“This planet is a game preserve. And we’re the game.”
The Scoop: 2010 R, directed by Nimród Antal and starring Adrien Brody, Alice Braga and Topher Grace
Tagline: The most dangerous killers on the planet… but this is not our planet.
Summary Capsule: This time, the Predators invite us over for tea. DEADLY tea.
Justin’s rating: If it bleeds glow-in-the-dark happy fluid, we can kill it and redecorate the room in one fell swoop!
Justin’s review: When I was but a kid in the ’80s, I was mesmerized by how my much older cousins would talk about all of the cool, R-rated flicks they got to see — RoboCop, Aliens, Terminator and Predator, to name a few — and we’d beg them for the gory details. When I finally was old enough to see these movies for myself, there was a lot of anticipation (and a bit of fear) that tinged my experience, in a good way. These films seemed so hardcore way back when, and even to this day I think of them as the rough-and-tumble bunch of the ’80s.
The Predator series is an odd duck, in several ways. Unlike Aliens, it didn’t follow a primary protagonist from film to film, but had no problem switching out its cast and keeping the focus square on the bad guy. The second movie, which I always sort of liked, was denounced as far inferior to the first even though Gary Busey dies in it. And then there were the two pretty terrible Predator/Aliens crossover flicks. But unlike how the other franchises had their ups and downs, most everyone concurs that the first Predator flick was the zenith and it was all downhill from there.
So it’s with some relief that Predators, the in-and-out-of-theaters-so-fast flick didn’t stink at all but actually went back to its roots and had fun exploring the concept of an ultimate alien warrior race who hunts other planets’ fighters for sport.
I’m going to start with the worst aspect of the movie so we can enjoy the rest of the review, kind of like ripping off a band-aid and hoping that the scab won’t come up and the bleeding begin anew. Frankly, the characters are weaksauce. Sure, they look good, they have thematically appropriate weapons (svelte girl gets a sniper rifle, Japanese guy has a katana blade, burly Russian totes around a minigun), and they serve their purpose as elimination targets, but there’s just so little personality in any of them.
Action movies frequently overlook this as something important to establish, but it is perhaps the most crucial element of a good action flick — we have to know and like the characters to want to root for them. Predator had a platoon full of smart-aleck soldiers full of guts and gusto and quips, Aliens had a platoon full of smart-aleck soldiers full of guts and gusto and quips, and Predators has… that guy. And the other guy. And the… you know what? He’s going to die soon, nevermind.
Fortunately, the rest of the film picks up the slack left by the writers. This time around, the whole Predator concept is flipped on its head; instead of Predators coming to Earth to hunt us, Earth’s elite warriors are — somehow — identified, abducted and parachuted onto an alien planet that turns out to be the Predators’ game preserve. Man: The most delicious of meat. A group of unassociated soldiers find themselves armed to the teeth but completely outgunned, as multiple Predators begin stalking their prey. It’s simple but effective as a basic plot, and allows for a lot of quick pitched battle sequences.
The conceit of the movie is that the soldiers, too, are predators, and it’s only in this Predator-vs.-predator conflict that the aliens can find the ultimate sport.
As the soldiers explore the planet and their situation, they realize they’re not alone, nor are they the first to have been dropped into the middle of this mess. In a fascinating moment, we find out that the Predators have two castes of warriors who hate each other — the biggies and the smallies — and up to this point we’ve only seen the smaller of the two types. Gulp!
The Predators re-establish themselves as creatures to be feared, with their iconic weapons — spears, blade claws, nets, laser cannons, invisibility cloaks stolen from Harry Potter’s dead corpse — and a few new tricks up their sleeves. Each of the three main Predators has their own hunting style that mimics classic hunting techniques, and that’s cool to identify.
Overall, Predators hits the action spot without letting the franchise down. It would fit in perfectly with the ’80s, and given a few more classic lines of dialogue, I’d even go as far to say it could hold its own with Arnold’s romp through the jungle.
- In the previous Predators movies, it’s well-established that the Predators do not breathe our air, at least not for very long, which is why they wear the masks with the breathers. However, in this movie, Predators, other aliens, and humans all seem to breathe the same alien atmosphere without any difficulty or mention of breathers.
- The subtle nods to the Alien series
Royce: How do we kill them?
Noland: However you can.
Isabelle: They must have a weakness.
Noland: Not many.
Royce: We’re being hunted. The cages. The soldier. All of us. All brought here for the same purpose. This planet is a game preserve. And we’re the game. In case you didn’t notice, we just got flushed out. They sent the dogs in, just like you if you were stalking boar or shooting quail. They split us apart and they watched. Testing us.
Isabelle: How do you know this?
Royce: Because, that’s what I would do.
Cuchillo: Women pee, men piss.
Edwin: And what do you do?
Cuchillo: I unleash.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Game