Predators

Even before the two were co-mingled in a cinematic bastardization of a video game, I associated Ridley Scott’s Alien with John McTiernan’s Predator; both are slow-burn cat-and-mouse games between man and some beast he can’t begin to comprehend, and more relevently, both now feature sequels in the plural taking place on the monster’s homeplanet. The problem, of course, is that cat-and-mouse games don’t work when there’s a planet full of cats and just a few teeny weeny mice, which is why Aliens works so well—James Cameron’s plot isn’t “How do we kill them” but rather “How do we survive long enough to get off this hellhole?” And that’s where Nimrod Antal’s Predators falls short—despite Royce’s (Adrien Brody) special ops platoon landing pell-mell on a Predator-infested planet they’re utterly unfamiliar with, most manage to survive until the third act without a scratch. The excuse for this, as Royce explains in one of several commando-overlord speaches, is that they’re the Predators’ game; it seems the monsters hunt for trophies, not food, so despite that there’s a Predator cuddled up in every tree, lake, mud puddle and abandoned spaceship, none of them would dare cheaply kill any of the humans.

The movie starts in a burst of light, with Royce freefalling onto the alien planet from some unknown spacecraft. After landing he meets up with a requisite team of rote misfits that’s plagued every lazy screenwriter’s pages since the early nineties; Isabella (Alice Braga), the compassionate female lead, Stans (Walton Goggins), the sex-starved douchy guy who finally graduated from the frat house to the big house, Edwin (Topher Grace), the weinery nice guy, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a quiet Asian who sword-fights, and Danny Trejo, who needs no reason to be in any movie because he kicks every other actor’s ass. United, the band wander off across the Predatory plains where they’re attacked by all varieties of CGI canine and dreadlocked monstrosities. Lawrence Fishburne  eventually shows up as a crazed scavenger in a predator battle mask, but his sequence does little more than slow things down and beef up the movie’s scant hour and forty minute runtime. The few survivors eventually seek out an alien spacecraft in order to escape, a search which triggers an epic battle pitting predator and man against—are you ready for it—wait for it—wait for it—SuperPredator. No shit. In a move somewhat akin to James Cameron’s Alien Queen, Nimrod created his very own Premium Predator Species as a means of spicing things up, and spice them up it does. The first half of this battle almost justifies the smudgy, horrible CGI witnessed in the film’s first act, and its later half, pitting SuperPredator against man in a scene reminicent of the original Predator, is straight-up thrilling.

Remembering Splice, Adrien Brody looks on

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a lot of stupid crap in Predators that isn’t worth your time. As previously alluded to, Hanzo sword fights a predator. These creatures have laser-controlled mine-bombs that explode anything they touch. They can shoot energy beams from their fists. If the first film was any indication, they have nuclear weapons wedged somewhere in their bodies as a safeguard against defeat.  There’s no reason for them to go at it bayonette-style on the battlefield. James Cameron’s Aliens was thrilling because it pitted a few human characters against a constant onslaught of hell-demons that literally raced through the woodwork of the planet; it established a bond between Ripley and Newt and played off audience’s sympathies for the lead from Alien. Predators just gives viewers some faceless mercs wandering in a jungle. Despite Fishburne’s ominous warning that “they always come in threes”, whenever the troupe eventually faces a predator, it’s never more than one at a time. There’s no character to care for, no sense of immediate and insurmountable danger—everyone on the planet is an asshole, and the predators are apparently too concerned with “hunter cred” to team up and easily kill them all. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two films, and perhaps Nimrod did the best he could with the material he was given; he must at least be lauded for not going the other route and giving audiences a 1:1 remake of Aliens with predators in the antagonist’s seat and Arnold at the helm. However, the fact that there are so many stealth-camo-enabled monsters and so few  moments of spectacular action is shameful, and though the last fifteen minutes almost redeems the whole mess, it’s a long time getting there.

