If you know the first two Predator movies, not to mention the comics and the novels, then the trailer for Predators seemed a bit iffy. It seemed too much like the first movie. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, however (as I very often do, being an almost pathologically optimistic person), for a very particular reason. When one is very familiar with the first movies and has read a lot of the comics and some of the novels, as I have, one gains a single crucial insight: The concept of the alien “predators” and their culture of trophy-hunting was put to the most optimal use in the original movie. Therefore it makes sense to do another movie with nearly the same set-up.
And that is indeed what they do. Not that it makes a rat’s ass of a difference. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
A bunch of hard-ass soldiers from various mercenary outfits, death patrols and intelligence agencies are kidnapped (off screen) and wake up as they parachute down to find themselves in a mysterious jungle. They have been chosen as worthy prey. After a while they discover, by exiting the jungle onto a clearing overlooking a valley with lots of sky in view, that they are on another planet. They had previously wondered why the sun wasn’t moving, and their makeshift compass didn’t work.
What happens from then on is pretty much what you expect. They are hunted by predators, and a kind of alien dog controlled by the predators, and also meet up briefly with another alien species abducted to the planet by the predators. They meet a guy who’s been surviving in this jungle for about ten “seasons” (however long that’s supposed to be), who informs them that, in addition to the hunting of humans, there is also a kind of feud going on between a smaller and a larger race of predators.
And that’s it. There’s nothing else to tell. None of the story points and milieu details are elaborated on in the least. Not a single character is even close to being compelling. The one-liners are predictable and far from classic. The pretentious ‘80s camp style of the original movie (played up by the charismatic actors), which together with Arnold’s charisma was a large part of what made it work, is utterly absent. The sci-fi aspect of this action universe smells like it could be interesting, and it seems like the writers might have intended to go into more detail about it, but all the sci-fi elements have been cut short in favor of largely ineffectual violent episodes plus three or four blatant reshoots of scenes from the first movie, not being a tribute to it, but a rip-off of it. This is Highlander 3, only much less entertaining.
I am currently reading a book about fiction editing, and the criteria the author sets up for character integrity are all completely absent from this movie. We don’t know anything about them and therefore cannot care about them. They’re ciphers. Worse, the way the various elements of the story are presented and the expectation that the audience is going to take this seriously are preposterous. The movie is full of lead-ins and questions that leave us hanging and aren’t followed up on, and there are no interesting or unexpected plot twists at all. What we are left with is a very thin cup of tea indeed, with unlikable characters, and situations of hopeless uncoolness. There is nothing and no one to root for, and hence there is no cinematic magic happening. This movie is in the same league as the butt-awful Aliens vs. Predator movies. And such a shame, too, because some of the comics are really cool. Compared to Predators, even the fairly languid Predator 2 (1990) is a good movie.
An extended version of Predators might be able to patch up a couple of the movie’s many shortcomings, but I doubt it would provide any kind of adequate band-aid to the gaping wound of this commercial feast. I detect no creative passion in this product at all; we just have a movie industry trying to spin more money on a vastly inferior version of a product it has already sold us once before. “They’ve paid for it once. They’ll pay for it again.” Shake and bake.
Director: Nimród Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo
Runtime: 106 min