Movie Review: Predators

by Trevan McGee on July 9, 2010

in Print Reviews

Adrien Brody becomes the latest commando to tangle with the mandible-mouthed interplanetary hunters in “Predators,” a series reboot courtesy of producer Robert Rodriguez and genre director Nimód Antal.

predators poster 2010“Predators” begins with promise. A group of hardened killers wake up in an undisclosed jungle, which turns out to be an alien game preserve the predators use as their own private hunting grounds. The premise of taking eight loners and forcing them to work together in order to survive has potential, as the does the ensemble cast, which features Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, Topher Grace, and Walton Goggins among others.

But “Predators” quickly descends from the frantic euphoria of its opening into a routine slog that fails to excite or impress. Screenwriters Alex Litvak and Michael Finch got the big things right: the return to the jungle, the military thugs, and the predators themselves, but all of that is lost in a plot that never fully takes shape. The movie spends plenty of time early on building tension as the characters try to come to grips with their surroundings, but when they finally meet the titular hunters, the scene is pretty underwhelming.

What’s more, the movie spends plenty of time with the characters, but fails to establish much of a connection with any of them, something that can be forgiven in an action movie, but none of these hardened killers ever really establish themselves as the caliber of badass worthy of the predators’ attention. This is far more unforgivable and especially frustrating to any fan of the original.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Antal can’t decide what kind of movie he wants to direct. At times “Predators” is a standard action movie, at others it’s a low-tension suspense piece, and at other times it’s even a mystery, complete with third-act twist. In one scene, Antal may be directly acknowledging the original and in another –– particularly the final battle –– he’s outright paraphrasing.

BrodyAt its worst, “Predators” is a highly literal translation, answering, “What if we made the original, only with more of them?” A question nobody asked.

Kudos to Brody, not only for stepping out of his comfort zone, but doing so successfully. He brings a confidence to his role that is well suited, as he barks orders and makes tactical movements look both specific and calculated. In lesser hands his character could have been interchangeable with the rest of the movie’s thug survivors.

But a strong lead performance and a decent premise aren’t enough to save “Predators” from becoming a boring and repetitive grind, that never really picks up steam and worse yet, isn’t much fun. It’s not a bad movie on a technical level, just ineffective and boring.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 pc July 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

I tend to agree with a lot of this—particularly that the first predator encounter was bleh.

But ultimately I have to problem with the rest of what you critique. I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.

I didn’t mind the final battle—it incorporated a totally new element of foiling the predators’ technology—even though it did /feel/ like the Schwarzenegger final battle, I wouldn’t call it paraphrasing.

I enjoyed the 3rd-act twist. A little bit Dr. Crane in Batman Begins, and finally answers wtf the doctor was selected—which also opens up more imagination-wise as far as how the predators go about selecting their game for transport. I could totally see another Predator movie being made just about the selection and extraction process—could be both a critical window into the f’ed up side of the human condition while weaving in sci-fi-style elements of the unknown.

Agreed that you don’t get to know the characters all that much—but with this kinda action flick, is that really necessary? Did you get to know anyone beyond action-related context in the original Predator? For a character that comes and goes quickly, I’d say Fishburne’s was a decently deep and conflicted character—and one that adds to Brody’s ultimate struggle.

I would have liked more backstory on the samurai-mob guy—more than the 2 missing fingers. Still, his final sword battle was somewhat satisfying…in that totally cheesy know-it’s-coming cliche way.

Although I completely disagree with “a routine slog that fails to excite or impress,” I was let down at several points.

Why when the crew learned about the mud-cloaking technique did they not immediately incorporate it? At least during the hole-up and draw-them-in sequence? Brody does it once at the final battle, which—along with the torch—was a borderline annoying ripoff.

More annoyingly, why didn’t anyone take Fishburne’s predator cloaking device?? Or his seemingly badass predator plasma gun?

I was also annoyed that they only showed one non-human prey, one that was seemingly completely inept. I thought there would be a variety of foes apart from the predators and what you see at their camp. Pfff…

Lastly, the trailer shows Brody with several predator laser sights on him. Where was that? I fully expected to see an entourage of veteran Predators at the end—a la Predator 2 or AVP. Oh well~

Reply

2 pc July 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

I tend to agree with a lot of this—particularly that the first predator encounter was bleh.

