The Predator is one of the most iconic creatures in science fiction history. Show a picture of it and even those who haven’t yet met it call it by name. On the page, the Predator has battled with Batman, Superman, the Terminator and even Judge Dredd. It has starred in two full length video games facing off against the beasts from Ridley Scott’s Alien. But it began its killing spree on film in 1987 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite a bad sequel (Predator 2) and two abysmal crossover films (Alien vs. Predator, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem), the Predator has stuck around based solely off the strength of the original film. The creature’s lasting ability is telling. Now, finally, after 23 years we have a sequel fit to carry on the legacy in Predators.
At the beginning of the film, we meet Royce (Adrien Brody) who is free-falling in mid-sleep. Luckily, he wakes up and is able to open his parachute, though he does so a little too late and lands with a thud in the middle of a jungle. On the ground he runs into seven other survivors, including Edwin (Topher Grace), Isabelle (Alice Braga), Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Stans (Walter Goggins), Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali). None of them know how or why they got there and only remember seeing a light before passing out. Forced to work together, they head off to seek answers, but realize none are to be found when they run into the Predators.
Much like the transition from Alien to Aliens, Predators is less a cold, calculated study on terror and more an action movie extravaganza. While Predator wasn’t exactly a horror show, it nevertheless took its time to build suspense and flesh out its characters. This time around it's run and gun. Plus, there was only one creature. Here, there are many. Rather than the scary thought that they could be lurking anywhere, you know from the get-go that they are everywhere.
It doesn’t quite have the same effect as the original, but it doesn’t intend to. Director Nimród Antal seems to be having quite a deal of fun delivering mindless action and the inherent cheesiness of classic action hero one-liners. The only two previous films of note to Antal’s name are the thriller Vacancy and the action picture Armored, both of which lacked the thrills and excitement required from their respective genres. However, he seems to have refined his craft and delivers well staged action scenes complete with both aforementioned traits, even if they do come off as a bit derivative.
Truth be told, this is another one of those “dumb fun” action pictures that have been flooding our screens lately. It isn’t nearly as refined as the original and fails to live up to the quality expected of a summer tent-pole release. In this instance, it’s because of the mediocre writing and some questionable casting. Topher Grace as the comic relief aside, Adrien Brody doesn’t fit comfortably in the role of the tough guy archetype. He spouts tough guy phrases, stands in tough guy positions and talks in a tough guy whisper, but the tough guy persona still seems missing, especially considering he’s working opposite renowned tough guy Danny Trejo.
It's a problem because Predators hinges on its actors and action due to a lackluster story. Outside of the kills, it’s impossible to spoil this movie because nothing really happens. The characters run around the jungle and come into contact with some Predators, some from both factions are killed and then it ends. Somewhere within all of that, the film fits in an assortment of clichés that really drag down the experience, like when one character pulls out a picture of his children to show the group, thus sealing his fate, and a silly, random swordfight between a human and a Predator that, for all intents and purposes, ends in a draw.
Predators isn’t going to change the way we look at action movies, nor is it going to bring a choir of praise as the original did, but it provides a fun, swift adrenaline kick that will surely be appreciated by moviegoers. It may not match the 1987 classic, but it’s certainly the best since.
Predators receives 3/5