Predators poster


PREDATORS

"The most dangerous killers on the planet . . . but this is not our planet."
 

(9 July 2010)  Director: Nimród Antal

Hats off to Robert Rodriguez (and to Alex Litvak, Michael Finch, Jim Thomas, and John Thomas) for even trying to do this. It had to be a daunting experience knowing expectations would be super high because the first movie is cult-classic popular. So, can you leave your love of Predator at the door, and still enjoy this movie? Yes you can! Adrien Brody is not Arnold (sigh), and yet he does do a good job. Can't believe I'm saying that, but I didn't hate him in this, and he held the movie through until the end. And, no, they did not kill him first, like I jokingly hoped (sort of). So what did Predators deliver on like the first movie? For starters, The Simple Setup:  Let's "jump in" . . .

"This planet is a game preserve. And we're the game."

Even simpler than the first movie! My first of two big criticisms of an otherwise enjoyable ride was that the beginning dragged. For me, it wasn't until they showed you the holy crap factor of what was after them (the big predators), that then it was game on. As a Chase movie, I kinda wished there wasn't so much wandering around in the beginning. Had they cut that down a little, they might have had time to show them building the traps they decided to make after they fell into the water. The trap-constructing part was just skipped over, which is a shame, because the whole 'boy scout' element of the primitive stuff working when the big guns didn't was awesome in the first movie. (I know they brought it in with the dead soldier they found, but I'll explain later why I wanted to see them building traps, so please keep reading). They do bring in the primitive as a weapon a little at the very end (simplistically but effectively). It's impossible not to draw parallels: It was clear they tried to keep in all the best elements, but give them a twist; mixing it up enough to keep it interesting, while being true to the 'formula' that made the first one work with very few exceptions, and then throwing in some extra fun. It was more of the same (in the BEST way), and that is what I think audiences were hungry for: That lost-in-a-strange-jungle-about-to-get-killed feeling.

Royce and his Merry Band of Killers, plus one


ROYCE
Adrien Brody


HANZO

Louis Ozawa Changchien


MOMBASSA

Mahershalalhashbaz Ali


NIKOLAI

Oleg Taktarov


EDWIN

Topher Grace


CUCHILLO

Danny Trejo


ISABELLE

Alice Braga

The General, A Hostage, and Multiple Extras and Unknown Elements


Bezerker
PREDATOR

Brian Steele

 


(Classic)
PREDATOR
Derek Mears


Falconer?
PREDATOR
Carey Jones


Tracker?
PREDATOR
Carey Jones


NOLAN
Laurence Fishburne




THE PLANET
 


STANS
Walton Goggins
(the "Plus One")

Killers on Parade
The biggest difference between Predator and Predators was in the lack of  beefcake: The first movie was all about BIG men with BIG 'guns' and BIG weapons. Except for Nikolai, Mombassa, and Cuchillo, there was no 'biceptitude' element to these killers, rather, the group was measured in lethality. (I was hoping for even bigger men—you know you were too—throw Kane and The Undertaker in there!) Predators went in a different direction, however, keeping true to the variety of characters, but kicking it up a notch by having them not be all military, and incorporating more differences in dress, in race and nationality, in types of weapons, and in methods of killing. A seemingly video-game-inspired choice, and admittedly, despite my love of beefcake, the really interesting part. Which type of person with which weapons, would prevail? Made me wonder if there would be a payoff for the death row murderer being armed with only a shiv (and of course there was).

Firepower*
This variety of men/methods/weapons kept it interesting, as opposed to just great big men with the biggest guns possible. This new group still seemed armed to the teeth, having been extracted, in some cases, from combat fully loaded and carrying lots of ammunition, which helped because when they faced their second challenge (their first being getting together without killing each other), the Predator 'dogs'. The group shot the shit out of everything, like the tree-chopping-firepower scene in the first movie. I think too much of a big deal was made about the Predator dogs pre-release. They looked incredible but all they could do was run and bite (same as a regular dog, just way uglier). They had horns too, lots of them, and claws, but they were no match for weapons. Big credit to special effects for making them look 'real' (their skin/wounds were amazing). Their main purpose, it seemed, was to use up ammunition. Something a little too easy as a plot device, but when you're thrown into a jungle and don't know yet that there's something bigger out there you might need the bullets for, shooting the shit out of the smaller right-now danger seems appropriate. Still, it was hard to be in the moment and not be thinking of the Predators you knew were coming, and that they would need all the bullets they could get for. (*More about weapons at the end.)

