Editor’s Note: As with many of our Ten and Five articles, this article does contain spoilers. Consider yourself warned.
For some, Predators may be the sequel to a beloved film catalyst that they’ve been waiting for. This may be because of how beloved the original is or how absolutely atrocious the franchise became almost instantaneously, but for whatever reason, fans seem stoked to see their favorite mandible-flexing killing machines on screen again.
The film is a fun one. Unfortunately it’s marred by some of the same sort of crappy issues that plagued most mindless action films of the 1980s. Call it homage, but we had presumably moved on, grown up, and learned how to make an action movie without forcing the audience to turn their brains off.
In FSR’s continued commitment to numbering everything, here’s the 5 things I enjoyed about Predators and the 10 things I didn’t.
10 Things I Didn’t Like
10. Primitive Technology
For a minute, imagine you’ve just seen a vicious killing machine that has a computer on his wrist that shoots lasers and makes him disappear into the scenery. Now imagine you’ve silently tracked him back to his home away from the killing. What do you expect to see? Predators wants us to believe that an alien race that’s clearly far superior in their technology (including weapons and transportation at least) grouses around in the mud and wipes their asses with their hands. I don’t buy it. Granted, it’s a game preserve, but even my uncle had a trailer on his hunting lease.
9. The Israeli Defense Forces of South America
Small details kill me, especially in movies that want to be accurate about the military and weaponry. It may be a tiny one, but the fact that the obviously Latina fighter who has knowledge of what happened in South America back in 1987 (played by the beautiful Brazilian actress Alice Braga) is supposed to be a member of the IDF is moronic. It’s one line – it could have been cut or changed, and it stands out like a remnant of the script before the casting was done or as a sign that someone told Nimrod Antal that the IDF was cool, and he rolled with it despite the racial contradiction.
8. Falconer Predator
Despite my joking that I wanted to see Chef Predator, and despite the fact that I think a flying drone that syncs up with armor is incredibly innovative, the use of the Falconer Predator was lame. For a good portion of the second act, our heroes are wandering around out in the open, totally safe from the gaze of the flying eye in the sky. So much more could have been done there to increase the danger.
7. Yeah, It’s Mud
Most of the dialog in this thing felt like biting into an onion (“I’m guessing ex-military?”), but nothing was as bad as watching Adrien Brody stare at the camera and fans of the original film, covered in Nutella and verbally winking at the audience about the reference. A reference that actually would have injured the chances of what he was trying to do in the final battle. Bonus points for the throw back, disqualification for pointing way too hard at it with a cheesy line.
6. Samurai Predator
Hanzo is a great character. He doesn’t say much, he stays alive quietly, and he is Yakuza-tattooed in true form. However, there’s no reason at all for 1) him to suddenly turn around to face his destiny 2) for there to be a sword fight in a Predator movie especially when a) it consisted of him running like a bull and b) the Predator could have lasered his intestines out at the first sign of losing the battle. What seems like a cool, if jarring, idea was executed so blandly that it just laid flat on the screen.
5. Yawn-worthy Kills
Speaking of the samurai sword fight, the movie seems ultimately lacking in exciting kills (exceptions can be found in the Likes). Machete is killed off screen, Laurence Fishbourne is blown up using terrible CGI, Hanzo and the Predator fall down after a boring sword fight, and Topher Grace essentially has the same death as the Russian brawler Oleg Taktarov. Batting .500 might be great in baseball, but it’s terrible for action films.
4. No Context
The secret to informing the audience of who your characters are and what they’re capable of is in showing them. I loved that we were dumped on the foreign planet alongside the troop of misfit mercs, but the film needed more than talk about how tough they were. It also needed more than talk about how brutal the Predators were. Well into the second act, there’s no context for how great these human hunters are and no telling how deadly the foreign foes are. Some dogs get killed, a classic Predator is tied to a tree, but where was the “Oh shit, this guy is for real” moment that action films deserve?
3. Topher Grace: Psycho
What the hell was that?
2. Weak Predators
Our old friend (ever since we dropped the charges) Robert Fure points out in his Boiling Point this week about the fuzzy math that action sequels seem plagued by. In Predator, one invisible baddie takes out an entire squad of the best of the best of the best. In Predators, three of them can barely tie their own shoe laces against a group that’s never met. Some of them don’t even have guns. A friend told me that Nimrod Antal designed the Predators here to be young, going through a rite of passage, but I don’t want directors explaining away their movies. I want to see it in the final product. Teasing us with the promised carnage of three ultimate killers is like, I don’t know, delivering a trailer where 12 laser sites light up a dude when there’s actually only three Predators in your film.
1. The End
By the second act, the tone of the beginning is shredded and by the end, it’s been lost out in the jungle somewhere. Why the hell would Royce come back? Why is Topher Grace suddenly a psychopath? Did they really think they were fooling anyone with the way they blew up the space ship? It seems as though someone saw the film or read the script and demanded that a twist ending be staple gunned to it and telegraphed from Topher Grace’s introduction as a weakling who doesn’t belong. A perfectly forgettable, fun, action movie became a eye-rolling insult in its final ten minutes.
5 Things I Liked
5. The Music
It’ll be nice to end on a positive note to wash away all the negativity. One of the things I loved about the movie was the scoring. It managed to be fresh and dangerous while still carrying the specter of the original on its back. Brilliant choices that did nothing but heighten suspense in a way the acting and story couldn’t.
4. Crazy Larry and Raping Time
Call it over the top, but Laurence Fishburne’s performance was hilarious to me. It starts off heading one way, turns in the opposite direction, and then makes a mad dash toward the insane asylum in small increments. It totally derailed the film and stands as the moment that the movie lost momentum (never to be regained), but damn it if it’s not a ridiculous turn from Cowboy Larry. Even better though was Walter Goggins who basically owned everything whenever he was on screen. It was a thing of beauty to see a raping psycho dealt with in such a different way. For all the bad in the film, we should all be setting our watches to 5 o’clock.
3. The Visual Style
So there were problems, but Antal is a promising director. The visuals he created throughout made sweat drip and elicited a fear of mosquito attacks. There’s a balance here, too, of the original film and some newer tricks that work fantastically well. It’s a beautiful movie.
2. The First 30 Minutes
Panic. You’re falling from an unknown, but staggering height and you can’t get your chute to open. When it does, you land in the middle of a gun battle. After meeting the others and calming everyone down, you set out into the wilderness only to find that the sun never moves and something’s following you. Maybe you’re in Hell. Maybe this tense feeling will last. Sadly, it doesn’t, but the opening to this film is stunning. Simple and sleek with no time for introductions, it builds a frightening sense of agoraphobia which gets ratcheted up once we find out that we’re being hunted for sport.
1. Fist + Spine = Awesome
Remember all the high-minded criticisms and thoughts I’ve shared so far? Let’s wash them all down with the visual amazement of watching an alien rip a man’s spinal column right out of his back. Keeping the skull on is the difficult part – it takes a true artist to do so, and the Predator gets bonus style points for that. Go ahead, let out a guttural howl in celebration.
What did you like, love, or hate about Predators?