“Get Back To Da Choppa!!!” (Or, My Review Of Predators)

This is the story . . . of eight soldiers/rapists/murderers/mercenaries . . . picked to be hunted on an alien planet . . . to see what happens . . . when people stop being polite . . . and start getting real. . . The Real World: Predatorville!!!

Moving past the altogether ill-advised Alien Vs. Predator films, Predators takes a more back-to-basics approach, with the twist of the human characters all waking up to find themselves on a strange planet very similar to Earth, and realizing that they’ve all been brought there for a reason. It’s not long before mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) starts piecing things together, and informs the rest of the motley crew that they’ve been brought to the planet to be hunted. Slowly but surely, we’re re-introduced to the Predators, as well as a few new critters and other various dangers.

One thing’s for sure, Predators isn’t terribly concerned with being subtle in its message, as Royce tells army sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga) that they’re all the predators of their world, near the film’s midpoint. Whatever reasons they try to use to justify their actions, they all have to accept the fact that killing another human being is something they enjoy, which makes them such a great challenge to the Predators. Not that he isn’t absolutely right! Among the prey, we have an enforcer for a drug cartel (Danny Trejo), Yakuza, an African death squad solider, as well as a death row inmate played with comedic brilliance by The Shield’s Walton Goggins. Throw in a big Russian with “Ol’ Painless”, and Topher Grace(?!?!), you know some serious shit is about to go down! The film definitely scores points in that regard. Seeing how certain characters pair off and bond with one another is vital, and everyone appears up for the task when it’s all laid out there on the screen. No matter how despicable one might find them, the film does its job in making you care for them on some level. There’s added tension considering Brody’s character being such a loner. His awareness of pretty much anything of merit doesn’t seem so implausible when you realize that Royce is clearly so dead-set on his own survival that he’s oblivious to the bonds the others are forming. Although this makes Lawrence Fishburne’s character, Nolan, all the more jarring. Despite an impressive intro, Nolan eventually reveals himself to be nothing more than your classic “done gone mad from being lost in the wilderness for years” stereotype. His mannerisms are jittery, he talks to himself in a hushed voice, and is prone to inappropriate laughter. His overall behavior should have been enough for Royce to figure him out a lot sooner than he does, and it’s one of the few issues I had with the film.

What’s so satisfying about Predators is that the filmmakers know exactly what aspects to focus on in relation to one another. When to show things and when to keep them hidden, timing the introduction of the Predators for the appropriate effect, knowing what to change and elaborate on , etc. There’s a delicate balance in what director Nimrod Antal chooses to present to the audience, both in visuals and exposition. Predators definitely favors quality gore versus quantity, and doesn’t bombard the audience with excessive blood and gore. In which case we’d have been desensitized by the time the film features a scene of the main Predator forcibly removing a character’s spinal column and skull in one fell bloody swoop!

As for the Predators themselves, it was actually interesting to see them come up with a new breed of Predator, in addition to the original version. In fact, it’s an interesting twist to see something of a class war between the two different species. The new Predators are far more aggressive, more intelligent, and even uglier motherfuckers than what we’ve seen before. And rather than waste time coming up with newer, more ridiculous weaponry, the filmmakers decided to simply update old standards, like the gauntlet blades and shoulder-mounted plasma cannon, the latter now capable of completely obliterating a target in one shot. To say nothing of their “hunting dogs”.

There is, however, a lot of fan service in addition to blatant rips from the first film, and I could imagine some audience members seeing Predators more as a backhanded remake ala Superman Returns, than as the definitive follow-up it actually is. What makes most of those rips from the original work is how they’re all spun in new directions. Furthermore, there’s some plausible context for why certain characters do things reminiscent of what characters in the first film did.

Hardly perfect, Predators is still as worthy a sequel to the original as we’ve ever gotten. The film adheres to the rules we know, but also knows when to come up with some new rules of its own. The entire cast is solid, with much credit due to Adrien Brody holding everything together. For someone who’s never really had an “action hero” role, he handled himself quite well. Too bad they couldn’t find any place for him to say “GET TO DA CHOPPA!!!!”

(Out of Five)

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