When a beloved film franchise falls from grace, most of us exhale a glum sigh and let our memories drift back to when it was first irreversibly etched into our minds. The first shiver rippling up the back of our necks, the first time the plot jags back and forth, the fresh new shots swooping through a well imagined set, all gleaming brightly in our minds eye as we nostalgically regress. Ahhh... ... Too often we ponder 'where did it all go wrong' and 'why can't they make them like they used to', whilst solemnly postulating that the cause must be financial or a lack of talent. The once great world of the Predator has gone the way of so many before it, taking Alien with it. But a glimmer of hope resides in the Robert Rodriguez production, Predators.
Helmer Nimrod Antal (Armoured), and the aforementioned producer Rodriguez (Sin City), bring the likes of Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Alice Braga (I am Legend), Topher Grace (Spiderman 3) and laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) to bear in this reboot. Back to the jungle we go. No more street scenes or ice caves, no more preposterous near love sequences between protagonist and predator. No more crap.
Our heroes find themselves absconded from whatever military malpractice they call a day job, and wake to find themselves in the deep of a jungle. Never having met before, the roll call begins: the machine gunner, 'here', the sniper, 'present', the boyish doctor, 'ahoy'. With the stereotypes in place, we are soon enough told that this bunch of modern warriors are not there as hunters, not even there to tussle with each other, but are in fact the hunted. Will they be slaughtered or will they escape? Will they turn on each other or will they unite? Will we beg for our money back at the kiosk or recommend it to a friend?
Only you can find the out the answer to these probing questions by parting with some coin, but perhaps I can guide you as to whether its a cinema must see, or a wait-till-the-price-drops-on-Blu-ray flick.
From start to finish it's a well paced brute of an action film. Yes, we already know what the monster is gonna be, but we are gifted some actual moments of suspense and in fact surprise. Gore and guts are more often than not alluded to than shown, probably cut that way to grant the 15 certificate, and the fight sequences are well measured, although perhaps not as grandiose as previous outings (I shudder to mention AVP). The character arcs are relatively believeable for an action film, if you can believe Laurence Fishburne is not gonna suddenly come out with 'you think that's air you're breathing' Matrix style. Brody and Braga make fine leads, once you get past Brody's gruff whisper, and touch on the will-they-won't-they love schmultz only lightly, which in fact lends strength to the script rather than weakens it. And the script does not suck. Well written or well edited, i'll let you decide, but characters don't shove their Cirriculumn Vitae's of liftime achievements down your throat, and in fact leave enough out to set a fire under that dusty imagination of yours.
Sounds almost too good to be true, and perhaps it is. The edit clearly cuts out some fairly key character building moments, unfortunatly leaving a slight cheesey residue on perhaps what were originally cool ideas (Fishburnes face the first time you meet him and the last samurai spring to mind). The fauna of the jungle is seemingly absent, which you'll find out is definitely a missed opportunity, and some of the sets seem, not quite tacky or cheap, but perhaps not fully realised.
All in all, we have ourselves here a good entertaining action sci-fi. No, i'll go further than that and say a real spiritual successor to the original Predator movie. With occasional references to the 80's genre classic, you can easily let Predator 2 and the Alien Versus Blah Blah Blah drift into distant memory and look forward to purchasing a Predator and Predators box set in the near future (fingers crossed they're thrown together with Alien and Aliens). So now as Arnie might say, 'get to the chopper'... or, er, to the cinema... and prepare for some good quality action filmmaking.