But ultimately I have to problem with the rest of what you critique. I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.

I didn’t mind the final battle—it incorporated a totally new element of foiling the predators’ technology—even though it did /feel/ like the Schwarzenegger final battle, I wouldn’t call it paraphrasing.

I enjoyed the 3rd-act twist. A little bit Dr. Crane in Batman Begins, and finally answers wtf the doctor was selected—which also opens up more imagination-wise as far as how the predators go about selecting their game for transport. I could totally see another Predator movie being made just about the selection and extraction process—could be both a critical window into the f’ed up side of the human condition while weaving in sci-fi-style elements of the unknown.

Agreed that you don’t get to know the characters all that much—but with this kinda action flick, is that really necessary? Did you get to know anyone beyond action-related context in the original Predator? For a character that comes and goes quickly, I’d say Fishburne’s was a decently deep and conflicted character—and one that adds to Brody’s ultimate struggle.

I would have liked more backstory on the samurai-mob guy—more than the 2 missing fingers. Still, his final sword battle was somewhat satisfying…in that totally cheesy know-it’s-coming cliche way.

Although I completely disagree with “a routine slog that fails to excite or impress,” I was let down at several points.

Why when the crew learned about the mud-cloaking technique did they not immediately incorporate it? At least during the hole-up and draw-them-in sequence? Brody does it once at the final battle, which—along with the torch—was a borderline annoying ripoff.

More annoyingly, why didn’t anyone take Fishburne’s predator cloaking device?? Or his seemingly badass predator plasma gun?

I was also annoyed that they only showed one non-human prey, one that was seemingly completely inept. I thought there would be a variety of foes apart from the predators and what you see at their camp. Pfff…

Lastly, the trailer shows Brody with several predator laser sights on him. Where was that? I fully expected to see an entourage of veteran Predators at the end—a la Predator 2 or AVP. Oh well~

Reply

3 pc July 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

I tend to agree with a lot of this—particularly that the first predator encounter was bleh.

But ultimately I have to problem with the rest of what you critique. I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.

I didn’t mind the final battle—it incorporated a totally new element of foiling the predators’ technology—even though it did /feel/ like the Schwarzenegger final battle, I wouldn’t call it paraphrasing.

I enjoyed the 3rd-act twist. A little bit Dr. Crane in Batman Begins, and finally answers wtf the doctor was selected—which also opens up more imagination-wise as far as how the predators go about selecting their game for transport. I could totally see another Predator movie being made just about the selection and extraction process—could be both a critical window into the f’ed up side of the human condition while weaving in sci-fi-style elements of the unknown.

Agreed that you don’t get to know the characters all that much—but with this kinda action flick, is that really necessary? Did you get to know anyone beyond action-related context in the original Predator? For a character that comes and goes quickly, I’d say Fishburne’s was a decently deep and conflicted character—and one that adds to Brody’s ultimate struggle.

I would have liked more backstory on the samurai-mob guy—more than the 2 missing fingers. Still, his final sword battle was somewhat satisfying…in that totally cheesy know-it’s-coming cliche way.

Although I completely disagree with “a routine slog that fails to excite or impress,” I was let down at several points.

Why when the crew learned about the mud-cloaking technique did they not immediately incorporate it? At least during the hole-up and draw-them-in sequence? Brody does it once at the final battle, which—along with the torch—was a borderline annoying ripoff.

More annoyingly, why didn’t anyone take Fishburne’s predator cloaking device?? Or his seemingly badass predator plasma gun?

