Directed by: Nimrod Antal || Produced by: Robert Rodriguez, John Davis, Elizabeth Avellan ||
Screenplay by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch || Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Laurence Fishburne
Music by: John Debney || Cinematography: Gyula Pados || Editing by: Dan Zimmerman || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 107 minutes
I am glad that Predators, Robert Rodriguez’s latest fanboy-project, is not a total failure and yet another mark of shame on a once great franchise. However, that in no way warrants praise of Rodriguez’s and director Nimrod Antal’s work, because frankly, there’s nothing much else for which to congratulate the film. If all you can brag about your latest project is that “it was not a complete disaster,” there is still no reason why any of us should care about it. The fact that everybody seems to be using Paul W.S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator (AvP, 2004) and the Strause Bros.’ Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007) as benchmarks is incredibly sad. Given the influential heights that the franchise is capable of, we should have higher standards for Predators than the AvP flicks.
This latest Predator sequel provides minor expansions to the source material, what with competing Predator tribes, a somewhat interesting yet altogether forgettable Predator vs. Predator battle near the climax, a couple new Predator weapons and tools, and a memorable sequence with “Predator hunting dogs.” Other than those minor additions, Rodriguez’s project offers little franchise innovation or filmmaking prowess. This new movie feels like a collection of the franchise’s greatest hits in a remixed package.
As a matter of fact, Predators comes across as an awkward imitation of McTiernan’s original Predator (1987). Rodriguez seems to have plagiarized as many things from the original classic as he could, failing to remix or pay homage in respectful ways. Once again, we have a bunch of commandos armed to the teeth (plus… Topher Grace?) in a jungle, an alien hunter (ok, hunters) starts to hunt them, picking them off one at a time until our heroes figure out how to outsmart them. Sound familiar? Hell, even the score is almost beat-for-beat the exact same as Alan Silvestri’s original music for 1987’s Predator.
Much of what made 1986’s Aliens such an epic, memorable, and successful sequel was how it retained the identity and heart of the original slasher in space, yet it was brave and skilled enough to strike out on its own. Aliens didn’t try to mimic the style and tone of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, because James Cameron knew that he would never be able to top a horror flick like that. Instead, Cameron decided to do something different with his 1986-sequel, which would go on to become one of the greatest movie sequels of all time. In taking risks, and avoiding the oh so tempting route of copycatting the original, the filmmakers became every bit as integral and influential parts of the xenomorph cannon.
Predators does almost none of these things. It is more or less devoid of new ideas or creative vision, like so many lackluster franchise expansions before it. Rodriguez seems content to recycle plot elements from previous films, while doing almost none of them justice. I know that we expect a film that is part of an established franchise to retain much of the original thematic DNA and core concepts that the previous films introduced, but quite honestly, if a sequel brings nothing innovative to the franchise cannon, then what is the point of making a sequel in the first place — other than to simply cash in on corporate movie studio greed? I’m aware of that last part, but I was hoping this newest Predator sequel would do more than sate the appetite for corporate profits… and Robert Rodriguez’s ego. It’s time for the Predator franchise (as well as the Alien franchise) to stop resting on its laurels.
That’s all Predators does — rest on the series’ established fame and franchise iconography. As far as the film’s basic elements go, they’re sub par to passable all around. The special FX and predator designs are well done, but other than that, the film is lackluster and emotionally hollow. The entire cast, from Topher Grace’s distractingly out of place pseudo-Eric Forman to Alice Braga’s forgettable sniper to Rodriguez’s obligatory posse-representative, Danny Trejo, to Adrien “Big-Nose” Brody’s dull and uninspired lead, to even Lawrence Fishburne’s overweight guest appearance, are all bland.
Predators fairs a bit better in its direction and cinematography. Antal is not entirely useless. With that said, much of the locations chosen for the film’s “alien jungle” setting, and they the way the environments are shot, fail to convey that effective sense of claustrophobia and the forest creeping in on our heroes, threatening to consume them. While McTiernan’s direction glorified the creepy vibe of being stalked by an unseen force to the forefront of his adventure, Antal seems unable to emphasize that sense of dread and paranoia any time the guns aren’t blazing. Predators feels woefully unfocused, unpolished, and rushed during much of its running time. The location-shooting in Hawaii was a poor choice for a film that sought to recreate the tone of the original almost beat-for-beat, as the foliage, landscapes, and canopy feel in stark contrast with the dense jungles of southern Mexico used for the first movie.
That was my understanding of Rodriguez’s Predators (2010). I didn’t hate it, but I also did not like it much at all. This film hardly contributes to the Predator mythology in any way. The line between paying homage and ripping off blurs throughout this movie. I think that Robert Rodriguez, Adrien Brody, and everyone else who was a die-hard fan of the original McTiernan Predator and was involved in the making of Predators, made it painfully obvious just how little they understood what made the original work. Predators seems content to recycle ideas, images, and concepts from previous films in a weak attempt to stir up feelings of nostalgia. I appreciate the film’s dedication to practical FX, outdoor location-photography, and a couple creative sequences that added to the series overall mythology, but to be frank, I expected more.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Aside from not doing much of anything above the level of acceptability as far as writing or direction is concerned, Predators brings fails to add anything substantial to the franchise.
— However… the film does make some additions to the Predator mythology. The ideas of warring predator clans and novel additional weaponry are nice touches. The predator-dog scene is well shot and intense. The film boasts considerable production values.
—> ON THE FENCE: Predators isn’t a terrible movie, despite how much I’ve ranted against it, but the problem is that it’s not memorable enough for casual fans, nor innovative enough for hardcore ones.
? Being a die-hard, rabid fanboy is not enough to guarantee enrichment of a storied franchise.