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-[Film Reviews]-, Hollywood, NORTH AMERICAN CINEMA

‘Predators’ (2010): Review

predators-2010-poster

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 (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. The franchise deserves better modern standards.

predators 2010 montage

TOP: A “Super Black” Predator defeats a “normal” Predator during the film’s climax. BOTTOM: A Yakuza takes on another Super Black Predator in a comical thrust-parry sword fight.

As for the film itself, what does Predators bring to the table, other than an avoidance of complete silver screen embarrassment? Like I said, not much.

There is minor expansion of the source material, what with competing Predator tribes, a somewhat interesting yet altogether forgettable Pred vs. Pred battle, a couple new Predator weapons and tools, and a surprisingly memorable scene with “Predator hunting dogs.” Other than those minor additions, Rodriguez’s project offers little franchise innovation or filmmaking prowess.

As a matter of fact, Predators comes across as an awkward and unsuccessful 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.

Why should we ever bother with a film like Rodriguez’s Predators when we could spend our 107 minutes with a similar yet much better film like McTiernan’s Predator? Predators‘ biggest flaw is that it is so shamefully lazy in its lack of originality, its lack of “vision,” its apparent fear to expand beyond the existing source material, and its general parasitism, for lack of a better word, of the original’s style. Hey Rodriguez, come up with something new! A couple new Predator weapons, a quick scene with hunting dogs, and an extraterrestrial game-preserve setting that functions the same as an earth-jungle don’t matter much at all.

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.

predators 2010 montage ii

TOP: Release the hounds! BOTTOM: Alice Braga (left) and Adrien Brody (right) take position against an unseen threat.

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 mediocre 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. Everyone’s a cardboard cutout. While the original Predator placed us alongside a similar group of heavily armed soldiers in a hostile jungle, those characters were interesting and had memorable personalities. Predators is both devoid of personality and absolutely humorless.

There is no comparison between these two casts. Even if the characters of Predators (2010) had an acceptable level of depth to them, to the point where we might care about what happens to them at the hands of their alien stalkers, I don’t see how this new cast could ever live up to the original’s commando all-star team. Some of the new guys, like Brody, Fishburne, and Grace, have plenty of acting ability and can put forth good performances if cast in the right roles, but none of these actors feel comfortable in this sci fi setting.

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 ’80’s classic 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. There is little to no tension or drama in Predators’ setting.

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 expected more.

pred-1

Way to not take advantage of a cool idea.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Aside from not doing much of anything above the level of mediocrity as far as writing or direction is concerned, Predators brings nothing new to the table and fails to add anything substantial to the franchise. The entire narrative and premise seem content to rehash, recycle, and regurgitate the core concepts made famous by the original. Nothing more. All the characters are cardboard cutouts.

However… the film does make minor additions to the Predator mythology. The ideas of warring predator clans and some additional weaponry are nice touches. The predator-dog scene is well shot and intense. It’s the best scene in the movie. 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. It’s just kinda there.

? Being a die-hard, rabid fanboy is not enough to guarantee enrichment of a storied franchise. Hell, Christopher Nolan hardly new squat about Batman and that superhero’s mythology when he started working on The Dark Knight Trilogy, and look how that franchise turned out.

About The Celtic Predator

I love movies, music, video games, and big, scary creatures.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “‘Predators’ (2010): Review

  1. Hey, I just watched Predators for the second time. I must say I loved it more now then the first time I have seen it…I especially loved the first part when everything is still a mystery to the people who “stranded”on the planet…

    After the second watch I think Predators is pretty enjoyable. I understand now that there is some kind of premisse that tells us that men can be like predators/monsters, so in that way it delivered …but the thing that I disliked was there were too few characters we care about (because there were too many). Sure there are big names, but most of them we just don’t care about when we see them getting killed…just because one of the character has a very brief “moment” with another character doesn’t make us care more about him or her.

    The thing why Predator 1987 was great is because it was very simple and straight forward. This film knew exactly what it was supposed to do. It didn’t need a deep subplot or large morality, but it scared us good because you had the feeling you were THERE with those commandos, following every move they make, watching over their shoulders as they were travelling more and more in the South American Jungle. Predator 1987 knew exactly how much info was needed to make it work. it was straight forward because it didn’t need a twisted love subplot or anything else…

    What I want to say is that ,in Predators, there was more to see in case of the predator universe…that’s true, but at the end of the movie I didn’t had the feeling that anything what I saw was, well…finished. I know it’s all about the experience…trying to relive the “Predator 1987” days, but like you say, I didn’t had the feeling they really expanded that universe that much. They throwed in a few new items, but it didn’t brought the franchise to a new higher level (also the L. Fishburne character still didn’t make much sense to me after the second watch). So yeah, not that bad, but not really refreshing compared to the original…

    Posted by Dries | June 13, 2013, 9:40 pm
    • I agree with you completely, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that ‘Predators’ is a terrible film by any means (despite the overall negative tone of the review). I just think that it was very, well…painfully average, and average just doesn’t compare well to the great heights that the AP franchise is capable of, in my opinion.

      You hit the nail on the head in saying that the original Pred movie gave us just enough character development and personality to make the story work, and it made the experience a resounding success. I still feel that, in the case of Rodriguez’s ‘Predators,’ he (and everybody else involved in the project) showed how painfully obvious it was that they did NOT understand what made the original work so well. Like you said, the whole movie felt very unfinished, unpolished, and overall, a disappointment given the rich, fictional universe from which it had to draw.