I was also annoyed that they only showed one non-human prey, one that was seemingly completely inept. I thought there would be a variety of foes apart from the predators and what you see at their camp. Pfff…

Lastly, the trailer shows Brody with several predator laser sights on him. Where was that? I fully expected to see an entourage of veteran Predators at the end—a la Predator 2 or AVP. Oh well~

Reply

4 Tony Taylor July 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Uh, I’m not sure if you saw the same movie I saw but Adrien Brody is completely miscast as a supposed bad ass mercenary. Uh, not with that nose fella. The only highlight to this stinkfest and utter letdown of a movie is the guy playing the serial killer. I’m pretty sure hollywood is dead. Maybe Rodriguez should team up with M. Night and see who can write the worst part of a two-part stinker and have another guy named Nimrod direct it….sad sad sad, If you have laundry to do stay away from this movie

Reply

5 Tony Taylor July 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Uh, I’m not sure if you saw the same movie I saw but Adrien Brody is completely miscast as a supposed bad ass mercenary. Uh, not with that nose fella. The only highlight to this stinkfest and utter letdown of a movie is the guy playing the serial killer. I’m pretty sure hollywood is dead. Maybe Rodriguez should team up with M. Night and see who can write the worst part of a two-part stinker and have another guy named Nimrod direct it….sad sad sad, If you have laundry to do stay away from this movie

Reply

6 Tony Taylor July 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Uh, I’m not sure if you saw the same movie I saw but Adrien Brody is completely miscast as a supposed bad ass mercenary. Uh, not with that nose fella. The only highlight to this stinkfest and utter letdown of a movie is the guy playing the serial killer. I’m pretty sure hollywood is dead. Maybe Rodriguez should team up with M. Night and see who can write the worst part of a two-part stinker and have another guy named Nimrod direct it….sad sad sad, If you have laundry to do stay away from this movie

Reply

7 Trevan McGee July 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

@pc: I’m not sure how to respond to this, as you say you disagree me with multiple times, but then back up what I said, such as the mud and torch bit during the conclusion and you say it felt like the Schwarzenegger battle at the original. That to me constitutes a paraphrase –– it’s not the same, but it’s very, very familiar and incorporates several elements from the original.

I will agree with you about your unanswered questioned at the end of your post. I thought the invisibility thing would factor into the finale and we never saw it again.

I think the right amount of time was spent with the characters, I just don’t think it was spent well. Remember when Dutch and his unit took that village in the original? We don’t get much backstory, but it established very quick that he and his squad were badasses worthy of being hunted. There was never a moment that established that feeling in this movie. We were just supposed to assume as much because they were there.

It was almost like the director said, “This guy’s got a minigun. That means he’s a badass. This girl has a sniper rifle. She’s a badass. And this guy stabs people and is a serial murderer. He’s a bad ass.” But we never really got an established scene.

Which would have been fine if the movie had decided to go either a comedic route or a thriller route where they’re clearly on the run and outnumbered. Neither happened and so the movie finally defaulted to this military action movie that never really went anywhere.

@Tony: Brody works. He’s way more indicative of a modern soldier and the body type for a survivor/mercenary. I do think that his character was too convenient at times. He always seemed to instantly know what was going on and ended up dictating the plot to the audience.

Reply

8 Trevan McGee July 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

@pc: I’m not sure how to respond to this, as you say you disagree me with multiple times, but then back up what I said, such as the mud and torch bit during the conclusion and you say it felt like the Schwarzenegger battle at the original. That to me constitutes a paraphrase –– it’s not the same, but it’s very, very familiar and incorporates several elements from the original.

I will agree with you about your unanswered questioned at the end of your post. I thought the invisibility thing would factor into the finale and we never saw it again.

I think the right amount of time was spent with the characters, I just don’t think it was spent well. Remember when Dutch and his unit took that village in the original? We don’t get much backstory, but it established very quick that he and his squad were badasses worthy of being hunted. There was never a moment that established that feeling in this movie. We were just supposed to assume as much because they were there.

It was almost like the director said, “This guy’s got a minigun. That means he’s a badass. This girl has a sniper rifle. She’s a badass. And this guy stabs people and is a serial murderer. He’s a bad ass.” But we never really got an established scene.

Which would have been fine if the movie had decided to go either a comedic route or a thriller route where they’re clearly on the run and outnumbered. Neither happened and so the movie finally defaulted to this military action movie that never really went anywhere.

@Tony: Brody works. He’s way more indicative of a modern soldier and the body type for a survivor/mercenary. I do think that his character was too convenient at times. He always seemed to instantly know what was going on and ended up dictating the plot to the audience.

