Sunday, August 8, 2010

Predators (2010)

Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators does a pretty decent job of not defecating on the original. Crucially, all of our memories of the much-maligned AvP debacle is also smashed into pieces by its quality. This is surely a fitting sequel to a franchise that we all figured had died a slow, horrible death. Mind you, John McTiernan's original wasn't anything amazing per se, but it was unadulterated fun in all its unashamed 80s glory. Danny Glover-starring sequel was a bit shit, but you kinda expected that - it was a desperate attempt at squeezing more money from a non-franchise.

Then the AvPs came and ruined the P and dragged the sublime A along with it to the dark recesses of movie shitedom that we occasionally force ourselves to subject to for lack of any decent films (case in point: Clash of the Shitans).

Predators, though, is miles away from those abysmal excuses for making money by its superior acting, story, set pieces, and charisma. In fact, this is a more fitting sequel to the original Predator (1987) - the setting is similar, the fire and muscle powers are almost on a par ... almost.

The parallels between another franchise about a certain xenomorph is all the more obvious considering the name. Predators is what Cameron's Aliens (1986) was to Sir Ridley's Alien (1979): it follows the similar premise of us vs. multiple enemies. Yet, beyond this superficial similarity, Predators really fails on impressing as well as Cameron's film did.

The plot is pretty simple, really: a group of mercenaries / hard-asses / commandos / soldiers wake up in free fall and land in a jungle. They are from all over the world, and luckily enough, they all speak English. They then figure out that they are on another planet and are hunted by the Predators. This Cube-like premise is a bit weak as there was no apparent reason why all these men (and one woman) from around the world were chosen, when one elite unit from any of these countries would have sufficed. Well, logic is not really the film's forte ...

However, the major issue is not the logic of the story - we are accustomed to having an expendable group of guys (see what I did there?) blowing shit up and kicking the "other"'s backside to hell and back. It's just that we are accustomed to see these guys wisecracking with each other. This is the major failure of Predators: it is incredibly humourless. Walton Goggins (Shane Vendrel from TV's "Shield") has the two funny lines in the whole film: "Your ass is awesome" and "If I get out of here I'm going to do so much cocaine ...". That is all the intended humour in about 90+ minutes. Then there is the unintentional humour, when a certain famous actor makes a redundant cameo that takes up about 10 minutes of the story for no apparent reason. This is obviously a sequel-bait and hopefully it will be better integrated in the sequel.

Sequel? Already? Yes, the ending is begging for a sequel and I don't think it'd be a bad thing. The only problem is that the surviving characters happen to be the most boring of the lot.

So, Bru, you didn't like it then? No, on the contrary I quite enjoyed this. It is an old-fashioned 80s action (minus the humour) with enough kick-ass set-pieces that look and sound amazing on the big screen. It reeks of testosterone and the Predators (there are 3 different kinds) look very graceful yet menacing. There is also a brief introduction to another creature that I hope is an indication of what may be introduced in the sequel(s), with the help of a larger budget. The cast lacks the "oh my god, he is in it too" shenanigans of the upcoming The Expendables (2010), but its randomness actually works: Adrian Brody is actually pretty good as an action star (if you had already made up your mind about his action credentials after King Kong (2005) then I would urge you to re-think); Alice Braga plays an almost identical character to Vasquez in Aliens; Walton Goggins is as always brilliant; Danny Trejo does what Danny Trejo does best, and ... Topher Grace? Yes, odd choice, but his arc is probably the more interesting of the lot.

All in all Predators could have been better, but what we get is not too shabby and if you want an old-school actioner with potential for greater things, then Predators is highly recommended - just don't expect Adrian Brody fighting a Predator-mother in a forklift / exoskeleton contraption.

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