Manpower
Once the group all got together, as the events play out, it became clear that the writers kept true to the structure of the original movie, right down to the role of the characters:

 

The Characters


There's a leader (ROYCE is Dutch). The twist is he's not the biggest and strongest, and he doesn't want to lead. Dutch was very much in charge, trying to get his men out alive, and felt protective. Royce is ready to use them as bait or sacrifice them at every turn. This is what made the movie for me (it rang true), but they didn't set it up well enough that he's an uncaring bastard at the beginning, so a turnaround at the end was too predictable.



A comrade at odds with him (ISABELLE is Dillon): The twist is his second in command (so to speak) is a girl. She also serves as the Anna in the telling of the story of "el diablo cazador de hombres" from the first movie naming 1987 and Guatemala (I always thought it was Nicaragua) as a case file (which was cool).



One of them has the third-eye/sixth-sense element (HANZO is Billy): The twist is he's Asian. He makes the sacrifice last stand, but I won't spoil how that ends.


The big dumb lovable blonde (NIKOLAI is Blain): The twist is he's a family man, Mac 'n' Blain were kinda 'close' LOL. "He was, uh . . . my friend."


The token black guy (even though there are 2 in both movies, MOMBASSA is Mac): No twist. Like Mac, he's the first to see something.


The sacrifice: Sadly, they killed off Danny Trejo WAY early (CUCHILLO is Hawkins): The twist is a big mean guy with 2 guns gets taken down first. I thought it was a waste to cast him, but maybe they used him so it was more of a surprise that he's the first to go. Cuchillo's being taken by the Predators happened without being shown. I was thinking it would have been stronger if you thought he really might still be alive. There was no setup for the Predators' mimicry trick, and no real payoff later for Anna discovering it. She definitely should have mentioned it to the group. (I'm thinking they filmed an audio payoff then it got cut. How many times have you seen outtakes that should have been left in? I would say it's most often 80/20 that they should have left something in. This movie is 1:47. I wish Hollywood didn't follow the time rule so much, or that they would change the rule to 2:00-We want more!!)



The whiner who gets wounded but doesn't want to be left behind (EDWIN is Poncho): (I wanted to scream "I can make it, I can make it!") The twist is, he's lethal! I saw that coming. When there's a doctor and he never does any doctoring . . .

And an extra character just for fun who is like
Bill Paxton from Aliens (STANS is Hicks "I'm Hudson, he's Hicks", I mean Hudson). And what movie isn't better with a little "Oh you want some of this?!" As the biggest Aliens fan EVER, I think they should have used him more, but maybe that would have seemed too obviously Aliens-ish. As it was, there was a scene that seemed like a twist on the drone crash/aftermath scene in Aliens ("real pretty shit now").


The BERZERKER PREDATOR serves as The General. The twist is, he's in charge of the Predators.


The Hostage is CLASSIC PREDATOR, and the twist is that the Predators fight among themselves, something that pays off for the humans. They could have shown the Classic Predator competing with the Berserker and why he ended up tied up, instead of Noland just explaining that they don't get along. Maybe if we knew the Berzerker was the inferior hunter of the two, we would have been crapping in our pants more when Royce sets Classic Predator free. I would have liked to see Classic Predator win (because he is older, because he has more experience maybe). Setting up Berzerker as being mean to Classic and tricking him somehow to get him tied up would have made it awesome to see Classic kill him. As it went down, however, it made Classic seem a little pathetic.

There are multiple Unknown Elements this time (because we already know about the Predator): They are on ANOTHER PLANET, there are MULTIPLE PREDATORS (except they ruined that with previews), and there is a crazy survivor, NOLAND—who is a throwaway except that he tells them about the Predators' spaceship.


The Formula
Making the movie scary had to be a challenge, when you already know about the Predator and don't have the big, scary, "ugly motherfucker" reveal at the end (although they were impressive as hell in that department, it doesn't compare to the first when he takes off that helmet and opens his mouth. This time we know what the hell they are. Hunters! The other thing I thought was missing (besides biceps), or was left out intentionally was the fact that the Predator used the trees. These Predators seemed to get by with just running. Nobody got hoisted away or picked off from the back of the line (that they showed).  That's the part that would have scared me the most if I was in a jungle with Predators (seems nobody ever looks up). This new group didn't know that. Finding the dead soldier after setting off his traps could have been used to clue them in, but using the trees was not mentioned. It could be argued that maybe only Classic Predator used the trees. There was also the Predator with a sword-like blade (Tracker Predator?), the Predator with tusks (Falconer Predator?) who had a bird who flew over the area like a surveillance drone so he could see from the air where everyone was. Still, the humans do manage to use the Predators infrared vision against them in the end. 