Reply

9 Trevan McGee July 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm

@pc: I’m not sure how to respond to this, as you say you disagree me with multiple times, but then back up what I said, such as the mud and torch bit during the conclusion and you say it felt like the Schwarzenegger battle at the original. That to me constitutes a paraphrase –– it’s not the same, but it’s very, very familiar and incorporates several elements from the original.

I will agree with you about your unanswered questioned at the end of your post. I thought the invisibility thing would factor into the finale and we never saw it again.

I think the right amount of time was spent with the characters, I just don’t think it was spent well. Remember when Dutch and his unit took that village in the original? We don’t get much backstory, but it established very quick that he and his squad were badasses worthy of being hunted. There was never a moment that established that feeling in this movie. We were just supposed to assume as much because they were there.

It was almost like the director said, “This guy’s got a minigun. That means he’s a badass. This girl has a sniper rifle. She’s a badass. And this guy stabs people and is a serial murderer. He’s a bad ass.” But we never really got an established scene.

Which would have been fine if the movie had decided to go either a comedic route or a thriller route where they’re clearly on the run and outnumbered. Neither happened and so the movie finally defaulted to this military action movie that never really went anywhere.

@Tony: Brody works. He’s way more indicative of a modern soldier and the body type for a survivor/mercenary. I do think that his character was too convenient at times. He always seemed to instantly know what was going on and ended up dictating the plot to the audience.

Reply

10 pc July 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Trevan,
Regarding the Dutch taking the village scene from the original, to me this established the same badaassness of the characters…

>
I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.
<

…the corpse’s boobie traps clearly showed he was a badass (his wallet and the dialogue verified he set them) and so, by extension, the characters we’re watching are presumably also badasses. Enough said. Who and what they did exactly to merit selection is irrelevant to the movie at hand, although — like I said — I think showing the selection process could make for a decent movie itself.

Reply

11 pc July 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Trevan,
Regarding the Dutch taking the village scene from the original, to me this established the same badaassness of the characters…

>
I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.
<

…the corpse’s boobie traps clearly showed he was a badass (his wallet and the dialogue verified he set them) and so, by extension, the characters we’re watching are presumably also badasses. Enough said. Who and what they did exactly to merit selection is irrelevant to the movie at hand, although — like I said — I think showing the selection process could make for a decent movie itself.

Reply

12 pc July 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Trevan,
Regarding the Dutch taking the village scene from the original, to me this established the same badaassness of the characters…

>
I liked that the boobie-trap sequence referenced the first predator in a way that wasn’t a rip-off. They upped the ante on the boobie traps, and so laid solid background about the otherwise story-less corpse they find.
<

…the corpse’s boobie traps clearly showed he was a badass (his wallet and the dialogue verified he set them) and so, by extension, the characters we’re watching are presumably also badasses. Enough said. Who and what they did exactly to merit selection is irrelevant to the movie at hand, although — like I said — I think showing the selection process could make for a decent movie itself.

Reply

13 Tony Taylor July 11, 2010 at 11:44 am

I think I would rather see Brody playing a piano and starving to death than this. Why try and make this movie like Arnold’s version if you can’t have better action? I am trying to think of anything that could be original here…help me out if you think of something. This could have a been a really cool show by establishing it’s own set of rules but it didn’t. This could have been the start of a new (eh newer?) franchise for predator similar to the Saw series. I mean these guys were supposed to be bad ass killers yet the guy with the mini gun couldn’t hit anything. Remember the scene in the first one where everyone teams up and completely mows down a section of the jungle? AVP was way more fun than this…

Reply

14 John Norman July 26, 2010 at 9:07 am

Predator Its an Aged Franchise Done to Death by the Media
no matter how bad it is People pretty much buy Crap these days
The Company still earns even the AVP franchise made profit and
they dont give a damn if they screw the mythos or the original Design Hell even Baltan looked better than a super black predator…

The only Difference is AVP is Utter B Grade Garbage ,
,Predators is an Average Mediocre block buster movie

Yes Far Apart but close to redundant!

Reply

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