By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, and Mahershala Ali
If you discount the two Alien vs Predator films, there hadn’t been an original Predator film featuring just the title creature as the lone presence on a hunt for close to twenty years. That’s a long time for a franchise that started off on an almost perfectly placed foot in 1987, but kind of faltered in that film’s 1992 sequel. Scripts were started then halted, and Fox decided to give fan boys what they thought they wanted by having Predators fight the more artistically successful Aliens. Whether those films registered as successful or not is up to you. But well-regarded filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has long been on a mission to bring the creatures back in their own picture. After supposedly writing a script in 2000, he eventually hired other screenwriters to do polish work on it until the film finally got spring boarded into production in 2009. In 2010, Predators (taking its name from the second film in the Alien Quadrilogy) was finally released. As obviously big of a fan he is, and as hard as he has worked at developing Predators, I am sad to say that Rodriguez’s film falls way short of accomplishing his goal of rejuvenating the franchise. In fact, he might have knocked it down a few notches.
Predators starts us off with a bit of mystery, as we fall with Royce (Brody) to a place that looks suspiciously like the Cambodian jungle the first film took place in, and other people have crashed on as well. It’s an admittedly nice way to start the film off, and the opening scenes get it going on the right foot. The problems in the film begin immediately after, however, as observations of poisonous plants do nothing but elongate the time these archetypes have until they are attacked.
A big problem with Predators is how cheap it looks. With the exception of the CGI associated with a far too dramatically played reveal that they are on a Predator planet, the film has a garish tint that cheapens the feel of the film’s narrative. As opposed to 1987’s Predator, whose cinematography of the surrounding forests were sights to behold, Predators is just not that visually engaging. Which wouldn’t be a problem had there been a character worth giving a damn about.
Say what you will about the people from Predator, but whether it was a leadership attitude, funny line delivery, or intuitive reaction to it, the entire bunch of them had something ideal that made you gravitate to everything they said. All of the people in Predators are, shall we say, types. And there’s no doubt Rodriguez wants us to think of them in the same way as Dutch’s crew. But none of them are standouts. Even Brody, who obviously worked out like crazy just to look awkwardly skinny/strong, throws a Christian Bale/Batman voice into the mix that had literally no toughness effect on me. The guy is horribly miscast as a leading man, as I feel he is best in supporting form. For example, when Brody started rehashing Hemingway quotes, it made him look ridiculous and completely turned me off to his character. Thrown in the mix with the rest of these people, it just didn’t register as interesting with me. Braga does her best Michelle Rodriguez impression, and Grace, just like he did with Spider-Man 3, brings sleazy and muculent to a whole new level. Speaking of
Grace’s character, there is a reveal toward the end of the film that comes about a half hour too late, and makes no sense in the context in which it is conceded. When it comes to bad Predators performances however, you can’t go very far without thinking about the embarrassing display of acting Fishburne gave. I can’t give him too hard a time, as the part was originally written for an unavailable Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Fishburne was only on set for two days. But he obviously trained for the part at McDonald’s, and his line deliveries bordered on hilarious. However, it put to mind how nice it would have been to see Schwarzenegger in the film. Then again, with the way the part was written, maybe not.
I can’t fully trash Predators, as there are a few redeeming things about it. I enjoyed the very first reveal of Fishburne under the Predator mask. I also think director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) made a very competent film, as there are a few nicely shot action scenes. The problem is he didn’t bring anything new to the material. People who say the first one was the exact same have to realize that everything was new at that time. With things like Blaine’s gun Big Painless edged into the film, Rodriguez tries so hard to make us remember when this material was original. But Predators itself is a bland, fairly capable film that wants us to believe it raises the stakes. Unfortunately, it reeks of desperation, and if the film’s final reveal (involving the creatures themselves) had been more played upon, I might champion it more. But that’s Predators’ problem. It is not written or acted well enough to have us care. Looks like it’s back to the Alien vs Predator drawing board.