Predators: Doesn’t Bother Hunting in New Territory

9 07 2010
The Robert Rodriguez produced and Nimrod Antal directed Predators, for all intents and purposes, is a reboot of a franchise that hasn’t seen a new installment since 1990’s Predator 2; unless of course you count the lackluster Alien vs. Predator duology which left fans little to enjoy and critics much to pan. When news of Rodriguez’s involvement with Predators was first announced, fans of the originals and movie buffs alike seemed confident in his ability to breathe new life into the franchise. With his oddly diverse filmography (including the violent comic book adaptation, Sin City, and the family-friendly Spy Kids series), Rodriguez seemed like the perfect fit. Less was known about director Antal (it was originally rumored Rodriguez himself would helm the project), who was handpicked by Rodriguez. So were Robert and his protégé successful in kick-starting a new round of Predator movies? Here’s the breakdown:

Finding themselves on a strange jungle planet, a diverse group of military and mercenary professionals must stick together in order to survive. Led by roguish mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody), the rag-tag team quickly realizes there is more to their situation than mere wilderness survival. They are being hunted. It’s kill or be killed, and as their numbers dwindle they must beware of the dangers both outside and within the group.

The Monkey: For a suspense thriller, pacing is everything and Predators is paced wonderfully. From the opening scene (Brody’s Royce wakes up in free fall, plummeting to the jungle below), Predators never slows down, making sure to yank audiences to the next thrill, to the next action scene. Just when a dull moment seems imminent, the movie quickly throws in a gory battle scene or a suspenseful twig-snap to keep the audience engaged.

Brody does surprising well as the brooding, buff action star, despite delivering cringe-inducing one-liners in a Christian-Bale-Batman-esque rasp. While his sharp features and prominently crooked nose have been associated with dramatic roles (in particular his Oscar-winning performance in The Pianist), here, it lends credibility to his bad-ass persona, giving him a rakish and devil-may-care profile.

The action scenes are well choreographed, especially a hair-raising scene involving a series of makeshift wooden traps. Here, and at various other moments throughout the film, cinematographer Gyula Pados proves himself, creating inventive shots and camera angles not often seen in horror/action films.

The Weasel: Before filming began, Robert Rodriguez told Ain’t It Cool News that he wanted Predators to be “a character driven action movie.” Unfortunately, it seems he confused “character driven” with “let’s just keep adding characters.” The motley crew of tough guys (and gal) is too much; there isn’t enough time to get to know any one of them well enough to care. And, like with so many films in this genre, you can easily pick the order in which each character will meet their demise. Just because you litter your film with characters doesn’t make it character driven; in fact, in Predator’s case, it makes it painfully obvious how little time and effort was put into character creation during the script writing process. Couple this oversight with unnecessarily cheesy and over-the-top dialogue and you’ve wasted a perfectly good cast.

Nowhere is this wastefulness more apparent than in Laurence Fishburne’s case. Showing up over halfway into the film, his character is meant to increase the tension and raise the stakes for the primary players; however, his role is laughable, and not in the way the filmmakers intended. His appearance is so brief and bewildering, by the end of the movie you wonder if he was even in it – and unfortunately, you realize yes, yes he was.

Topher Grace’s Edwin is another example of questionable characterization. I was hoping Grace would break from type, as Brody did; but Grace delivers his usual sarcastic-and-kinda-nerdy performance which has marked most of his acting career. And it feels very out of place.

Without revealing spoilers, the ending is rushed and any/all last minute “character developments” are crammed into the last ten minutes – and in Edwin’s case, this leads to more of a “WTF” moment than any kind of pseudo-twist ending the filmmakers might have been going for.

One wonders at the beginning of Predators, “So, they have to survive…but then what?” But the movie never answers that question. It ends where it begins (sans several characters), still leaving audiences asking, “Then what?” It’s obvious this was supposed to be some clever way of setting up a potential sequel (which Rodriguez is considering), but it feels cheap and unwarranted.

Predators never gets boring, but also never goes anywhere. Adrien Brody reportedly gave up sex to stay focused and at the top of his game for this movie – Adrien, I don’t think it was worth it.

2.5 Death Stars out of 5

What did you think? Was Predators a worthy reboot? Are you looking forward to a possible sequel? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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