Straight up, I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what to call PREDATORS. Technically speaking, it’s supposed to be a sequel to the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action epic PREDATOR. Matter of fact, they even directly reference to that flick during the course of this one, so the connection is there and it does make for a viable argument that this is, in fact, a sequel.
However, PREDATORS feels more like a reboot to me. The basic storyline is nearly identical to the original (group of interchangeable commandos in the jungle fighting an invisible assassin), most of the characters seem to be cut from the same cloth as the original and PREDATORS is so jam-packed with homages that it feels like a reboot. I’m not kidding, there’s so many homages to the original here that they cease to feel like little nods and seem more like cut-and-paste screenwriting.
Need examples? How about the fact that our hero Adrien Brody goes all Arnie in the finale, completely coated in mud and brandishing a torch. Or better yet, how about the moment when the Yakuza guy decides to hang back and decides to pull a Sonny Landham. Another dude gets dispatched the same way that Jesse Ventura did, there’s a log gag, tons of booby traps that look really similar to the ones Arnie laid for the Predator, the list goes on and on. Hell, PREDATORS even has the brass balls to have Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” blasting over the end credits.
So, in this sense, PREDATORS feels more like a reboot rather than a true blue sequel. The situation is more-or-less the same, the characters are similar and the ending, well, it’s pretty much the same. Little more gory, perhaps a different beat or two, but the last moments of this flick are a carbon copy of the original.
Thing is, I think PREDATORS is really a mid-quel. There’s certainly not enough here to warrant considering this as a fifth installment of a long-running series. After all, PREDATOR 2 had better weaponry and a more cohesive storyline and the AVP movies (while flawed) seemed to evolve the Predator way past the point they are at here. Maybe the idea that director Nimrod Antal and producer Robert Rodriguez were going for was a movie that wasn’t meant to be the fifth installment, but rather the second one.
Just look at the title for a second, PREDATORS. Seems a bit like what James Cameron did with his sequel to ALIEN, doesn’t it? Add an S, beef up the action quota but remain true to the original idea laid down by the first one. Same rule applies here. PREDATORS, if placed at the #2 in the film canon, works. It builds ever-so-slightly on the ideas established in the first one, ramps up the action and it maintains the horror aspect of the series (which was subsequently dumped after the first one).
No more evident is this than the in the fact that the Predator doesn’t even make an official appearance until nearly the forty minute mark here. If this was a real fifth installment, the Predator would’ve been visible from the get-go and there wouldn’t have been no big mystery here. The big reveal that there’s a pack of Predators on the loose is a non-surprise, yet the movie treats this as if it were the big reveal from the end of PREDATOR 2. You know, the moment where six Predators de-cloak and look like their going to tear Danny Glover apart? Well, the same moment occurs here and it’s not really that big of a deal. The trailers revealed that there were more than one, this being the fifth installment meant that there had to be more than one, so why the big moment? It doesn’t work.
So here’s the deal, you need to go into PREDATORS considering it to be the real first sequel to PREDATOR. Call PREDATOR 2 something else, maybe PREDATOR 3, and slide this one into the second spot, because that’s where it really belongs. It works there and provides all the necessary thrills imaginable there. However, if this is supposed to be the fifth installment, PREDATORS is a bit of a bust.
That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, because it is. PREDATORS is loaded with all manner of gory goodies for fans of the series. Problem is, you’ve seen it done better in past films. While I appreciated the return to the classic Predator design and weaponry, I missed badass pieces of the lore like the death disc, the self-destruct arm thingy and the spear. The Predators here are more stripped-down and while it works for the movie, it sort-of disappoints the viewer who’s maybe expecting to see some of the standards.
Man, I’ve just re-read most of my review and it seems like I hated this flick. I didn’t. Matter of fact, I enjoyed the hell out of PREDATORS, I just wish it had done more with the concept. This is supposed to be the big revitalization of the PREDATOR franchise and it just doesn’t seem like it gets the job done. Had this been released in 1988 or 89, just a few years after PREDATOR, this would’ve been considered a perfect follow-up. However, this is 2010, PREDATOR has spawned one official sequel and two spin-offs, there have been multiple comics, books and video games and in that respect, PREDATORS feels off.
That having been said, Antal’s direction here is pretty spot on. There’s some really clever moments sprinkled throughout (the Predator VS Predator battle towards the end is a standout) and I really enjoyed how he plays with the audience’s perception. In particular, the character of Nolan (Laurence Fishburne). Fishburne has been heavily featured in the trailers and TV spots, and while those spots aren’t technically lying, his character is a lot different than what you’re expecting. I won’t blow no plot twists here, but there’s a moment with Nolan that almost made me stand up and clap. It’s a ballsy moment, one that most movies would never consider doing, but PREDATORS does.
The same could be said for some of the characters on-hand here. From the moment you meet them, you seem to know exactly who they are, but Antal plays with us, misleading and deceiving. You might think that so-and-so might live till the end and then he gets offed about ten minutes in and then you might think that the nicest guy of the bunch is really a nice guy and then he turns out to be a complete dick. It’s a tough act to balance these little character moments and some of them suffer along the way (Brody and Alice Braga’s characters don’t even get names till the last moments of the film), but I appreciated that Antal was willing to toy around with the genre. Especially dug Topher Grace's character and his last act of character development, can't say I was expecting that.
Long story short, PREDATORS is a pretty good summer flick. There’s nothing really spectacular here, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Like I said earlier, when this flick hits DVD and Blu-Ray, I’ll be positioning it between the original and PREDATOR 2. That’s where it belongs, that’s where it will live and if taken as such, you’ll probably enjoy it more. Taken as a fifth installment, PREDATORS is merely okay, but taken as a true sequel to the original PREDATOR, this flick is pretty good. I’ll give it a four out of six bullets and call it a day.