Monday, July 12, 2010

Predators (2010)

Predators is to Aliens as is Predator is to Alien.  Did I get that right?  It's been a long time since I've had to worry about analogies.  Predators pretends that the other Predator sequels (Predator 2, and especially Alien versus Predator I & II) never existed.  This is the first picture in the series that feels like the first Predator.  Actually, if you take away the alien (or predator, if you're confused) setting (which greatly resembles the Guatemalen jungles anyway), it's pretty much the same damned movie.  Throw that analogy above right the fuck out.  Still, plenty of good fun to be had here.

Predators opens abruptly.  With Adrien Brody being jolted awake by the fact that he is plumetting from the sky towards a jungle landscape thousands of feet below.  He lands with a thud, seconds after his shoot finally opens.  He has no idea where he is or how he got where he is.   A few feet away, lands Danny Trejo with a couple of uzis at his disposal.  Brody's got a rifle.  Some crazy Russian bastard who landed a bit further away starts shooting at them with the same gun Jesse Ventura used in the first picture, you know, the "big fucking gun" (to quote The Rock in Doom).  Brody, obviously some sort of skilled survivalist type, easily flanks the Russian and gets him to calm down.  Others fall from the sky:  We got a female sniper (and potential love interest for Brody), a guy that fought in the Sierra Leone, that guy that was in "The Shield" as a death row inmate/rapist/comic relief, a Samurai Yakuza, and Topher Grace, from "That 70s show" as a doctor who seemingly doesn't belong in this situation.

If this had been the first picture in the series I might have been intrigued by the opening in an "Outer Limits" sort of way.   Why are they here?  Who, or what, brought them here?  What do they all have in common?  The characters even have some fun with their plight wondering in a Lost-ian sort of way if, perhaps, they're all dead.  Too bad we know from the trailers and also the title that they were brought here by a bunch of predators for the simple joy of being hunted and killed in horrible ways.  Also, Brody calls it a "gaming preserve" in the trailer, which doesn't make much sense since there ain't much preserving of game in this thing.  Point is, lots of spoilage before I even saw the damned thing.

So, the characters spend a lot of time walking around a jungle.  The sniper, who I mentioned is a broad, analyzes the terrain, and the topography, and has no idea what jungle they're in.  It's not Africa, or Asia,  "I guess it could be the Amazon", but she doesn't sound convinced.  Then they wander onto a cliff and notice the giant moon and also the fact that there are multiple giant moons.  If this doesn't convince them they're fucked maybe the alien dogs with large protruding spikes on their faces will.

Other than the dogs, another alien that runs on two feet, Laurence Fishburne as a guy who has lived through "ten seasons", and the fact that they are being hunted by three predators instead of one, this is practically the same picture as the first one.  Brody makes a serviceable action hero.  He's bulked up considerably but remains wire-y in contrast to Arnold's bulkiness.  He's a highly intelligent bad ass.  One other difference is that he doesn't smoke cigars like Arnold did.  I'm sure there were others.  The girl sniper reminds us of the girl from the first one.  I thought she was her daughter or something but they didn't go there so ignore this sentence.  The guy from Sierra Leone looks like a nicer version of Bill Duke's character from the first one and is also the first to notice the predator looking down at them from the treetops and to be seen in predator-vision (just like Dukes).  Topher Grace is the seemingly weak, yet slightly smarter, version of the Shane Black character.  Slightly smarter until the part where he wanders off from the group and gets someone killed.  I guess that makes the Russian this picture's version of Jesse "I ain't got time to bleed" Ventura.  They're nothing alike except that they carry the same type of gun.  The Yakuza would be this picture's version of Sonny Landham.  They're both quiet, spiritual, and with a strict honor code that doesn't allow them to flee during a key moment.  I can't remember if Landham walked around the jungle barefoot or not.

I guess there is no Carl Weather's character in this one unless we want to say the rapist character would be his stand-in but I'm not gonna do that to Carl Weathers even if his Dillon was an asshole.

So, these characters wander around, set up defensive perimeters, and fight a predator, just like the first one.  Ok, they fight three predators, hence the title.  And, a forth predator even factors into this one but they don't fight him. Lots of predator-vision which had higher resolution than the predator-vision in the first one.  Not as pixellated, so good for the predators.  They've advanced.  Anyway, over the course of the picture they find cages which had also parachuted down to the planet.  What was in the cages?  Other prey, perhaps.

Eventually, the picture goes on a slightly weird tangent when they encounter Laurence Fishburne who has managed to survive a long time.  He even killed a few predators, and stole some cloaking armor.  He takes them back to an old crusty grounded spaceship where he's been hiding.  He's also a schizophrenic which makes you wonder how he could possibly have lasted this long.  He doesn't last much longer.

The picture's not unique but it manages to move itself along well enough.  The rapist has a funny speech about what he's gonna do if he ever makes it home (hint:  The Accused) and Topher has an equally funny reaction to that speech.  There's some gore in this thing.  One guy has his spine ripped out from the base with his head still attached.  One guy is blown up by one of those predator tracking energy beam things which doesn't exactly mesh with what happens when you get shot by one of those predator tracking energy beam things in the first one.  Then again, these predators are constantly advancing.  Their advancement might be the point of this whole hunting exercise, you might say.

The terrain of this world makes little sense.  Start in the jungle, walk a mile and you're on rocky terrain.  Walk another mile and you're in a field that might be a great place for a Samurai duel (spoiler).  The director is the superbly named Nimrod Antal who also made the adequately entertaining Armored (also with Laurence Fishburne).  The score contains plenty of notes from the original, not quite iconic, score. 

The finale involves a betrayal, an unexpected alliance, paralyzing neurotoxins, a blown up predator space ship, redeeming shots from a sniper rifle, serial killer shenanigans, beheadings, and etc.  Also, we got a mud covered Adrien Brody going man-o y predator-o with a predator.  I have to wonder though.  Do these predators know we are calling them predators?  What would they prefer to be called?  I mean, we are lumping them in with Lions, bears, snakes, and such.  Not very original.  And one more thought.  If they let the pianist manhandle them too badly should we even be calling them predators in the first place?  Despite these questions (and a few more) this was an enjoyable romp through a world of predators and others that may or may not beat them up.


Gianni said...

I absolutely loved this movie, with all it's homages to the original. I don't think they actually were ignoring the second movie, but I do know the producers said they were ignoring the AVP sequels as they took the franchise somewhere silly (I can't disagree). I thought the sniper was perhaps the daughter of the woman from the first as well, but I guess that would have been TOO obvious. Loved the acting, I think it was very original, actually, especially (SPOILER!!) the "blood war" between the feuding Predator factions and the new hunting dogs and birds. I liked that it paid homage to the original, but I thought it was a unique experience.

brian said...

Yeah, the birds were cool but we never really saw them in action. I like a good homage now and then but it was a little too self referential. All the nods to the first one took me out of the story from time to time. Having said all that, I still had a blast watching it. Probably the most fun I've had in a theater this summer which, truth be told, isn't saying much.

Oh, and I agree with you about the "blood feud". I wish it had been explored more. I loved the Fishburne stuff mainly for how bizarre it was.