Monday, July 19, 2010

Predators / *** (R)

Royce: Adrien Brody
Isabelle: Alice Braga
Edwin: Topher Grace
Stans: Walton Goggins
Nikolai: Oleg Taktarov
Cuchillo: Danny Trejo
Hanzo: Louis Ozawa Changchien
Mombasa: Mahershalahashbaz Ali
Noland: Laurence Fishburne

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Nimród Antal. Written by Alex Litvak & Michael Finch. Based on characters created by Jim Thomas & John Thomas. Running time: 106 min. Rated R (for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language).

“Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.”
—Ernest Hemingway

I never expected a “Predator” movie to quote Hemingway, but this one does. That’s about the only thing in “Predators” you wouldn’t expect from a movie about alien monsters hunting a bunch of human soldiers in the jungle, but even the expected elements in this movie are done with a reverence to the original “Predator” and even a bit more style than that one.

If anything, “Predators” has the most abrupt beginning of just about any movie I’ve ever seen. We discover our hero free falling through the atmosphere, waking up in midair. He’s just as shocked as we are. Later, we will learn he is Royce, a former black ops soldier turned mercenary. His parachute opens just before he hits the jungle canopy. He slams to the ground. Then the title “Predators” slams across the screen.

Royce (Adrian Brody) isn’t alone in his fate. Other soldiers, killers, tough guys and girls, and one doctor have arrived in this jungle in the same manner. Some weren’t lucky enough to have their chute open in time. Why are they here? Where is here? What is Topher Grace from “That 70s Show” doing here playing a doctor amongst all these tough guys? Do these questions even matter? Not really. Because the audience has purchased tickets to a movie called “Predators”, and we all know why we’re there. We want to see a version of the ages-old story of “The Most Dangerous Game” with a bunch of bigass aliens playing the hunters of a bunch of badass humans as the game. I mean, come on! Really, there aren’t any surprises here. It’s really only a question of how well it’s done.

As a matter of fact, it’s done about as well as it’s ever been done for this particular film franchise. The operator of the theater I saw it in asked me what I thought after the screening. “It was about as good as a ‘Predator’ movie could be,” was my response. Now, this statement could be taken two ways. A.) This series is a pretty brainless premise, and therefore you’ve got a fairly brainless movie. Or B.) This is as good as “Predator” gets; therefore it’s the best of the bunch. Well, frankly, both of these statements are true.

The truth is I very much enjoyed this ultimate brainless summer blockbuster experience. You’ve got a bunch of tough guys with big guns mowing down the jungle, trying to fend off invisible monster aliens. The aliens pick them off one by one, until only a few key players are left on the field. Who will ultimately survive? Who will be sacrificed, either by one of the other ruthless humans or of their own accord? It’s a pretty safe bet that Adrian Brody (“King Kong”), despite his unlikely candidacy to take over in the Arnold Schwarzenegger role, is going to be at least one of the last men standing. But there are some surprises that have not been entered into this particular formula before. Whether they remain surprises until they’re revealed depends on just how savvy a filmgoer you are.

I applaud that director Nimród Antal (“Vacancy”) seems to be very respectful of the first two films in the “Predator” series, something that cannot be said for the disappointing “Alien vs. Predator” films. There are references to both heroes from the first two films, and for the first time in over twenty years, audiences get a good look at the original Predator monster. I also like that the madman character that shows up halfway through the movie, is truly mad, rather than a misunderstood prophet of some sort. Some people may feel his fate is a little anticlimactic, but I’m glad they didn’t make more of him than he was.

My only problem with the movie is how they handled the Topher Grace character, about whom it is pointed out almost immediately that he doesn’t fit in with the mercenaries and killers that find themselves inexplicably transported to this foreign jungle. His difference is pointed out and then ignored until the final ten minutes of the film. I think his true reason for being there would’ve come as more of a surprise if some other sort of explanation for his presence had been presented earlier. I also find it hard to believe that Brody’s detail-oriented character would’ve let this inconsistency with the pattern in the Predators’ game go unchecked.

“Predators” is just about the best ‘Predator’ movie you could ask for. So if you are a fan of the series, this one is a must see. If this type of movie doesn’t appeal to you, “Predators” is not going to change your mind. It’s more action than science fiction. It’s more brawn than brains. But as Hemingway might’ve said, “You who seek out movies about hunting man, and those who do will find they enjoy this one, you will not really care whether there’s anything more profound thereafter.”

Predators | Movie Trailers

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