It’s been twenty years since “Predator 2″ showcased the monstrous hunter in a solo capacity. Finally, after all that time 20th Century Fox brings the hunters back to theaters with the recently released sci-fi action film, “Predators”.
“Predators” follows a group of Earth’s deadliest killers, led by a mysterious mercenary (Adrien Brody), who find themselves trapped on a strange world. As the group tries to find a way off the planet, they soon discover that they have been placed on this world for a reason…to be hunted. Now, they are locked in a deadly fight for survival with beings far deadlier than anything they’ve ever encountered.
You know, there’s something about this series that’s bothered me for quite some time now. It’s nothing regarding the previous two films in the franchise, both of which were quite good in my opinion. No, what bothers me is why would 20th Century Fox, who owns the rights to the character, leave the series effectively dead for so long?
Sure the character appeared in the hit “versus” movie, “Alien Vs Predator” and its extremely disappointing sequel “Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem”. But as a stand alone property the character proved successful, and the movies were extremely entertaining and profitable to boot. So, it’s beyond me why the decision was made to shelve the property for such an extended period. Especially when so many countless sub-par horror franchises are allowed to exist long past their welcome. Anyways, I digress…
In charge of crafting a story that would serve as a hard-hitting return to the big screen for the character worthy of the original is screenwriter/director/producer Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”). Robert’s story brings the action back to a jungle atmosphere (albeit on another planet) harkening back to the first film, but ups the ante in every respect. The story is chock full of incredibly entertaining action set pieces, with a break-neck pacing to keep the momentum running full steam ahead from start to finish; however, if you’re coming to this movie looking for in-depth character study, look somewhere else.
Now, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of the series, this franchise has never been about character development or engaging drama. It’s always been about the hunt, and those who are unfortunate enough to become the hunted. I’m sure that some people (mostly critics that look down their noses at these types of movies) will view the lack of character driven drama as a weakness; if you ask me, the reason these movies work is because they never try to over complicate the situation. It’s a monster movie plain and simple, and what the audience wants is to see great visual effects, incredible action, and some entertaining chase and/or fight sequences between the hunter and the hunted. In this, “Predators” absolutely nails it, and hopefully brings the series back into popularity.
On an interesting side note, Robert Rodriguez actually wrote the original script for this film prior to finishing up work on his first breakthrough hit “Desperado” in 1995. However, upon completion 20th Century Fox opted not to move forward with another sequel and shelved the project. I don’t know if any of you out there really cared to know that tidbit of information, but I just wanted to throw it out there anyway. Moving on.
Assisting Robert in reinvigorating the franchise was the film’s director Nimrod Antal. I wasn’t sure how Nimrod would be as director for this long-awaited follow-up. I mean his previous directorial effort “Armored” was a decent enough action flick. Yet, it never really felt like it was anything great compared to any number of action movies I could find from Direct-to-DVD releases featuring the action heroes of yesteryear.
However, after seeing how Nimrod Antal handled “Predators” I have to say that he was undoubtedly the right man for the job. After all, he delivered a pulse-pounding thrill ride that blew his previous film out of the water with considerable ease. Not to mention, the previews didn’t ruin every single plot point for this film, a problem that plagued “Armored” and probably led to my less than thrilled perception of the movie.
Leading the ensemble cast, and is probably the most surprising bit of casting I have seen for a movie in quite some time, is Academy Award® winner Adrien Brody (“King Kong”). When his casting was first announced, I was a little leery, as I’m sure many fans were, because Adrien didn’t exactly look the part of a man that the Predator would find a challenging prey. Yet the more I read about how the idea was to distance this entry in some respects from what’s come before by not going with a muscle-bound warrior, but instead utilize a more cerebral character, the more I became intrigued by the possibility he presented.
In the end, a somewhat bulked-up Adrien Brody created a believable adversary for the Predators. He blended together elements of Arnold’s no-nonsense qualities with those of a keenly intelligent, semi-manipulative, world-weary individual that will do whatever it takes to survive.
Portraying some of the other collected prey for the titular characters are Topher Grace, Alice Braga, and Walton Goggins. As I stated earlier the story wasn’t one that really challenged any member of the cast dramatically, granted that was never the intention. That being said, the cast didn’t just slack off and phone in their performances either.
Topher Grace (“Spider-Man 3”) played the kind of character that always seems to suit him perfectly, that of a sniveling weasel of a man, who always feels more important than he really is. Alice Braga (“Repo Men”) as a tough-as-nails soldier was surprisingly believable in the role and helped to balance out the extreme machismo of Adrien Brody’s character and most of the other cast members. Then there’s actor Walton Goggins (TV’s “Justified”) as a convict that sets out as only being interested in self-preservation, but eventually becomes somewhat of a team player. As I said, none of them really had to stretch to flesh out their characters, but they all did well in the roles and sold them to the audience convincingly.
Making slightly extended cameo appearances in the film were actors Laurence Fishburne and Danny Trejo. Laurence was very entertaining for the brief time he was in the film as a soldier that has snapped with reality after being marooned on this planet for quite some time. Danny Trejo wasn’t given a whole lot more to do in the movie than Laurence, and his role felt as if it had just been shoe-horned in to the film. This was a real shame, because Danny always delivers an interesting character every time he appears in a movie. This time though, his appearance was most likely due to the fact that he has acted in virtually every single movie Robert Rodriguez has worked on since “Desperado”, so this one should be no exception. Thus, his character felt like an afterthought.
Well, after waiting so long for a third installment, it’s nice to see that the “Predator” franchise hasn’t lost its edge. Combining some of the best elements of the previous two films, taking the hunt off-world, plus some terrific action scenes and visual effects, makes “Predators” the triumphant return to cinema’s that this series deserves.
“Predators” is rated R for violence and language.