The Alien and Predator franchises have at least one thing in common. Both feature iconic movie monsters who have outgrown their respective series. At present, there are more bad Alien movies than good ones. Occasionally a Predator sequel surfaces to divide the fanbase. Critics dismissed Predator 2 and the recent re-quel, The Predator. Neither Alien and Predator crossover event impressed. But the Robert Rodriguez-produced 2010 sequel, Predators quietly impressed critics and performed modestly at the box office. Maybe franchise fans were less enthusiastic, which is too bad. There’s a lot about Predators that deserves a second look.
A motley collection of soldiers, mercenaries, and killers awake falling through the air strapped to parachutes. No sooner have they landed in a thick jungle than unseen hunters begin stalking them. After surviving an initial attack, the group quickly realizes that they are no longer on Earth. Now the ‘prey’ the survivors must band together despite their differences to fight off a trio of alien ‘Predators’.
Predators Overcomes a Weak Middle Act with Lean Action
Director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) wastes no time jumping into the action. Predators’ opening with its ‘prey’ dropping into an alien jungle is instantly disorienting. Perhaps understanding that most of the audience would already be well-versed in Predators’ basic premise, writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch structure their story to avoid much set-up. Instead, Antal introduces us quickly to each of the characters before quickly unleashing what you came to see – Predator action. And Antal proves apt at filming the action, mixing things up enough to avoid things feeling repetitive. Moreover, Litvak and Finch honor what we know about ‘Predators’ while fleshing out the mythology in fun ways. In particular, Predators introduces hierarchy and conflict amongst its alien hunters that further distinguishes the sequel.
Instead, Antal introduces us quickly to each of the characters before quickly unleashing what you came to see – Predator action.
Where Predators runs into problems is a middle act that drags the movie to a halt. After an initial flurry of action, Antal slows things down to bring out remaining survivors to the hideout of a previous ‘hunting season’s survivor. Though it gives Predators time to pause and offer some exposition, it’s missing much in the way of suspense. And the scene feels like it mostly wastes Laurence Fishburne. Once Antal kickstarts his third act Predators offers a somewhat predictable but thoroughly entertaining climax.
Predators Assembles Strong Cast For Its Hunting Season
Ironically, Predators strength is what seemed to draw ire from fans. John McTiernan’s Predator starred an iconic star at the peak of his celebrity. And a memorable and instantly iconic cast surrounded Schwarzenegger. And no, Adrien Brody isn’t Schwarzenegger. At face value, Predators miscast the frequent Wes Anderson collaborator Brody. But Brody is much better-suited for his role here even more so than his King Kong credit. Aside from the clear physical work he put into the role, Brody’s ‘Royce’, a mercenary and ex-Special Operations soldier, requires more cynicism than brawn. Similarly, Topher Grace (Delirium) – still stinging from Spider-Man 3 – drew criticism. Contrary to expectation, Grace does good work with his character. As mentioned above, the twist is expected, but Grace makes it work.
Aside from the clear physical work he put into the role, Brody’s ‘Royce’, a mercenary and ex-Special Operations soldier, requires more cynicism than brawn.
Though the remaining cast isn’t quite as memorable as Aliens’ ‘Space Marines’, Predators still assembles an impressive collection of prey. Any cast that includes Walter Goggins, Danny Trejo (From Dusk ‘Till Dawn), and Mahershala Ali can’t be half bad. And while some of these characters disappear too quickly, Predator mostly puts them to good use. Former UFC fighter Oleg Taktarov acquits himself quite well, while Louis Ozawa Changchien exudes charisma and menace in mostly silent role. But Alice Braga (The New Mutants) stands out amongst all the testosterone giving the movie a bit of heart.
Predators Is Much Better Than Its Reputation Suggests
Sorry haters, but Predators isn’t just a hidden gem. It’s a damn good mashup of science fiction, horror, and action. And it’s also the best Predator movie since the original. Like McTiernan’s 80’s original, Predators drops you right into its alien jungle with a lean story that only sags somewhat in the middle. Similarly, Predators boasts a memorable cast – and yes, Brody acquits himself just fine – that’s just missing that 80s machismo dialogue. And the ending left open a world of possibilities that was sadly left unexplored. Most impressively, Antal retains what worked the first time around while carving out new territory.