Adrien Brody (The Jacket) stars as Royce, a mercenary who reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors mysteriously brought together on a jungle planet. But when these cold-blooded human “predators” find themselves in all-out war against a new breed of alien Predators, it’s the ultimate showdown between hunter and prey.
Predators starts off with a crash, literally. The action comes early and often never letting the characters get a moment to reflect as the group of diverse characters meet for the first time on what at first seems to be earth, but ends up being someplace far different. The film had the potential to be a character piece much like the original with each character presenting various personalities that are grouped together for survival. Stars like Fishburne, Brody and Trejo bring that name recognition that ups the level of respect for the cast, but character development, usually a strength of Rodriguez’s is left on the cutting room floor, cutting out much of the meat and potatoes to leave some for later instead of crafting a more original idea for a sequel we are left with a handicapped movie, held back by the very studio issuing the movie. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is good buttery popcorn fun, but it could have been much more if the studio would allow the creative people room to do what they do best. Rodriguez can tell a great story if you let him do what he’s capable of doing. The Machete trailer should be proof of that in that he can deliver a premise so interesting that fans will clamor for it, even thought it was a fake trailer.
Predators is a unique sequel that some have criticized for being too much like the original. Besides the jungle setting the viewpoint is a bit off as in the original film it was a well organized team who’ve worked together and functioned as a tight unit. This time out in Predators the group is a bunch of individuals with various violent backgrounds, some mercenaries others working in organized crime and the jungle they’re in this time is, literally, not of this world. The downside of this film is that we’ve seen the Predator twice, four times if you count the Alien Vs. Predator films so you don’t get to experience the revelation like you did for the first time in the original film.
Given that this release includes the Blu-ray and a Digital Copy. Of course, the Blu-ray outshines the Digital Copy in it’s beautiful presentation with a stunning array of visuals and audio sound that make this a very attractive set. Much like with Avatar, another 20th Century Fox film, the jungle scenes are crystal clear. A perfect example of this is when the humans are being chased by certain Predator creatures (don’t want to be too specific as it could be viewed as spoilers) you can see every detail from leaves to branches and rocks on the ground. Another example is when the main group first lands from the sky, the level of detail is startling, breathtaking in the level of detail both on the characters and backgrounds.
I can get where some people feel this is too much like the original - the jungle setting, the mercenaries, killers etc, but this is really it’s own film, though it’s main downside is a lack of complete originality, but you get that with sequels and remakes/reboots. The appeal though is that all of this is not taking place on Earth as we know it. I completely understand those who feel that this should have been more it’s own movie ala Predator 2 (for good or bad) as it does tend to borrow too much from the original. That being said the score helped this film tremendously. There is the argument that can be made - if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Part of the problem with sequels is knowing when to show fans what they want from the original film and striking out on your own original ideas. Predators seemed to have a hard time in that aspect. We get a good cast of characters, but little time to develop, or care, about the majority of them outside of the leading characters. Someone like Trejo brings that instant recognition and that helps form his character quicker, but the lesser known characters/actors don’t fair as well as Mr. Trejo.
The story is where this film is hurt the most and it’s not because it’s a bad story. Robert Rodriguez had a pretty good idea and tried to run with it, but along the way he came up short. The film is too slow in the first half and a bit too quick in what should be the big payoff at, or near, the end. It’s nothing new in Hollywood as even really good films suffer from being rushed. Take Iron Man 2 for instance. The final battle was breath-taking but it seemed way too fast, which is part of the problem here as well. A part of it I feel is either from studio demands (time constraints to fit a certain length for the movie) and another is improper editing. What Predators needed to do was edit out some more of the beginning parts and give a satisfying third act. Not to say the story isn’t good, it’s just not as good as it could be. The invention of different types of Predator creatures and species is fun to watch and the setting not taking place on Earth leaves the viewer feeling unsure of the environment just as the characters feel unsure and that is where the storyline works best.