The Music
As the movie progressed, each of the plot points that happened in the first movie happens in the second in some similar form, but not necessarily in the same order. The music was a big part of letting you know which part it was. For example, in Predator the part when Billy decides to take a stand on the fallen tree, when that same music begins to play in Predators, you know it's sacrifice-last-stand time. The music wasn't exactly the same. It wasn't quite as military, nearly as eerie, and not as pronounced or loud, but it was the bow on the package. Where other music was used, I tended to tune it out. In the first one, the music seemed to inform every scene, and the jungle sounds, drums, and plaintive tones keep my nerves on edge. They did a really good job of updating the music making it a little cooler sounding, and knowing when to use it, but I still would have liked to hear more native drums.

Twists and Turns
So with mostly the same characters and the same dangers, plus plus, I have been wondering how Predators could have been better, and keep coming back to the preview. You really shouldn't watch a preview of any movie you really want to enjoy. As they sometimes do with great annoyance to the fans, they have something in the preview that doesn't make it into the movie (we hate that), and the preview is misleading. I am glad that they didn't show the Berserker Predator in detail beforehand, but they should have kept it quiet about there being different types of Predators (and about the dogs). Had they shown the one scene that reveals they are definitely not on earth, I'd have been pissed because I would have expected more, but that was the only shot.  They really also shouldn't have given away that it was not on earth either in promoting it. That could have been used to great effect near the end, á la Planet of the Apes. I wondered why they didn't see those planets anytime they looked up, or when they crossed the flat, open rocky area.  They could have had the place where they were dropped been shown to be like a huge ravine that was covered over with growth and hard to get out of. (I think the first thing they should have done was climb a tree to see if they could pick which direction to go in, and discover they were in a ravine. Have that be their first challenge—see if they can survive long enough to make it out of that terrain, maybe have the Predators watching from above. SHOW what the humans were up against, and show some people in a previous drop die before Royce and the group drops in so the audience knows what shit they've dropped into but the Group don't. 

Also, show the perspective of where the Predators camp was in position to the ravine, and to where they fell into the water, so we would have had more invested in their efforts. Using traps to make a last stand and then not showing the effort that went into making them is the same mistake that was made in the theatrical release version Aliens. We need to be rooting for them more (as it was were were just watching them get picked off). In the Aliens version with the extra minutes added back in, the whole prep for setting up the automatic guns and showing the stages of the aliens breaking through the series of doors really MADE the last stand feel. This makes us want the Group to make it! They should have had the last stand be after Noland I think. To know where they have to go to (back to the camp—maybe show it from the height of that mining ship/drill thing) and then choose a spot to defend to get the Predators numbers down a little. (I thought there would be at least 8 from the multiple targets shot in the preview. In the movie there was only one, and only one predator in that scene.).

The Predators are supposed to be these awesome hunters, but if you didn't see the first one (and since they didn't used the trees like in the first one), all they really had besides the home-court advantage, size, strength, dogs, and a bird, was a cloaking device. As it was, for awesome hunters they were easily killed. One of them was killed with 1 shot (what was that driftwoody-weird looking thing? was it supposed to be a Predator?). They got them with explosions several times, and the swordfight took out another one. Not nearly enough 'fight' in them considering this was their turf and they'd been doing this a while. I wondered if they shouldn't have been shown to be awesome hunters. I got no fear of them just from blood/guts/bones, traps, and cages. Fear worked in the first one because the men were really big and armed and if they were scared, what chance do you have? In this one, the people seem average and without guns, they're 'killers' but that doesn't do it for me. It wasn't until I saw the 3 new Predator bad asses (Berzerker, Tracker, Falconer) appear after the big camp shootout that I got the deep-shit danger feeling. I needed that fear earlier. I needed to know what great hunters the Predators were. The movie didn't give us that (just the idea that they could avoid traps, some piles of bones, and some strung-up dead blood-drippy carcasses, which could have been for food). The humans never seemed outmatched. There was never that "we're all gonna die" feeling the first one gave with only 1 Predator.

The movie was good. I saw it twice, and will probably go again. The ending was sooooo satisfyingly violent! I haven't enjoyed a killing like that since Jeepers Creepers 2.  As escapism, it really hit the mark. The whole look of it (characters, setting, weapons, creatures) is fantastic! (After writing this I feel a little ungrateful like Woody Allen's Annie Hall joke about life with the two ladies at the Catskill mountain resort "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." "Yeah, I know; and such small portions.") They made it good enough, but I think they weren't shooting for GREAT. My second big criticism is just that I wanted more!


Weapons
Found a nice catalog of Predator weapons at Joker Designs' "Predator The Hunted" which includes the "Plasma Caster" shoulder cannon.
 

Here is a weapons chart from SyFy's dvice.com: