Predators, while far from perfect, is the inspiring story of a sequel that shouldn't have been greenlit, and yet it was. The original Predator came out in 1987 to initial mixed reviews but went on to be regarded as one of the best action films of all time, and rightfully so. A mere three years later the franchise was plunged into a rapid downward spiral when Predator 2 was released to negative reviews.
14 years later Paul W. S. Anderson resurrected the ugly alien for Alien vs Predator, but a triumphant return it was not, as the film garnered a worse reception than Predator 2. Even then Hollywood was not done milking the character of its glowing green blood and out came Alien vs Predator: Requiem to a substantially poorer reception than its predecessor.
So why, on God's green Predator planet, did 20th Century Fox dig out a Predator script that Robert Rodriguez wrote back in 1994 and decide to make it now? I have no idea, but they did, and now we have the best film in the franchise since the original. I may have given a little too much backstory there, but it's really important to realize how far the franchise has fallen to properly appreciate the life that this new entries breathes into the series.
Predators takes the concept back to the jungle, where it belongs. The city setting was interesting in Predator 2, and at that time it probably felt like a natural transition for the series, but the wild is where the Predator belongs, with the rest of the animals. For most moviegoers, I would imagine, the jungle is still a place of mystery and danger, making it a perfect setting for a story like this.
The story is a literally alien take on The Most Dangerous Game, a shorty story that has been adapted into film almost twenty times. Predators is definitely a loose adaptation, what with the hunter being an alien, but there are definite similarities.
The plot is simple - humans are being hunted like game - but that's not to be taken as a weakness. The Predators are hunters, any fan knows this, so the idea of them arranging a large interspecies hunt is a logical one. The first film is referenced and used in a clever way as a storytelling device. The plot unfolds slowly as it's told from the point of view of the characters, who start out knowing nothing and ultimately knowing little in the end. We enter the film with the characters, as Adrien Brody awakens in free fall, high above the planet, not knowing how he got there. We discover this world and predicament with them.
The cast is solid and any doubts you had about Adrien Brody headlining an action movie can be erased. Not only does he look the part, but he can do grim badass like nobody's business. Everyone else is at least enjoyable, especially Walton Goggins as death row inmate Stans. We're never told what he's done, but it's bad. And with Robert Rodriguez in the producer's chair, the always enjoyable Danny Trejo is present as Cuchillo, a Mexican drug cartel enforcer. Fun Trejo fact: Cuchillo is Spanish for "knife." Trejo often plays characters named after blades.
Predators biggest and only real flaw is sticking too closely to tired ideas. The characters follow pretty standard arcs and there are more than a few action clichés, they're just disguised with alien participants. Still, the original Predator wasn't exactly a masterpiece of filmmaking, so the bar isn't too high. This is a sci-fi action film, just like the first, and it does that incredibly well. It's far from perfect and it does replace some of the tension from the first film with frantic action, but it's a worthy follow-up. If you're a fan of the franchise, you'll like what you see.
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