***originally written 17 July 2010***
Let’s just forget the Alien vs Predator films shall we? They are two of the worst films I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. So let’s say they never existed. That leaves us with 20 years since the last Predator movie. And Predator 2 was good. Really, it was. It remains highly underrated as a slice of big, dumb, cheesy science fiction fun. Ok, no Arnie, but it’s at least as enjoyable as the original.
Well, Predators says let’s forget that one too. It’s shoulder-padded trappings of cyberpunk civil war are not alluded to here. No, Predators acts very much as though it’s the proper sequel to the 1987 outing. Mainly by replicating a lot of it very poorly.
Ok, so the twist this time around is, hey, the jungle’s not on Earth! Big deal. The air seems perfectly breathable, the water perfectly drinkable, the landscape like, well, a bit of South American jungle. It even has the same plantlife. A bunch of the world’s most brutal killers are parachuted onto this Earth-copy planet in order to act as game for the titular aliens. They are led by a stern no-nonsense army-type (Adrien Brody), there’s the quietly-spooked black guy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), the seemingly-intelligent thin-guy (Topher Grace), the stocky brain-trust (Oleg Taktarov) and the petite raven-haired South American (Alice Braga). Sound like a familiar line up? Well you can add, an ice-cool yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien), and instantly-irritating ex-con (Walter Goggins) into the mix too. Oh, and Danny Trejo.
Trejo immediately becomes the best thing about the movie, and gets killed off first. Great. By poorly conceived and animated CG warthog-like animals. The kind that are completely immune to bullets, until you fire once when it jumps right in your face. The characters squabble as they amble around the jungle, as it quickly becomes clear that the film’s only charisma just got offed in the first 15 minutes. Adrien Brody is terrible as the lead. Unsympathetic in the extreme, and apparently having decided the way to seem tough is to pretend to do that gravelly voice Christian Bale’s Batman puts on. Changchien’s silent yakuza has potential, but it is squandered. Seemingly-intelligent thin-guy becomes whiny-complainy-guy, and if Taktarov actually added anything to any scene, I didn’t notice it.
Surprise, surprise, they meet the nasty alien game-hunters, some get killed off, Brody’s character decides to commandeer an alien spacecraft, despite not knowing how to fly and that’s the propulsion to get the film to the finish line. Oh, and along the way Laurence Fishburne turns up for a truly wince-worthy cameo that spins far-too-close to an Apocalypse Now parody. It’s okay though, he dies pretty quickly.
If I’m spoiling things, I don’t care. The film was rubbish. Supposedly the script has been kicking around since the mid-90s. This is the best they could do? Nobody in that time looked at it and said, hey, I know, why don’t we try…. I dunno… something else? Or at least have someone say something memorable. Once. The gags that are dropped in are excrutiating (ex-con guy longingly looks forward to getting back to Earth to do some raping – hilarious!). It’s as gory as anything in either the Alien or Predator franchises (someone did some serious bending-over to get that 15 certificate), but none of it matters to an audience who have no reason to care for these people. I kinda rooted for Alice Braga, but that was probably only because, as a male viewer, she was easiest on the eye. Not good enough really.
I expected more from this film thanks to it’s ties to Robert Rodriguez and Troublemaker Studios. And perhaps the only way to save the Predator series now is to give it the same kind of spin that gave us Planet Terror or Sin City. Recognise the absurdity and run with it. Predators is too po-faced and half-hearted. The name aspires to James Cameron’s Aliens; an adrenalised re-vamp. Instead this film plods it’s way to a messy conclusion, skipping between dull exposition (Brody’s ability to correctly guess what’s going on all the time verges on the wizard-like) and uninteresting scenes of violence. And the director’s name is Nimrod.
“Whoever wins… we lose” was the AvP tagline. Indeed. You can file this one in the trash too.