No kill thrill
Director Nimrod Antal tries hard, but his effort to provide the Predator franchise with a much-needed adrenaline shot to the face proves futile. While it’s worlds better than Predator 2 and the excruciatingly bad Alien vs. Predator movies, the latest sequel is too much talk and not enough carnage.
Predators, produced by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) and based in part on a script he wrote years ago, features a scenario that harkens back to the 1987 Schwarzenegger original. A band of supreme badasses is dropped into a foreboding jungle (or, as I like to call it, “Da Meat Grinder!” in reference to one of my all time favorite Arnie lines from the original), and something is watching them.
The twist this time out is that the band of baddies land in an alien jungle, which looks suspiciously like Hawaii. They drop one at a time via parachute, and none of them remember how they wound up falling through the sky. The group includes a sampling of ethnicities and dangerous vocational backgrounds, a formidable representation of Earth’s human killing machines. The group also includes a doctor (Topher Grace), presumably to patch up any wounds that are soon to be incurred.
They are being hunted by the infamous crab-faced monsters that don’t make their first appearance until around 45 minutes into the movie. Yes, I realize this is a tribute to films like the original, where the monster didn’t make a definitive appearance until deep into the running time but, come on, we know the monsters by now, so bring them on. We want to see the damned things skinning hides and ripping out spinal chords. Why hide them?
Probably because this is not big budget fare—$40 million, according to boxofficemojo.com, chump change by Hollywood standards—the monsters are used sparingly. The design team has made some good-looking beasties, men-in-suits that do the original proud, with a few cool new variations. But they get precious little screen time, with the film consisting mainly of people sitting around talking about their predicament rather than man-on-monster action.
And while the traditional makeup effects look good, the CGI is piss-poor. The alien sky, full of planets and moons, looks like it was drawn with Crayolas, and I’ve never seen a computer-generated blood spurt that I’ve liked.
Adrien Brody, who plays Royce, the default leader of the humans, grinds out his dialogue in standard-issue action-man mode. He delivers every line with a whispery, nasally growl that drags its teeth on your eardrums. I commend the shape he got into for the part but little else.
Laurence Fishburne shows up late in the game as another soldier who survived a previous hunt. Fishburne’s character is crazy, and we know this because he’s invented an imaginary friend. Really? Are you actually going to play the imaginary friend card to show that you are nutty? Why not wear your underwear on your head, or make the googly eyes with your tongue sticking out while twirling your index finger near your temple?
The film offers up a big twist that makes no sense when the dust settles. The screenplay’s parallels to James Cameron’s Aliens—including the actual name of the movie—are a few too many, including the surprise villain in the pack. Little feels original.
By the time credits hit after a final shot promising a sequel, we’ve basically witnessed a big tease. Predators is low on the high octane, fantastic gore and make-up effects one should expect from the film’s title. Parts of it are so bad that it looks like it should’ve gone direct-to-video, while other parts are quite good. It’s a very schizophrenic movie.
Perhaps it will do well—it’s already made back its budget in international grosses—and somebody will throw a few extra bucks at the sequel. Here’s to more Predator mayhem in the next installment and less footage of Brody standing around philosophizing through his nose.