The actors all put on fine performances from leading man Adrien Brody (who seems ill-suited for an action-role of this type but comes off better than expected) to everyday man Danny Trejo making like James Brown “the hardest working man in show-business” with another great supporting role here leaving me drooling to see his performance in Machete. One of my favorites Laurence Fishburne takes some time off his CSI role to play a very strange character here, one of his strangest to date leaving me wondering if this is a good thing or not. I still can’t decide at the time of this writing because it will really tell if it holds up over time (and makes more sense in repeated viewings). I swore up and down that Alice Braga was the woman from the original Predator, but I was way off. She does a nice job of re-creating that type of woman who leaves you with a mix of appreciation for her vulnerability as well as her strength and her ability to set the mood with her story-telling. I think what hurt this film compared to the original is that here you don’t have huge guys like Arnold, Ventura, Weathers and the rest.
This film is a real head-scratcher. In some ways it fully realizes a Rodriguez film giving us nice action, likeable characters and a moving story, but at the same time you get the feeling of the action not being fully realized or thought-out as well as some of Rodriguez’s other films. The disappointment for me is that I feel if Rodriguez had taken the director’s chair, this could have been a much better film. Not to say that Director Nimrod Antal did a bad job. He did a fairly decent job, to the best of his abilities. I got the feeling that the makers of the film were holding back material for sequels, a feeling similar to the incomplete feeling I got with Back to the Future Part II, and I love that film except it felt like it was missing something story-wise. Don’t get me wrong, I come off sounding like I don’t like the film in this review and that’s not true. It’s more a disappointment of “what could have been” or maybe too-high expectations going into the viewing. It’s a fun movie. Just not the complete feeling you get from the first film that leaves you satisfied and wanting more. This leaves you wanting more, but in the way you feel when you don’t get a completely satisfied meal.
Having researched a bit for this review I learned that there are plans for a sequel and that the studio (20th Century Fox) had decided to hold back on some of the ideas put forth for this film for a possible sequel at the time. Ironically, the holding-back part could have hurt this film much more than it did. I feel it got more of a mixed-reaction because you can tell there were things tampered with especially with the story’s pacing. The film feels a bit too tight and at times a bit too much (especially the first half). The final fight scene was a bit anti-climatic and there was very little suspense as to who the star of the movie is. Part of the strength of the first film was that even Arnold was a huge underdog, barely coming out of it with his life intact. Hopefully in the sequel we can get back to that feeling and not knowing if the main characters will live or die which is the mistake of going with big-name stars, you can figure out who‘s more likely to survive these days by who‘s name is featured in the credits whether on a movie poster or DVD/Blu-ray box.
Overall, I liked this film a lot, but was left wanting to love it, unfortunately falling a little short of that. There seemed to be an issue with the pacing of the story. Intentionally slow-paced at first to try and mirror the original film it seems to do too much of that and cuts away from the pay-offs later in the film. Whereas you got to know the characters in the original film better (probably helped by very recognizable faces that give instant recognition like Trejo and Laurence did here). The Blu-ray is outstanding in quality and has a nice supplement of extras. An entertaining package that might be more pleasing than the theater-going experience for those of you who weren’t crazy about it’s theatrical release. This is definitely a try-before-you-buy but well worth adding to your collection as the Blu-ray is a real quality release picture and audio-wise and the disc has a satisfying portion of extras to enjoy over time, but not as great as Rodriguez‘s usual collection of extras. A good, fun action film that might remind you of the original, but falls short of the payoff. Hopefully the sequel will be better…
Special Features -
Disc 1 -
- Predators in High Definition
- Robert Rodriguez presents Motion Comics - Exclusive Prequel Vignettes: Moments of Extraction (Isabelle, Cuchillo, Hanzo, Mombasa) and Crucified
- Commentary by Producer Robert Rodriguez and Director Nimrod Antal
- Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn
- The Chosen Featurette
- Fox Movie Channel presents Making a Scene
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- BD Live
Disc 2 -
- Digital Copy
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