Directed by Nimród Antal.
Starring Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alica Braga, Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Oleg Taktarov and Louis Ozawa Changchien.
A small group of humans find themselves on a hostile extraterrestrial world which acts as a game preserve for the merciless alien species known as the Predators.
There’s a moment in Terminator: Salvation when a young Kyle Reese sits atop a building, tentatively stretching his head above the roof’s surrounding wall to watch a lone Terminator patrolling the street below. His behaviour is much like my own as a child watching the first and second Terminator films; the single, relentless menace terrified me. Shortly after, however, the Terminator lays in pieces around the street. Barely 20 minutes in and the Terminator are disregarded as fallible. No longer a singular force, submerged in the entire machine army, the Terminator was no longer scary.
Terminator, in my head at least, is interconnected with both the Alien and Predator franchises. Actors and directors overlap and entwine, particularly in the case of the latter two. All three have succumbed to the numbers game: Terminator in the example above, Alien with its immediate sequel Aliens, and most recently, suffering the same pluralisation, Predator with Predators.
The original Predator was terrifying (and cool) precisely because it featured a sole antagonist. That strange jungle was made so alien because it joined with the singular Predator and became it. The trouble with Predators is that it contains three of them, the terror diminishing with each addition. Of course, the franchise needs variations or the ‘one-predator-versus-team-of-humans’ formula will stagnate. But to do it in such an uninterested way makes the beasts themselves nothing more than background noise.
We are hurled into the narrative much like the human characters are. The film opens with Royce (Adrien Brody + muscles and a husky voice) hurtling through the air, just having been released from an unseen plane. He freefalls into a jungle, his parachute opening at the last second. There he comes across other humans (read: action movie/ethnic stereotypes) to form a rag-tag bunch trying to figure out “what the fuck” is going on, “who the fuck” are you, and “where the fuck” are we?
The humans are diverse – a Yakuza (Louis Ozawa Changchien), Eric from That 70s Show, a Cartel member (Danny Trejo), a Sierra-Leone death squad executioner (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, hellava name) – though helpfully, they all speak fluent English. Why have they been chosen? Surely not for political correctness. You see, they are all as much predators as the alien race themselves. It’s all in the interest of good sport. A battle for the humans to survive and escape ensues as they are hunted across the game preserve by a team of three Predators. Contestants, ready…
The film is enjoyable, very enjoyable, but it feels as though there was a much better film left behind at the pre-production phase. The narrative trundles along from action set piece to light relief to tension and round again at an incredibly superficial level. This, of course, is what these films are meant to do and is why we love them, but the yearning comes from its unrealised potential, that it could have been a much better film. Imagine if certain plot points were given a little more gravitas. For instance, when they first behold the alien worlds crowding the sky – their realisation that they’re on a planet other than Earth, a game reserve for the Predator race, needs only a more delicate foregrounding to achieve the much needed emphasis. Nearly every intriguing idea the film has is met with anticlimax.
And there are many of them. The mythology surrounding the predator race is built upon and teased. The notion that the ‘Predators’ title refers as much to the human characters as the ugly beasts themselves. An entire planet as a game preserve, populated with creatures from across the universe, increasing the mystery surrounding the Predator race’s power. But they are all blunted by the film’s artificial and disorientated world. Some of the visual effects are slightly worse than a Playstation 2 cut-scene.
DVD Notes – On the one-disc edition I watched there was but one special feature, not in keeping with the strength-in-numbers manner of the film. A motion comic, or a half-arsed animation, that details how the Predators prepare their game reserve. Quite interesting, but equally disappointing.
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