Jul 11, 2019
Welcome back for another film I was able to watch while trapped in the bunker. Last year’s “The Predator” (Episode #260) was on my must-see list, despite its lackluster performance with the critics and moderate haul at the box office. I was stoked when today’s film became available to me, since I had missed its theatrical release, and just never got back around to seeing it. Did it live up my expectations? You’ll find out in a bit. In addition to “The Predator”, you may want to also check out Shane Hyde’s review for “Starship Troopers” (Episode #447), “Venom” (Episode #281), and Shane Hyde’s review for “Event Horizon” (Episode #254).
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Predators”, the 2010 alien slasher film directed by Nimród Antal and written for the screen by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, based on the characters developed by Jim and John Thomas. The film follows a group of nine individuals who wake up while parachuting into a mysterious jungle. After banding together, the group find themselves being hunted one by one by an alien race, while discovering a great deal more about their surroundings.
It’s no surprise that I went to see “The Predator” (Episode #260) last September in the hopes of seeing another classic franchise get the film it deserves. I’m a long-time fan of the franchise, and especially the comic books, which you can hear me talk about in that review. While other critics were mostly down on the film, I didn’t think it was too bad, and was just frankly happy to see another Predator film being made. So, of course, I put “Predators” onto my radar for the next time it became available, because I felt that my disconnect with other critics might be explained by what I missed. I was quite happy to finally see “Predators”, and now I get what other folks were talking about. Because everything that “The Predator” did right last year was already done better by “Predators” in 2010.
“Predators” is actually a genius way to revive a franchise which initially collapsed under the failure of “Predator 2” in 1990, which gambled too much developing a near-future vibe in 1997 that looks nothing like the year I graduated from high school. The semi-reboot in “Alien vs. Predator” further confused any hopes of continuity, which treated the Alien franchise like canon, and the Predator franchise like kindling for the fire, with all the grace and subtlety of 2003’s horror showdown “Freddy vs. Jason”. The genius of 2010’s “Predators” is going back to the original film, distilling the essence of it, and extending the film enough to create a franchise path, while keeping the story in another, even more remote location. Much like last year’s “Halloween” reboot (Episode #302), the franchise would be able to prune off failed sequels and crossovers, and carve out another path. And it can easily remain within any Predator canon should Disney decide to throw more money at the franchise, or even reboot it a third time.
“Predators” has problems, though. Some pretty big problems that seem to have prevented it from getting more traction back in 2010. Yesterday I spoke a lot about my disdain for alpha-male driven action films, and the group of nine that find themselves hunted in the jungle all fit the stereotype, even Alice Braga’s character Isabelle. Adrien Brody plays the lead protagonist, Royce, and he simply cannot carry the performance. Some of the other characters are quite good, like Louis Ozawa Changchien’s yakuza enforcer, Danny Trejo’s cartel enforcer, and Topher Grace’s mysterious Edwin. Other characters are full-on caricatures, the worst of which is sociopathic death row inmate Stans (Walter Goggins), who was meant as a dark comic relief, and ended up just being a patently offensive rapist.
A mixed cast doesn’t help the formulaic slasher story, either, retreading the original film sometimes too much, increasing the cast/body count and the number and strength of the hunters. “Aliens” was able to effectively do this by changing up the setting and the situation, leaning more into action and away from horror. “Predators”, unfortunately, goes right back to the alpha-male formula, mistaking more for bigger and better, and while it makes for an enjoyable movie, all things considered, it also dead-ends the franchise once again, despite the hope for more sequels in the wake of its release. I’m also not encouraged by the current franchise direction, either, because now “The Predator” feels like a distillation of “Predators”, which was a distillation of “Predator”, and much like a copy of a copy, the quality is decreasing despite the many advances in special effects. It doesn’t bode well for the franchise, but I still have hope.
“Predators” is a decent attempt at a Predator franchise reboot, extending the strengths of the original film with mixed results. While the story is clever enough to weave itself into future franchises, it is also limited by its mediocre cast performance and lack of future options. Franchise fans should definitely check it out, as it is probably the best film in the series after the original, but everyone else needs to decide if alpha-male action slashers are interesting to them.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
One Movie Punch: 7.2/10
“Predators” (2010) is rated R and is currently playing on HBO.