Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal have been promising all along that this, at last, is the sequel the original 1987 Predator deserved. It seems clear that their intentions were good and the perfect Predator sequel is exactly what they set out to make. They ignored all the inferior garbage that's happened with the Predator name attached to it since, and set out to make a direct sequel to the only really good movie in the entire Pred series. It didn't work, at least not entirely.
Predator is better than Predators 2 and the AvP movies, but let's face it, they set the bar pretty low. Is it the best Predator sequel so far? Sure. Is it the sequel Predator deserved? If you think so, check out Eric's five reasons why Predators is worthy of the original. But I don't think it is, and here's a few reasons why.
You've Already Seen It
Here's the biggest problem with Predators: You've already seen it, back when it was just called Predator. In their rush to invoke the nostalgia of the original Predator what Antal and Rodriguez have actually done is simply remake it. I fully believe they intended this to be a sequel, there's even a vague reference in it to the original movie, but at some point their homage goes too far and they've ended up with an inferior Predator redo.
On paper the story's different. This one's about a group of vicious killers kidnapped from Earth and stranded on an alien game preserve where they're hunted. Except all this really does is take a bunch of trained killers and drop them in a jungle where they team up to fight Predators. You can wrap it in whatever you want, it's still a group of fighters being stalked by a Predator beneath a bunch of vines, and that's the plot of the first movie. The fact that they're on an alien planet is irrelevant except as a bullet point characters say to each other and then forget about. It doesn't even look like a different jungle. There's nothing in the movie to indicate it's an alien planet, except a single scene where everyone looks up and sees a bunch of weird planets floating in the sky.
Otherwise it's just a bunch of guys with guns running around in ferns. Every now and then a Laurence Fishburne shows up to chew scenery and shake things around, but that's just an aberration. Most of the movie's beats are identical. There are little twists along the way, yet this is very much the same movie. Sure these are supposed to be murderers instead of a military unit, but five minutes in they stop acting like murderers and turn into soldiers. Adrien Brody's Tough Guy character is a carbon copy of Arnold Schwarzegger's Dutch, minus about 100 lbs of muscle. You know how this is going to end. Traps are set, foiled, reset, and everyone discovers what the Predators are all about, all over again. Except as an audience, if you've seen the original movie, it's all too familiar.
Predators Should Mean More Than One Or Two
If you're going to use the plural form of the word “Predator” as your title, it's reasonable of people to expect your movie to contain an awful lot of them. And if you've seen the movie's trailers, you know that they suggest that the “s” tacked on the end of the movie's title means that it's filled with hordes of rampaging Preds stalking humans. That would make a lot of sense if this is a direct sequel to Predator since it only had one alien and, of course, the old rule of thumb for sequels it that they must be more of whatever it was the original did. Not this one.
Predators only really contains three or four Predators and the truth is that they're almost never on screen together. Actually unless you're paying really close attention to the decorations on their face masks, you might think there's really only one or two. The thing is that even though the movie contains a group of Predator hunters, most of the scenes still boil down to one Predator facing off against one human. There's no, big, multiple Predator showdown. Even lions hunt in packs and in theory so should alien Predators, but whether because of budget or a determination to make this as much like the original film as possible, you won't see a lot of Predators in this movie or anything else that really tops what was done back in 1987.
I'm Not Scared
One of the things that really made the original Predator great is that it was more than just some macho action movie, it was scary. The movie's a borderline horror movie, in part because as a viewer it's all new and you're not sure what's going on, and in part just because John McTiernan knew what he was doing. Predators contains none of that. In theory this is supposed to be a thriller, but there's not a thrilling moment anywhere in the thing. It's not that they haven't written any, it's just that Antal never really manages to bring an edge to any of them.
The problem starts right with the movie's opening scene. The first thing we see on screen is an unconscious man, Adrien Brody, falling out of the sky. He wakes up, confused, realizes he's freefalling, and starts screaming as the wind whips around him and he plummets through the clouds towards an unfamiliar ground. As an audience watching, it should be terrifying. It should be thrilling. It isn't. Instead it's disconnected. Brody's screams are never loud enough to penetrate your brain, the howling wind never really howls loud enough to make a real impact. A scene which on paper, should have left the audience gasping for breath just sort of happens, leaves no real impact, and is soon forgotten.
Predators never really manages to build any tension or suspense. A good Predator movie should have you on the edge of your seat and while this one's entertaining, it's incapable of creating an environment where you'll find yourself digging fingernails into the armrest.
These People Suck
Because it's determined to be like the original movie, you never really know much about any of the characters in Predators. Adrien Brody doesn't even have a name for most of the movie, and his teammates are forced to resort to calling him tough guy. Oh there's the occasional, generic picture of someone's kids but mostly these people are unknowable. That worked fine for Predator since these were soldiers, bonafide heroes, and we were automatically on their side. Though they stop acting like murderers five minutes into the film, murderers is still what they are and we need something to hold on to if we're going to care at all whether these people live or die.
But most of the movie's human characters remain a mystery. I've seen the entire movie and I'm still not sure what Alice Braga's character did back on Earth, other than that she likes to carry around a sniper rifle. Everybody gets a uniform of sorts. One's dressed up like a Yakuza, another like a death row inmate. But there's no reason to root for them. They aren't heroes, they're scum. Maybe the Preds are doing us a favor by killing them all off? Adrien Brody's Tough Guy may be a badass, but that doesn't mean we care.
McTiernan's 1987 movie wasn't just scary and thrilling, it was flat out gory. The film never flinched away from showing the sickening consequences of the Predator's brutal brand of violence. Humans were flayed, bodies were ripped apart, characters were battered and broken. Watch Predator and odds are you'll flinch. That doesn't happen in Predators. It's rated-R and it gives us the occasional nod to the brutal happenings of the first movie, but far too often it flinches instead of making us flinch.
For every mutilated corpse the movie shows us, there's a fight scene where it doesn't let you see how someone died. Characters are stabbed through and through, without any evidence of blood. There's a lengthy fight scene involving edged weapons in which both participants are stabbed and slashed, but we never see any of the stabs or slashes. Combatants simple run past each other waving edge weapons and then eventually one of them fall down dead. If you really analyze them, even the movie's more gruesome moments are played down. There's a moment in the film where someone is literally blasted into bits by an energy weapon, and sure the body explodes like a water balloon full of blood, but it happens in under a millisecond and after it's over there's no residual blood splatter. I'm not a gore hound, I don't crave the stuff, but if you're going to make a proper, rated-R Predator movie it seems to me like getting that right is essential. Predator represents the ultimate in hard-edged, take no prisoners, combat violence, or at least it's supposed to. AVP-R, for all its many flaws, had more balls.
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