One of the most vivid memories I have of the original Predator film is the no-fluff approach to storytelling. The audience, like the film’s team of mercenaries, is dropped right into the action with little exposition and plenty of machismo. It’s fitting then that Predators, a sequel that disregards everything that has happened since 1987, would do the same — in a more literal sense. When we meet Royce, played by Adrian Brody, he is falling. When he lands, the action begins and the audience is instantaneously transported back to a familiar place. A place deep in the jungle, where a team of killers is hunted by something otherworldly. A place that feels exactly as it should, as it has in the past.
That’s moment one of Predators, the Robert Rodriguez produced, Nimrod Antal directed sequel that comes decades after the world first met the iconic alien hunter. It’s a movie that is essentially the tale of two halves. The first of which works incredibly well, calling back to the atmosphere of the original and giving its audience heavy doses of adrenaline. And a second half that sees the unraveling of this concept and the dismantling of said atmosphere. Luckily there’s enough momentum to deliver an ultimately satisfying action film, but even the least keen observer will find that there’s something missing. Something about the second half of the film that feels a little… off.
But first, some story. Almost as an homage to the original Predator, the story here is simple. A group of killers from around the world — everything from a Israeli sniper (Alice Braga) to a death row inmate (Walton Goggins) — are dropped into a mysterious jungle, only to find out that they have been brought to a distant planet where they are being hunted by a race of alien hunters. We know them as Predators. There are new models, but they are intensely vicious all the same. Now these strangers must band together to find a way to survive, using their talents as takers of lives to find a way off this wretched game preserve.
As I mentioned, its a tale of two halves. The first half of this film is a direct call back to the original film, both in tone and pace. It contains the same level of high-velocity terror as the main characters begin to learn that they are being hunted. The action is fast, a few of the deaths are gruesome and the ultimate introduction of some of the new Predators is nothing short of impressive. Nimrod Antal, to his credit, also captures the claustrophobic nature of the jungle in these early scenes. It’s exciting as a member of the audience to feel close to these characters, as if we are being hunted as well. The cinematography is smooth and ambitious, John Debney’s score delivers a perfect mix of ambiance and familiarity (it calls back to Alan Sylvestri’s original score wonderfully) and we get characters worth rooting for. Despite a few pockets of achingly bad dialogue (“I’m guessing you’re ex-military,” says Alice Braga’s character to Royce, a man standing before her with a giant gun and a vest full of ammo — Oy), the story moves well without any extraneous exposition. It’s all atmosphere and action, action and atmosphere. And whether you’re a fan of the original or not, it’s hard to avoid getting wrapped up in it.
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