Movie Review: Predators- An Uneven Action Film That Touts a Strength in Suspense and Character Before Falling Back on Generic Action

It took more than a decade after John McTiernan’s successful action film Predator to be stretched for material, copied, and overused for repetitive action gore fests that simply numbed audience’s minds rather than utilize the ingenuity of the premise to make good suspense filled action films. The Aliens vs. Predators series has done more to make a mockery of action cinema than it has to be entertaining, and has forever put a negative outlook on anything that is produced with either of the two monster franchise names. However, when filmmaker extraordinaire Robert Rodriguez announced he would be overseeing the script of the newest Predators, as well as producing it, there was some hope for the series to be a good thrill ride again. And for the most part, Predators works as a suspense building action film that is practically an homage partial remake to McTiernan’s 1987 film. The beginning of the film sets up character and an ambiguous setting and uses it to its advantage, but eventually lets go of the well paced opening for a fast paced special effects driven ending that really has a useless character twist it could have done without. For a summer action film Predators offers more for its popcorn flick audience than the other films this summer and doesn’t really disappoint considering the corniness that surrounds the franchise already. The film’s unevenness is what brings the quality down but has enough character, selected action, and ambience to be an intriguing action film.

The first Predator was a successful science-fiction twist on the lone military unit film that used a great amount of suspense and mystery to push on your nerves, and director Nimrod Antal tries to replicate that formula here in Predators. Predators follows a group of commandos and fighters from varying points of the world, a sort of multi-cultural representation on how war or killing is not only done by Americans. They have been chosen to be the game for an alien species to hunt and their survival is dependent upon their wits, stamina, and inevitably their strength to be characterized as human. Almost exactly like the first Predator, Antal and Rodriguez have devised a plan to mimic the original with their intended characters and it proves to make for a decent delivery. All of the chosen actors, some faces will be familiar while others are not, stand on their own personalities and it gives the beginning of the film a flair that was non-existent in the Alien vs. Predators series. Each of the actors in Predators allows their characters to have a presence and that is crucial when following a group of strangers in an unknown jungle. Rodriguez surely knows that character is important and his oversight on Alex Litvak and Michael Finch’s script proves to be a wise decision. When you have good characters the suspense that is supposed to build around their mysterious situation flows better and throughout the first half of Predators the suspense is built upon nicely allowing the layers of the story and character to reveal itself little by little. Unfortunately Nimrod Antal fell back on the summer expectation of action while also leaving behind that delicate suspense that was working so well. The narrative framework in Predators is nothing new but when you’re able to make palpable characters and unnerving situations than you’ve pretty much got your audience hooked.

Intriguing and relatable characters are essential in the science-fiction genre due to the film’s settings usually being around unknown species or worlds. While most of the characters in Predators are killers in some form or another, we can relate to their confusion and attempts to rationalize their situation in an unknown place. The cast was well chosen and mixes familiar faces with fresh ones and all of them embody their personalities well. Academy Award Winner Adrien Brody is probably one of the least likely actors to head a cast of action heroes but does extremely well with his controlled borderline animalistic mercenary. The rest of the military crew is well balanced with timid and strong personalities, with noticeable performances from Danny Trejo and Alice Braga. Laurence Fishburne offers a momentary but strong performance as a lone survivalist on the planet trying to get by in his own insanity. And another unlikely action star, Topher Grace, actually adds to the film rather than bringing it down being the out of place physician amongst the type-A military crew. Throughout the film all of the characters remain consistent with what their subtle interactions would suggest and keep our interest as the more hackneyed action elements begin to progress.

Predators would have worked better as a pure suspense film in the same vein as Alien or the original Predator, but unfortunately the creative team fell prey to the temptation of adding quick paced action to their script, and it inevitably brings the film down in contemplative scope. The film actually does a good job in showing how survivalist tendencies fall back on selfish and animalistic decisions, though that is just the natural order of things. In doing this they are able to broach the subject of what losing one’s humanity can cost someone though it thankfully never turns into a lecture. However, this is just something that could have been expanded upon through focusing on the suspense aspect of Predators rather than just settling on an intense action finish. Compare the fight Adrien Brody has with the Predator with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and you’ll see that spectacle doesn’t necessarily heighten nerves. This just makes the presentation of Predators feel uneven as a whole as the suspense of the first half showcases Antal’s strengths as a director while the second half shows the formula Hollywood expects you to follow as a big budget action film. This inevitably makes Predators an expected action film rather than attempting to try the harder route of cold, delicate suspense.

It appears Robert Rodriguez has the Midas touch when it comes to coherent character driven scripts and contributes this strength to the oversight of Nimrod Antal’s homage remake of the 1987 Predator. His eclectic taste for cinema shows he is a storyteller at heart and knows what works when developing character, plot intrigue, and a planned direction. Unfortunately even with Rodriguez’s support Predators deviates from its tension building opening to a more generic action formula in the end making the overall film what you’d expect or just slightly disappointing compared to what it could have accomplished. However, when paralleled with the atrocious incoherent scripts of the Alien vs. Predators series, Nimrod Antal’s film turns out to be better in atmosphere, character, and plot. Hell, Predators is even better than the awful Predator sequel starring Danny Glover. The plot is practically a replica of McTiernan’s Predator but that isn’t necessarily a weakness since it was a structure that worked. Predators is a summer film that, put simply, works with a well chosen cast, intriguing use of suspense, and decent generic action.

Grade: C+

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