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
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
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
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
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.
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.