(2010) director Nimród Antal
This Predator (1987) re-boot is a solid concept, picking up the general idea of the original film about a group of mercenaries in a jungle who suddenly realize that they are being hunted by a bad-ass alien, and putting a new group of tough guys in a jungle being hunted by bad-ass aliens, but this time, they’re on an alien planet. So, in essence, you get a lot of the original, the jungle setting, the character types, the alien/predators, but reconfigured and potentially refreshed without actually “re-making” the movie. It’s a good idea. I liked it.
Predator was a surprisingly good 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger film, from director John McTiernan. I was far from alone in feeling that way. The “predator” became a cult movie monster. It begot one sequel, Predator 2 (1990). And then quite a bit later, the predators returned in AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007), which I suppose seemed like a good idea at the time, though was probably doomed to the law of diminishing returns.
So, in today’s Hollywood where anything pre-existing is ripe for re-doing (rather than actually concocting anything new), a re-boot of the “character” seemed ripe. Apparently, this new premise came from the mind or Robert Rodriguez, who has a producing credit on the film, who some long time back wrote a script with a similar premise. Though that film never got made, the idea got dusted off, re-written and put into the hands of director Nimród Antal (Kontroll (2003), Vacancy (2007)) and blasted into theaters this last summer. I’d actually wanted to see it but didn’t get a chance before now.
The film opens with Adrien Brody (the unlikely action hero) falling from the sky, frantically launching a parachute, and barely surviving his plummet to the jungle floor. Before he can eve get his bearings, other people are hitting the ground around him. Where it opens like a strange dream, and the characters are realizing that they have been plucked from somewhere and then suddenly dropped into this new weird environment, it’s a strange scenario (and as I mentioned, one with great potential). The people are all variety of bad-ass tough guys (and a woman, Alice Braga), a multicultural group, and armed as well.
One of the great things about the original Predator was the great characters. Everyone one a big, burly bad-ass, and while they hardly were about serious back-stories or real character development, the characters were deftly-sketched and really entertaining (I still always think of Bill Duke running the plastic razor over his head throughout the film). In fact, the characters were really part of what made that film so successful.
But despite a cast that includes Brody, Braga, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, and Danny Trejo, Predators doesn’t manage to make its characters interesting or even their interactions, camaraderie or antipathies very believable. And really, beyond the great potential for the premise, the film is almost color-by-numbers when it comes to the script and the way that the story plays out. The characters figure out what is happening, get killed off one by one, and eventually they learn a little about their hunters, and of course, there is the ultimate showdown at the end.
For the characters, Fishburne comes off the best. And Topher Grace comes off the worst. I won’t spoil it for you, but his whole character just doesn’t make sense at all and only goes from bad to worse in that regard.
All that said, it’s still pretty entertaining. Antal handles the action well, and it’s not a bad ride for the genre. It’s just, particularly in comparison with the original film, starkly lacking in cleverness, character and creativity. I mean, I could have written a more interesting script. And that isn’t what you want to be thinking when you’re watching a movie.