Saturday, 10 July 2010

Predators

Despite only being four years old when it was released in 1987, I've always been a big fan of the action/horror film Predator - there's something eternally enjoyable about watching a team of battle-hardened, crack commandos slowly crumbling under the pressure of being stalked by an unseen enemy that always seems one step ahead of them. Of course, the fact that the script was packed with great one-liners ("There's something out there waiting for us...and it ain't no man") and had a seriously cool alien antagonist certainly helped.

The inevitable sequel followed in 1991, though pleasingly it was a worthy follow-up. It didn't match the first film, but nonetheless it was an enjoyable romp and further developed the alien predators, providing a more substantial glimpse of the creatures' culture and their strange codes of honour (not to mention throwing in the odd geek reference, like the alien skull in the predators' spaceship).

Frustratingly, despite the potential scope for further films (the first two movies barely scratch the surface of predator culture) the pickings for fans of the franchise over the next twenty years were slim indeed: the painfully mediocre Aliens Vs Predator in 2004 and the laughably terrible Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem in 2007 offered next to nothing in terms of further development of the species.

But in Predators, fans of the franchise have finally got a film worthy of the two original movies.

Like its predecessors, the new installment in the series has a simple premise: seven strangers from a variety of backgrounds (mostly military) find themselves on an alien world with no idea of how they got there, or why. When it swiftly becomes apparent that something is hunting them, they're forced to work together in order to try and survive. Naturally, all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Predators has been called a 'reboot' of the series, and while I'm not overly keen on the term, it's certainly true in the sense that this film takes the franchise back to its roots - hunters and hunted, locked in a desperate struggle in a jungle environment. This is one of the most pleasing aspects about Predators: that it pays homage to the first film in a number of ways (the music and sound effects are deliberately very reminiscent of the original movie, while certain lines of dialogue are also borrowed - as is one entire scene which is clearly a nod to a moment in Predator).

One of Predator's strengths was the focus it placed on characterisation, and the same is true of this new installment. Although the results are admittedly somewhat mixed, there's enough depth here for the watcher to engage with. Adrien Brody - somewhat surprisingly, it must be said - is convincing as the brooding mercenary Royce, as is Alice Braga as an Israeli sharpshooter. There perhaps could have been more character development - the individuals' backstories are barely touched on - but of course this would have had to have been balanced against the film's pace, and the filmmakers have clearly plumped for pace and action, which is hard to argue with.

The predators of course, are the stars of the show: they've been given a 21st-century makeover, and are as fearsome as ever. The unnerving way they shimmer in and out of visibility never gets old, while the mask-and-dreadlocks image is as cool as ever. There's no serious revelations about them or their culture, but there are hints here and there - such as the fact that they sometimes turn on their own kind, which has never been alluded to before.

There are flaws of course; the dialogue is occasionally stiff and lacks the quotability of the original film (though it does have its moments), the plot itself isn't much of a departure from the film's predecessors (and is one of those plots you can pick holes in if you want to),  and you can't help but feel that more could have been done with this bunch of misfits in terms of character development. Yet this is an action film, and to be fair it does the action part pretty darn well - there's plenty of exciting sequences, one or two twists, and overall it's a lot of fun.

And as always, the predators are very, very cool.

4 comments:

T.D. Newton said...

Fantastic. Glad to hear it's not a total waste of time. We have similar feelings about the first four Predator-related films (as I recall watching AVP:R either shortly before or after you reviewed it), so I'm excited for this one. A well done review.

James said...

The two AVP films were a waste of time, but this certainly isn't. It's not reinventing the wheel, but it doesn't need to: all that was required was a film that gets back to what the franchise is about, and Predators does that very well.

If you like the first two films, then you should enjoy this one.

Kian Ryan said...

I enjoyed the first two films, but this one left me .. well ... bored.

If you've seen the first two movies, you've got a very good idea of what's going to come from the next scene. There's very few surprises and almost no suspense. The characterisations whilst reasonable read like a who's who of stereotypes. (Give the Aisan man a katana, give the Eastern European a big-ass, heavy gun).

There was even an epic fail in updating the image of the Predator. These new Predators are supposed to be bigger, meaner and nastier than the old ones? Well, it wasn't quite the Dalek reboot (although bright red, blue and yellow Predators would have been interesting), but it wasn't particularly clear these were a new "evolution" of Predator until much later in the game.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I reviewed this film as well and agree with your assement. It didn't break any new ground, but it's a worthy installment. The first film was so new and fresh, it's almost impossible to create the same tension and dread.