kill them?”-“However you can”