Nearly 25 years after Arnold Schwarzenegger defeated the original Predator in the jungles of Central America the Predator brand is somehow still going strong. It is rather surprising that the franchise, which sports two truly awful films (Predator 2 and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), is able to maintain traction in today’s film industry but I suppose that can be chalked up to the power of the brand in other mediums. In any case here we are in 2010 with an all new Predator film, produced by Robert Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has a pretty good track record with action styled films and the presence of his name lends the title some much needed credibility. After all this is the fifth film in a series that has been beleaguered after the original with mediocre to poor film making and while it may maintain a rabid fan base from its continuation in comic books and video games, the mass public may be feeling a bit weary of a new film in the series. Rodriguez however is not at the helm of Predators, as much as the marketing would like you to believe, instead the unproven Nimrod Antal, director of Vacancy and Armored, is in charge and it certainly shows straight from the opening of the film.
Predators kicks off in what attempts to be an adrenaline fueled action sequences with an unconscious Adrien Brody free-falling from the sky and crash landing in a jungle. The scene doesn’t quite hit the proper notes though and the entirety was kind of groan inducing to the point where someone in our theater yelled out, “Worst opening scene ever.” However the film quickly gets on track as Brody’s character, Royce, meets up with a rag tag group of individuals in the same situation. The assembled group of killers is initially confused by their predicament but the facts at hand are quickly established. The group has been assembled for a reason and that reason is to be hunted and once the premise is laid out for all to see the flashbacks from the original Predator start to kick in. This is generally a good thing even if it has you feeling a bit of deja-vu.
Predators pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, the least of which is a direct reference in character dialog to the events of Schwarzenegger’s film. Everything from the jungle setting to a series of primitive traps to the deliberate early pacing is a call back to Predator but as much as it tries to evoke the look and feel of the classic film, it never quite captures what was so special about that movie. That is not to say that Predators is bad, it just lacks that special something that made Predator into the classic it became.
A lot of the issues with the film can be directly attributed to the “team” of prey that is tenuously led by Royce. They lack a sense of charisma and feel almost cookie cutter. The most interesting of the crew is Stans (Walton Goggins) who was a death row inmate before being transported to become prey. He is an entirely despicable character that gets off on rape and murder but he is also one of the few characters in the movie to have a personality that isn’t one sheathed in stone. The choice to use Stans as the comic relief is quite perplexing being as he is despicable but Goggins does a good job with what he has to work with it just doesn’t feel right to laugh at his jokes. The rest of the cast is quite boring though, even the almost always enjoyable Danny Trejo, and the film relies more than it should on Brody’s natural charisma to pull it through. Speaking of Brody, a lot has been made of his gruff voice in the film. It has been compared to Christian Bale’s Batman voice and people have been putting him down for using the accentuation. The voice is perfectly fitting in the film and never feels out of place.
Where the film really failed for me though was with the action. It was loud and it was messy but it also never made me get on the edge of my seat. It kind of felt like Antal was following the Hollywood paint by numbers action script, which is kind of surprising and disappointing considering Rodriguez was in the wings giving guidance. Whatever the case maybe Predators never felt like something fresh.
In the end Predators is an odd nut to crack. It is an OK sequel to the 1987 original but it doesn’t quite fulfill on the promise to be the dawning of a new era in the franchise. The film lacks charisma and it lacks a sense of urgency and suspense. Ultimately Predators is just a serviceable action film that isn’t going to blow your mind. It is worth seeing if you have two hours to kill and a desire to shut off your brain and escape from it all but other than that you can probably wait for the home release.
3 out of 5