      Posted by The Celtic Predator | June 14, 2013, 2:34 am
  2. yeah, I think also, that in Predators, the characters were not as charming as in the first. Ih the 1987 version we have a tight group of commandos who want nothing more then do their job right and bring justice (oh well “justice”…you know what I mean). Because of this little “inside chopper” scene in the beginning you have so much more sympathy for them. Now in Predators, we have something different. We have a group of individuals, who were all monsters in their own world (War, Yakuza,psychopaths, Mexican kartel…). Besides that there is accually nothing that really bonds this group, know what I mean? So if you put this two groups next to each others, I think it’s pretty obvious for wich group people will cheer for.

    Also there was a better “character change” in Predator 1987. Because of the slow paced storyline you could really get into the characters and the evens. It showed well how a group of very well trained commandos eventually got their asses kicked by something they couldn’t even identify. Even Schwarzenegger himself, although he did won from the Predator, was really at the end of his powers and got beaten up pretty badly in the end. In Predators, not that it was so fast paced, but lacked such moments more. The main characters (A brody), remained too much of the same to me. In the end he fought the big Predator with much more ease then the original. It was like he never had a big struggle, except for the cheap “ran away but returned because of consciousness issue”.

    Even the original Predator itself had more character to it. You knew throughout the movie that he was a sadistic but enhanced mofo that enjoyed killing everyone in the jungle, and that he was kind of a bad loser. In predators they were just obstacles to me, that’s it. I didn’t had the feeling there was much depth to them, just animals you had to watch out for. Like you say, the characters were more cardboards.

    So to conclude this, I think you have a point saying that R. Rodriguez accually didn’t fully understand what Predator makes so great…

    Posted by Dries | June 14, 2013, 7:39 am
    • Definitely. The original ’80’s gang was quite funny, memorable, and most importantly of all, likable. Plus, they were led by a charismatic Schwarzenegger in his prime. The cast in ‘Predators’ was just a bunch of cardboard cutouts — not a memorable personality treat among them, except for maybe Topher Grace’s annoying Eric Formanisms.

      Posted by The Celtic Predator | June 21, 2013, 2:24 am
  3. Hey, again I return to write down some new elements I found in order to review this flick in a proper way.

    I saw this film for the “so many times” a few days ago.

    First of all, it’s not the worst movie I’ve seen for this genre, but it’s too far away for being called a good movie in my opinion.

    I returned here because I think I can explain why I can’t say it totally bored me, but didn’t satisfy me either.

    The positive thing for Predators is that they tried out new stuff. It’s the first time the franchise starts out on a different planet and that there were multiple Predators and even some new species. And the L Fishburne character was accually not a bad character at first. The point is, they threw in enough new items to keep it interesting. That’s why I can’t say it was a boring movie…

    Now we come to the negative aspects of this movie. It’s not bad to throw in new aspects, in fact I support new ideas instead of rehashing the same thing over and over again. But the point is, these new elements don’t go anywhere….and that’s exactly what’s the problem with this movie. The 1987 version had the balls to chose a direction and stick with it, even if it was as simple as it is. But the thing is, it worked! This flick had a larger scale but never did it properly set up a story behind all of it. It’s too bad it all stayed with vague ideas.

    I give you something to think about. If A Brody didn’t say that they were on a hunting planet and that they were being hunted, would you acknowlegde this at the end of the movie just by watching the images? I have watched this movie for some times now and I was surprised to see that there was not a single scene that proved for sure that the Predators were deliberately following and hunting them down to take them as trophy.

    The L Fishburne character also. Accually he’s not a bad character at all. It was a nice twist to meet a survivor and learn from it. But somehow they totally wasted this character by making him a nutball and getting him killed by a predator, after about 10 years of survival!!!.

    That’s the problem with this movie, never did the movie take a stand or set up a plot from what’s thrown into the story.

    Back to the hunting thing. All I say is that the 1987 version was more clear about the motives of the Predator. Long before Schwarzenegger told the group that this alien creature hunts for sport we already saw images of him sneaking around them, killing them and cleaning up skulls. It’s the images that makes us believe in someones motives and behaviour. It’s not because someone says that they’re being hunted, that the viewer believes that without seeing any images or action that acknowlegde that.

    I know there is about 1 part that gives us a high probability that the huge predators are hunting them. It’s the part when the group is falling down into a river and some CGI scouting bird flies over and flies back to a camp where we see the super predators and some dog creatures they encountered. OK that’s maybe the closest evidence for being hunted but it’s still poorly and very far away. And even then, who knows they were just searching for Noland/Roland?

    Check out the deaths too. Very few deaths in the beginning are directly from a Predator. Danny Trejo was killed off screen and used as booby trap, but by who of what? Yes the probability is by the predators but you can’t know that for sure. The black guy in the camp also died in a booby trap but it’s again hard to tell who or what did it.

    After the Roland scene a few finally die at the hands of Predators, but it looked to me that they were killed because they accidently drove the attention towards themselves by blasting a whole in Nolands ship rather then Predators deliberatly tracking them down. Again the idea of being the focus of their “hunting game” and becoming their throphy was still very very vague or even complete without real evidence…

    I can go on with some other items. The “killer dogs” was not a bad idea, but after the encounter in the beginning they never returned on screen with them (yeah briefly at the predator camp but that’s it).

    The movie is filled with stuff like that. They see things, they encounter things, but then they move on and not a word is spilled about it anymore…

    So to finally conclude this flick. It had very interesting ideas, but because they probably didn’t know which direction they want to take they threw in a lot of things hoping people wouldn’t see that there is accually not a story at all.

    Again thank you Celtic Predator to have the balls to give an in depth review about a movie people don’t dare to admit that there’s a lot more then meets the eye. (I mean Predator 1987, not this one lol)

    Commenst welcome of course

    Posted by Dries | January 17, 2015, 6:53 am

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