Saturday, July 17, 2010

Predators - Theatrical Review

Screened at the AMC 30 Theater at the Block  in Digital.


Release date: July 9, 2010

The Predator series is an odd one; take for instance this newest installment in the franchise where they have literally stripped the proud warriors of all their fancy gear they accrued over the numerous films that came before it. The one aspect that most fans clamor for in each successive film is new ways to have the predators kill their prey, and despite their flaws each film did just that. What Robert Rodriguez and the Director, Nimrod Antal have essentially done here is regress the series back to its roots to give the first film a proper sequel and pretty much forget the other films ever happened. Did they succeed in what they were aiming for….well that question is unfortunately not an easy one to answer.

The film opens with Adrien Brody (Royce) free falling down towards a jungle as he regains consciousness. It is a remarkable scene that thrusts you right into the movie full speed ahead.  He soon finds he is not the only person that was dropped into the jungle and he begins gathering everyone into a tight but somewhat reluctant posse. Adrien Brody’s character is shown at the outset that he knows his stuff and takes charge immediately. It’s not long until you find out about his background as a mercenary and that the first and only thing on his mind is to get the hell out of wherever they are.

The other free-fall survivors he recruits are quite a mixture of ethnicities as well as backgrounds. You have yourself Isabelle (Alice Braga) who is a trained military sniper, Stan (Walton Goggins) a convicted rapist that was two days away from execution, Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov) a Spetsnaz soldier equipped with your standard everyday mini-gun, Cuchillo (Danny Trejo) a drug cartel enforcer, as well as a Yakuza member, a R.U.F. soldier and finally Edwin (Topher Grace) as the doctor.

The cast of character actors in this film is what helps it chug along at such a nice pace. Each actor playing into roles that have been associated with them for years, that is except for Adrien Brody of course who is in full on tough guy mode with this deepened voice. The group begins to trudge their way through the jungle looking for answers and more importantly a way out. It is not too much of a spoiler to mention that fairly quickly they realize they are no longer on planet Earth any more (which was ruined in the trailer) and that is when the hunt begins.

Now, I will not give any major spoilers here but there are some things that will be mentioned that may allude to certain things in the film. As mentioned earlier, most fans of the Predator franchise are looking for some cool kills and some tense moments thrown into the mix. This film gets both of those about half way and hints to some other grander ideas that never come to fruition. There are a couple of really good kills and definitely a couple of really good set pieces that do amp up the tension, however those are let down by a been there done that kind of feeling.

By stripping away most of the Predator’s goodies they have thusly limited how they can dispatch their prey. Each predator (there are three btw) comes equipped with the standard shoulder mounted laser cannon and their retractable dual forearm blade. Each character that gets taken out is done so in a manner that has been seen in countless other Predator films, granted one or two of the familiar ones were done quite well with one in particular that stuck with me on my way to my car.

Even though the kills weren’t anything to rave about, the set pieces were done rather well. There is a scene early on with one of the group being used as bait that actually gave me the creeps for a second…but only a second. Another standout scene is when just after an explosion where the characters think they are safe but…you probably know how that one turns out. However, that isn’t really the point since most astute audience members can pick up pretty quick where each scene is going, it is how it is shot and edited that helps it work.

The director, Nimrod Antal, is very gifted at doing action scenes, something that eludes most modern day action directors (I’m looking at you Mr. Bay and Mr. Greengrass). Unlike those filmmakers films you can actually track what is going on during the action and you never feel lost. It makes you appreciate a steady camera during a fight sequence. Unfortunately no matter how gifted he is at doing the action scenes the script fails him in the end.

When you have a scene where a character is giving a history lesson on the previous film to the audience that may not have seen it by explaining EVERY detail of what happened in it like they just finished watching it themselves…well that isn’t very good story telling. The dialog doesn’t get any better as the film goes on either, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they did anything new with the story they have, but they didn’t. It is a beat for beat remake of the original film (along with the original score in a kind of remix mode) with worse dialog if that is possible. As much as I love the original film it had its share of script problems as well “If it bleeds, we can kill it”.

In the end, it is a fun film (especially for those unfamiliar with the original) with a likeable cast that all get the job done. The effects can be pretty shoddy (that explosion mid-movie was pretty bad) and the somewhat of a twist at the end for one of the characters was completely unnecessary. If you are looking for a true predator film unlike all that AvP nonsense then I believe this will work for you. However, if you know the original in & out then it is a hesitant recommendation due to the many story overlaps that helps make this seem more like a remake than a sequel.


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