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2 responses to “Predators

  1. Aliens vs Predators…

    I first saw Alien (the original “S-less” one) in 1979. I was 10 years old. I went to see it with my Dad. It heralded a Sea Change in Sci-Fi & Horror film production. Not on the magnitude of Star Wars, which of course, completely changed my life. And certainly not because of the serious, awesome talent that went into its production — Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Hurt. These are some fucking talented people. But that was to be expected. Spielberg had come out with Jaws 4 yrs earlier, with an equally powerful cast (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss), intense script, and mind numbingly terrifying and suspenseful scenes – there are still people (myself being one) who will not go swimming off the side of a boat or go to the beach, having been so completely and irrevocably damaged by Spielberg’s malicious vision. And let’s not forget that in 1979, we are only a year away from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 release of The Shinning – possibly the best and scariest horror movie of all time (at least until the Japanese arrived on the scene in the 2000’s and showed us that after 5,000 years of eating blowfish, they understood something about terror – as a slow, monotonous, tenacious, water-drip torture, like cancer, undermining everything the average movie-goer holds onto to keep his or her sanity while watching the film — that the western world had not even begun to conceive of) with Jack Nicholson, having finally become anything other than a dull-boy, slowly walking through the rooms of that fucking nightmare resort hotel with an ax, looking for poor Shelley Duvall, who had never done anything wrong, accept having maybe snorted 3.5 kilos of cocaine prior to that day’s shooting (although, I might be confusing this with the filming of Popeye, where she and Robin Williams seemed to be in a race to discover just how much white powder one could cram into the standard-sized human head.) Rather, what made Alien so deliciously addictive was that after a lifetime of Star Trek or “clean sci-fi”, where folks did not sweat, let alone vomit or shit themselves as they realized that they had just become lunch for a smarter, more powerful race of creature (that brilliant, blood-spurting-out-of-his-mouth scene in Jaws, not withstanding), here was a sci-fi movie that had real human produce. I mean, what the hell do you think is going to happen if you put a bunch of meat puppets in a confined space and then add monsters and dirt, and oil, and lubricant. And then, just for shits and giggles, turn off the AC. Shit is gonna get ugly.

    And so, as I grew up, I saw each one of the Alien films. One with an S, the other with a 3 and the fourth with a Resurrection. And, as I recall, I enjoyed each of them. I do not recall having ever seen Predator. Or Predator 2. Or Aliens vs Predator. Or AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem, whatever the fuck that means. And to be honest, would not be inclined to put any of these films in the same category as the films in the Alien franchise. Rather, I think of them more akin to Species, or The Abyss. Trivial, fairly meaningless pseudo-entertainments.

    With this said, I fear that you have over-estimated my awareness of the genre. Is this film that you have reviewed a remake of the original? What is its relationship to the rest of the franchise? And why, if the first one was not all that impressive, are they remaking it?

  2. ryanscottsarver

    The original Predator is definitely worth your time. It’s a lot hokier than Alien, but has all the basic underpinnings that made Ridley Scott’s flick so fun to watch. Basically, instead of being trapped in a spaceship with an alien, the guys are stuck in a jungle, hunted by a creature they can’t see. It’s one of Arnold’s better 80’s flicks. The second Predator is generally agreed to be one of the shittiest sequels of all time. The predator monster pops up in Los Angeles for some unknown reason and starts offing gang members left and right. I guess the idea was “concrete jungle”, but it failed, just as it did with Jason Takes Manhattan, or Jurassic Park II: DINOS IN TIMES SQUARE. Monsters don’t work in metropoli–unless they’re King-Kong sized. That’s why Predators was made– after whoring the franchise out for several shameful mashups, the studio was hoping Predators could revive the series, much in the same way Batman Begins did for Batman. It’s entirely removed from the previous installments save for the fact that predators play its lead antagonists. The film leaves room for a sequel–the characters never escape the planet and actually witness more people freefalling in–and this treatment certainly worked better than 1990’s Predator 2, but it still failed to live up to the premise’s full potential.

    Species is pretty clearly a ripoff of Alien right down to its poster, but The Abyss is one of my favorite flicks of all time. James Cameron hit a stride in the mid-eighties to early nineties he’s yet to recapture–I’m really holding out for whatever he commits to after overhauling Titanic 3d.

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