Thursday, July 15, 2010

PREDATORS Review *Spoilers*

I want to start off by saying that PREDATORS is actually an alright movie, especially when compared to the AVP films, but man is it a disappointment.
Let me count the ways:

The film starts off strong with all the central characters plummeting towards earth (a pretty cool idea in my book). During the first act of the film we are introduced to all of the main players and made to play the waiting game. The predators are out there, we all know it, but they're taking their time making it to the screen. This would be all well and good if the film possessed the level of tension of the original PREDATOR, but it is starkly lacking. This is huge problem that persists throughout the film. I'm never really scared or on the edge of my seat. Never do we get that "oh no" moment like when Arnold's group found that guy skinned alive.

Which leads me to my next issue: I'm not what you'd call a glutton for gore by any means, but this film seems a little tame, especially for being rated R. Sure, that enabled the utterance of a few "fucks" and allowed for one unfortunate fellow to have his spinal cord ripped out, but the rest of the film seemed oddly PG-13. I mean, you've gone as far as to earn an R rating, why not run with it? PREDATOR and even ALIENS, relics by some standards, contain violence that is much harder to stomach.

Another annoying deviation is the revelation that there's some sort of feud amongst the Predator race. When Fishburne's character is introduced, so is this little tidbit, which I didn't find at all necessary. The feud has little narrative value except as a bridge to something that doesn't even end up happening. The villains of this film are bigger badder Predators than we've ever seen and one 'classic' Predator takes on the reluctant ally role. The super-Predators I can accept, but relegating the original to this lame fate is almost a little sad. I was excited for this film because I thought it would be the return of the Predator as the bad guy. I don't like when they team up with humans (as they sorta did in the AVP films). This idea was just unnecessary for this film.

Speaking of unnecessary: There were too many characters taking up too much screen time. Films are capable of character development with large casts (like PREDATOR or ALIENS), but that's only because there's a certain amount of focus on the main characters with only glimpses of development offered to the supplementary roles. The personalities here are too large and always competing for attention when the Brody, Braga and Grace characters could have probably used more.

Also, I've been catching some flack about spoiling Topher Grace's true nature to people I've talked to about the film, but I didn't know it was going to be a surprise. When Robert Rodriguez first cast Grace he revealed that he was going to be a serial killer, which I thought sounded awesome. I would have preferred if the film had just gotten that out in the open at the beginning. His performance is pretty good, but it never hits its stride because he's acting like such a wimp for most of the film. Having this revelation as some sort of surprise doesn't gain anything for anyone, it only stifles the character's creative potential (it's pretty darn obvious anyway).

The ending of the film leaves a lot to be desired as well. Nothing is resolved. There's an opening for another sequel, but it would probably just be the same movie unless they went really big with it. I feel like there were numerous occasions where the writers wrote themselves into a hole and came up with clumsy conclusions. But like I said at the beginning of this review - this film isn't all bad. It's shot well, the locations are great, the effects are satisfying, many of the performances are strong despite having little to work with in terms of the script. Fishburne's role is particularly enjoyable because it deviates from what I'd normally expect in one of his typical portrayals. PREDATORS is light years ahead of either AVP film, but it just didn't live up to the billing: PREDATORS is to PREDATOR what ALIENS is to ALIEN. The ALIEN films are so close in quality when PREDATOR still stands tall over all its successors.

One last note/warning: For anyone expecting that awesome scene from the trailer where Brody gets targeted by a dozen or so shoulder cannons to actually be in the film, you're in for a disappointment (it's just one target). I know it's creative marketing and a very smart tactic, but its also a bit underhanded. I went into the film thinking that the cast would run afoul of a whole battalion of Predators. I subsequently wondered "how are they going to get out of that?", which made me more interested in the film. I can't help but think that a film where this did happen would be a lot cooler.


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