Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

'Predators' completes its mission nicely

Predators (2010)
Starring: Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Oleg Taktarov, Topher Grace, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins, and Lawrence Fishburne
Director: Nimrod Antal
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

A disparate group of soldiers, mercenaries, and murderers--human predators all--are parachuted into a jungle where they must battle against alien big-game hunters for survival.

"Predators" is a movie that set out to return this venerable sci-fi action franchise to basics--after a decade of comic book and movie cross-overs with Fox's other killer alien property, the xenomorphic, acid-dripping Aliens. And it does a fantastic job of doing just that.

From the opening scene of Adrian Brody's character returning to consciousness while free-falling through sky, to the moment when the closing credits start to roll, this is a movie that never slows down. It's armed human killing machines versus aliens every bit as skilled in the art of killing as they are, but who have the advantage of superior tech and knowledge of the terrain. Unlike the original film and most of the three movie sequels and I-have-no-idea how many Dark Horse comic books (where the Predator aliens even fought Batman at one point), the hunt here takes place on the home-ground of the aliens, so the humans need every bit of skill they can muster.

As would be expected, there isn't much in the way of character development in the film. Our heroes start as military/action movie stereotypes and most of them die that way. The two main characters--played by Brody and Braga, a coldhearted mercenary and a IDF sniper/CIA operative respectively--are given a little more development than most others, but even they remain archetypal figures more than characters. A valid argument could be made that Braga's "character development" is nothing more than sexism, as it is her feminine sensitivity that puts her in grave danger at one point. (An equally good case could be made that she doesn't want to repeat what she considered a horrible moral error a second time. But whichever motivation you want to assign, both fail to move her much beyond the state of the most basic of character.

It doesn't matter in this movie, though. It's a movie about monsters attacking, guns blazing, and aliens getting their asses kicked (as well as aliens dishing out gory deaths when they get the better of their prey). And the film excels at this.

The screenwriters successfully brought the Predators back to their roots while giving the now-familiar set-up a fresh and unique twist. They also treat the audience to some very well-done action movie dialogue and battle scenes--which are brought to life with the aid of great camera work and editing, as well as excellent computer-generated monsters. The few bits of comic relief--mostly revolving around Topher Grace's character, who seems to be the only abductee who isn't a "human predator" but who's secret isn't as big a surprise as I suspect the filmmakers thought it would be--are well-timed and expertly delivered by the actors. They even managed to provide texture to the alien civilization, ensuring that hardcore fans of the series--who have been following all the spin-offs--will have a little something to enjoy, and newcomers might feel interested in checking out some of the comics and other movies.

Of course, the one thing lacking here is the horror element that was present in the first film, but the filmmakers wisely chose not to attempt to play on that angle. Back in 1987, the insertion of an alien big-game hunter into what looked like a straight-up action film was startling and viewers had no way of knowing how things would turn out. That one-time unknown creature is now firmly ingrained in pop culture, and the only mystery left for this picture is, basically, how are any survivors going to get back to Earth? (And this is another aspect the film deals with nicely.)

I think I can safely say that this film will go down as one of the best sci-fi and action films of 2010, with its non-stop action, great cast, and great effects. If you've enjoyed any of the previous films featuring the Predator aliens, or even any of the comics, you want to see this movie. It's also a worthy release for Fox to mark their 75th anniversary as a film studio with. It may not quite live up to the original film, but it's a fine piece of sci-fi entertainment.

(Click here to read my review of the original "Predator" at Terror Titans.)

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