The Guest Spot: Predators

Predators opened this weekend, and I didn’t get to go and see it due to animated green ogres intervening and stealing my kids for near ninety minutes. Thankfully, my longtime chum, JackDaMone, went along and offered his services to review it for the Blammo Massive. Why he didn’t offer to pay for my ticket is another story. I would’ve paid for my own hot dog and drink.  No that’s fine, take your wife, I’ll starve and be bored….

Anyway, this is his virgin opinion, so we’re popping his cherry. Off you go, son.

I was just 7 years old when Predator was released into the world, but it wasn’t until I was 14 that I actually managed to obtain a copy and listen to those mandibles click for the first time.  Hands down, the first Predator movie was simply awesome.  It had everything you could want from a movie, set in the 1980’s.  Big action, big characters, even bigger guns and a bad ass alien hunter who bled luminous green.  Predator, to me, worked so well due to its balanced focus on character interaction, tension and high octane action. Even compared to most modern films, the action choreographed in the rebel encampment scene still looks amazing after twenty three years. You cared about the characters, and their witty one liners.  You could feel Mac’s hunger for revenge when Blain chest was blown inside out, and you felt that Arnie had a good chance against the Predator in the final 20 mins of the film.  The preparation scenes as both warriors prime to do battle really are tense, preparing the audience for a climatic finish.

Predator 2, although not as good as its predecessor, still focused on a team of individuals as targets of a second predator to obtain trophies, even it was in the jungle setting of L.A.  It did everything an action sequel should.  It had more action, more inventive killings, and …er…Danny Glover.  But anyway,  the Predator was also back with even more awesome weaponry, such as the combi stick, net launcher and a razor bladed discus.  The movie worked well, and had memorable scenes such as the subway train, and the death of King Willy, which is probably my favourite.  Just the sheer presence of the Predator walking through puddles as his cloaking system malfunctions is enough to give me goose bumps.  You don’t even see the fight take place, and that was the beauty of it.

This leads me to Predators, the third in the series. Its 2010, twenty three years since the original was made, and im still an avid die-hard fan of the Predator universe, even at 30. The movie starts off well. We are plunged into immediate questions of why, how, and what is happening as the audience is literally falling with Royce (Adrian Brody) as he plunges from the sky, his parachute opening at the last second. He wakes to find himself surrounded by lush green forests as other members of the cast appear in similar fashion. As the first 10 minutes play through, the story sets itself rather well and introduces the audience to the characters that we all know, will ultimately meet their demise. It seems they have been specifically chosen by an unknown party for their killing skills ,whilst on Earth, and transported to a foreign planet to be hunted as game. You have the ex black ops military type (Brody), Russian Spetnanz (Taktarov) – who is sporting a mean looking mini gun – A Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Trejo) – who is really looking his age. IDF sniper (Braga), a RUF officer (Ali), a death row inmate (Goggins), a Yakuza (Changchien) and an American Dr (Grace). The team don’t bond well but realise that in order to survive they must work together.

The first time that CGI is used in the movie is during the first attack, and thankfully its not used that often. However, it is used rather well and I enjoyed the action, a small treat as to what would be coming next. You don’t meet the Predators until about half way through the movie, and it is here that I make my first criticism as we are introduced to the Beserker Predators. Now, I understand that sequels have to move on and evolve in order to not repeat the same story but overall I wasn’t happy with these new type of Predators. Yeah, sure they were mean, merciless and looked cool, but what I liked about the first 2 movies was that the Predator also chose fair game for his hunts, and was honourable; would only attack persons who were armed etc. This seems to have been eluded from this setting, but then again, it makes you side with the humans more and realise that they face a far more threatening and evil monster than before.

Nevertheless, the Predators look the part, and their cloaking device has been given an overhaul as well as the plasma caster and wrist gauntlet. The double bladed gauntlet was my favourite Predator weapon , but it seems the director has preferred to follow Paul Anderson’s example of just having one long single blade instead. These Preds don’t make the awesome clicking madible sound either, nor do they have the incredible and iconic roar that is so familiar with previous films. They seem to be darker and more brutal though with their emphasis being on killing everything in sight. But, I’ll let you judge how you feel about this new breed. Personally, I was looking forward to these small things that were missing.

The Predators seem to move differently this time as well. Again, referring to previous movies, and even comics ,the predators were graceful in their movements. They could leap great distances, use trees for cover, perch high on buildings. This time they seem to barge through everything in their way and have a very rugged and ‘fixed’ sense of manoeuvrability rather than the quick and precise actions we, as the audience, have been used to (akin to Kevin Peter Hall’s Predator). This is clearly revealed in the Yakuza/Pred stand off. You expect it to be a fluid and powerful scene, yet it is severely let down by the Pred just standing there not doing much.

The human characters, for me, seemed to be rather annoying. I couldn’t relate to any of them, but the audience is forced to follow Royce’s character, in order for the plot to develop. Brody, I don’t feel was the right choice to play the gravel voiced, “leave me alone or I’ll kill you” type of black ops character. From The Piano and King Kong where he plays a rather weedy character, straight to a Predator role where he has to buff up and play the action hero seems to be a huge jump. Even Laurence Fishburne’s portrayal of a man being stranded on the planet for ten seasons is rather poor. The only comic relief put in the movie seems to be the death row inmate who, to me, was incredibly irritating and I was rather pleased when his spinal column was removed from his body.

Anyway, each character is removed one by one, in similar fashion to the first movie, ultimately ending with a goody/baddy face off which ends rather pleasantly in typical Rodriguez style. Unfortunately, Nimrod and Rodriguez, in my opinion, watched Predator a bit too many times. They are so many references to the first movie that they appear maybe every other minute. The music is a complete rip from the first one, I don’t even know why they credited John Debney as the composer, when Alan Silvestri did it all! It was good to begin with, a few quotes from the first such as “firing in all directions” and “over here, turnaround” but the inclusion of a jungle setting, one of the characters with a gatling gun, waterfall jumps, the music and even the use of mud to try and hide their thermal signature, becomes incredibly aggravating, and it keeps you wondering if they will come up with any ideas of their own! It feels as though its all been done before. I can understand why references were made, but the makers became rather eccentric in their actions to try and remind people what an awesome movie the first was.

However, there are some very exciting moments in the movie too. The camera work is very impressive, as well as the laser sightings and camouflage of the Preds. There is an incredible scene where 2 predators face off against each other resulting in a spectacular array of choreography and plasma, as well as the final scene.

Overall, I really wanted to enjoy this movie. I had read reviews which were steady and claiming it be as good as the original. I once again put my faith in Fox to deliver where they had let me down so many times before. But, it must have been asking too much. I enjoyed it as an action flick but it doesn’t do the series justice. The movie lacks in depth and original storytelling. You don’t care about the characters, and it feels that Fox, once again, are trying to re-invent an original classic, but once again, cannot get the formula right. They include all the nerdy bits that fans want, but forget how to make the movie itself, and end up with another one to add to the list of “should’ve been great, but wasn’t” pile.

Predators scores 6 Laughing Billys and King Willies out of 10

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