Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Predators (2010 Review, 5th review of 5)


    I’ve often considered the predator creature to be one of the biggest bad assess of science fiction cinema but I’ve also felt that he deserved a far better and bigger series than what he got. The first “Predator” was a great B movie classic, “Predator 2” was a lousy sequel that killed the series before it even started and the two AVP movies, while entertaining monster flicks, still didn’t help generate the awesome series I was hoping for. Then at long last in 2010, we got “Predators”, the 5th and latest entry in the predator series and it’s an absolute blast!  All I could say after words was “WOW! That was the predator sequel I’ve been waiting for”. It may not reach the same competence or memorable characters of the first film but this one’s my personal favorite, it just has more kick to it. Now don’t let the title fool you, this isn’t a remake, it's a sequel to the first film and there’s lots of indications and talk of the events from the first Predator but it ignores all the previous installments, as if to say “where sorry for all the subpar sequels, this is the real stuff that you’ve been waiting for”.

       This film was produced by one of my favorite writers/directors Robert Rodriguez, who’s done some of the greatest B action movies of all time including “Desperado”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”, “Sin City” and “Machete”. He wrote this script back in 1994 but the studio turned it down because it would have required a huge budget that they couldn’t afford. So now his film has finally seen the light of day and is a perfect fit alongside all his other great guy flicks. The premise does a brilliant job bringing us back to the roots of what we loved from the original, while giving us something completely new and further exploring the predator universe. Eight strangers have awakened in a strange and mysterious jungle, however there not just regular people, there the predators of our world. It’s a team comprised of mercenaries, mobsters, convicts and death squad members making them the perfect prey for the real hunters. The brilliance of this team is that while there all technically bad people, there still really good characters, you never want to see any of them get killed, they hold your attention, there armed to the teeth and deadly fighters, yet they still have a sense of honor and dignity. It’s really cool seeing these people develop trust and team skills and it’s a great contrast to the team from the first film. They were all hero’s and friends that had known each other for years while this was a team of killers that have to learn to work together to survive.

     It’s slightly disappointing that this cast doesn’t have many of the usual recurring actors from Robert Rodriguez’s films like Salma Hayek but at least this film has Danny Trejo who most people recognize as Machete. The new cast does a pretty good job holding their own and there were a few good twists along the way. Adrien Brody surprised the hell out of me as this films leading bad ass, I’m so use to him in dramatic and powerful films like Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” but he actually did a great job in the role and was naturally believable as this really tuff soldier. Topher Grace (who was Venom in “Spider-Man 3”) also does a good job as a doctor character that has a dark side to him. Then there’s Laurence Fishburne (who’s best known as Morpheus in “The Matrix”) and he dose an awesome job as this crazy survivor, definitely not someone you’d feel comfortable sharing a room with. We also get a nice new token female who doesn’t fall victim to as many dumb action movie clichés as you may think.

    Now about the setting, it’s very refreshing to be back in a jungle environment, but even better, the team soon learn that there not even on earth any more. That’s right, the whole planet is a Predator game preserve where they set dangerous people lose and hunt them down. The films location crew did an excellent job finding really cool looking locations that look like they could be from another planet.  We have a scene where the team rest in a downed predator space ship and your eye is constantly attracted to the different sets and designs of this place, there’s always something alien in the background or the foreground. There’s a really cool moment when the team is on a hill top and they can see all the different planets (including the predator home world) in the sky and they thankfully never say anything to obvious, they know that there on another planet and so does the audience, so they really don’t have to explain it further. The mystery and buildup in the first half of the film is great because they give us so many new things that were never in any of the other films and the stuff we’ve already learned in the previous films are quickly mentioned and never fully analyzed. As I was watching this exposition, I kept saying to myself “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!” they’re giving us familiar things and making them feel fresh and new at the same time, that’s what a sequel should always do.  

      The film also does a great job making the predators fierce hunters again and they got so many new things to offer. First of all are the new predator hunting dogs, literally there like dogs just with bony spikes all over. They engage the team in battle and it’s an appropriate new trait to give the hunters there hunting dogs, this way they can study the team and learn about their strengths and weaknesses before going in. We have a fun collection of booby traps, new weapons, a predator drop ship and a robotic predator stealth bird, that’s pretty cool. There’s also a phew other ferocious alien creatures that were dropped on the planet to be hunted, a little fun fact about these other creatures is that there based on the original predator design before they finalized his image.

                                   

    We also meet a new breed of predators, they still have the same design and features of the original predator just a little different, kind of like dogs and wolves. These new predators are so firkin cool and I love all there different helmets. One has a bony jaw, another has tusks and there’s this one predator that looks like the Shredder from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie”. We also get an awesome scene with one of the new predators fighting the classic predator, that’s awesome. Just like in the first film, we don’t see the predators till the end but we feel there presence throughout the whole movie, the only difference is that the payoff is a lot more satisfying in this film.  

     The whole third act of this film is a bloody, testosterone-fueled, action-packed spectacle complete with explosions, slow-motion decapitations, unexpected character twists, fires, monster brawls, shoot outs and sword fights, it’s great. There are also some great improvements over some problems I had with the original “Predator” movie. For example, there’s a scene in the first film where one lone man stays behind from the grope to make a last stand but it’s completely wasted because he dies for nothing and his whole last stand fight is off screen. In this film we also have a scene with someone making a last stand, however his death isn’t in vain because he proved to be very helpful and we actually get to see his whole fight with the predator. It’s an awesome fight that’s like a classic samurai flick, the two battle with swords in this big open field, with tall grass that’s blowing in the wind. Actually, a lot of the characters get hero deaths and either die saving someone or helping the team and that’s one thing that the first movie never did and needed to have more of. In the end, Adrien Brody puts up a really good fight against the new lead predator and this time it’s more of an even match, it’s not just one character beating the other.  


     To sum things up, “Predators” is an A+ sequel that brings life back to a dyeing franchise. It takes the series back to its awesome roots, gives us something new, kicks some ass and even improves on minor problems that even the original had. I give “Predators” 4 stars, it’s just a good old fashioned monster flick. This ends my five part, mini marathon of the Predator movies, so what’s for the future of this character? Well there’s nothing officially in the works yet but this latest installment certainly opened the door for all kinds of possibilities for newer, cooler sequels and maybe with a little luck, it will bloom into that awesome Sci-Fi series that the Predator has always deserved.
     The End                           

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review. I was surfing through all of the titles at DISHOnline.com, looking for a good scifi TV show or movie to watch when I came across Predators. I remember wanting to see it when it came out, but as time went by I kind of forgot about it. So I streamed it today. I agree with you on most points. While I liked Predator 2, Predators is a proper sequel to the first film. I certainly hope this film helps to kick off a quality series of sequels, especially since Hollywood doesn’t seem capable of making anything but remakes and sequels anymore. My only issues with the film are the characters played by Fishburne and Grace. I discussed it at some length with a coworker at DISH and we both feel that Fishburnes character is a little cliché. I saw the same crazy survivor character in Pandora, a seeming savior who then turns and tries to kill our protagonist. It’s funny you should mention Spider-Man 3. As a life long Spider-Man fan that movie was hard to watch for so many reasons. The worst part was Topher Grace and his “performance” as Venom. In Predators it was his character that bothered me. He stuck out so much as the “defenseless” doctor that it was very easy to see what his characters plot twist would be. How would he be the lone “normal guy” in a carefully selected pack of killers?

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