The original Predator (1987) is one of those films that is a defining moment for masculinity. I saw Predator when I was 8 years old and the mixture of mass muscled men, “bad” words, bullets, and bravado introduced me to what it meant to be male. The film is not a traditional work of art, but like director John McTiernan’s Die Hard, Predator is a quintessential action/sci-fi film.
And despite the heights of Predator‘s awesomeness, the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators follows the original with style. Forget the Alien vs. Predator films, Predators gets at least one of the extraterrestrial film franchises back on track.
The plot is pretty simple: 8 people from around the world– several military, a few criminals, and one doctor–find themselves lost in the jungle. As they stumble through the greenery, they gradually learn about the entities that kidnapped them.
Some of the loudest complaints leading up to the release of Predators were in regard to casting Adrien Brody as the motley crew’s leader. The concerns were not that Brody can’t act, of course, but that he couldn’t compare to the physicality of Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Fortunately, the internet’s (yes, the entire internet) crying and gnashing of teeth was unfounded. When Brody made The Pianist, he developed an eating disorder after starving himself for so long to portray a Jew in hiding during WWII. Bringing the same intensity to all of his works, during the production of Predators Brody slept out in the jungle while everyone else packed it to the hotel, and beefed himself up to this:
But that doesn’t mean that Brody is aping Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Dutch during the entire film. His performance as Royce carves out a gruff badass that he can call his own. Predators is just another film that highlights Adrien Brody’s awesome versatility.
Other notable cast members include Danny Trejo (a Rodriguez favorite), the hilarious Walton Goggins as a death row inmate who loves cocaine, “rapin’ bitches,” and shanking the shit out of his enemies, and Laurence Fishburne, whose cameo is frustratingly brief, but squeezes every drop of acting juice in the time he has.
As promised by Rodriguez, the film uses as many practical effects as possible, eschewing the annoying CGI that tends to dominate summer blockbusters. The practical over CGI choice is another element that helps build the credibility of the world and the film as a whole. Not to mention the R rating allows some blood to spill and F-bombs to fly. With so many films riding the PG-13 rating to maximize profits, it’s nice to visit the cinema and be treated like an adult, especially for a part of a franchise whose genesis was built with an R rating.
There are a lot of familiar elements to Predators: falling from a cliff into water, jungle setting, the music, the mini-gun, etc. These are all elements from the original Predator, but by no means are these the types of references that made Terminator Salvation‘s ending so annoying. When John Connor tries to kill the terminator with the hot and cold elements from the previous films, it felt like director McG was sitting next to you with shit-eating grin elbowing you in the ribs saying, “Remember this? Remember how they killed them last time? But wait! Not working!” Predators does not fall into the pit of self-awareness, but integrates these elements more as homages that don’t call unnecessary attention to themselves.
Most impressively, even as a sequel to a film from 1987, this film adds to the Predator mythos. We learn more about the Predator culture in a way that treats the monsters with some actual development instead of allowing them to be cardboard boogeymen.
There are of course some problems with the film: the hunting dogs are tolerable, but maybe too familiar to human culture and therefore not that credible for such advanced hunters. I think most people also know the mystery behind Topher Grace’s character thanks to too much information released before the film. Finally, the conclusion didn’t really meet the strengths of the film and had my friend and I creating our own variations that would have rocked.
However, I walked out of the cinema with nary a major issue. The acting is good, the story is interesting, it had some unexpected moments, and it tried to build up from the original. I would add it to the other two sci-fi movies this year that were surprisingly good, Daybreakers and Repo Men. This triumvirate of films could have been big, dumb, cliché sci-fi action films, yet they all have compelling ideas. You may not fall in love with the characters and they make some mistakes, but their premises and how they build on those concepts are surprisingly well thought out and interesting – just like the original Predator.
Some films you casually enjoy, but just as easily forget over time. Predators is just good enough to provide some memorable lines, clever moments, and points of interest. For a film made for less than $40 million and based on a film released in 1987, the film was surprisingly fresh. As one of the better action films of the summer, I humbly request you check this out to make sure we get more of this and less of Clash of the Titans.