Predators. 106 mins. R. Directed by Nimrod Antal. Written by Alex Litvak & Michael Finch. Starring Adrian Brody, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, Danny Trejo, and Laurence Fishburne.
Predators is being billed as the "true" sequel to the 1987 original starring a mud-caked Arnold Schwarzenegger (beefier than ever back then). While that may have been the filmmakers' intention (Robert Rodriguez produced), that is not the movie I saw on screen. Sure, there are some tonal similiarties to the '87 movie and John Debney does a decent job of capturing the flavor of Alan Silvestri's original score, but Predators lacks the pacing, imagination, action, and parade of '80s beefcakes (Jesse Ventura! Carl Weathers! Bill Duke!) that made the first Predator so memorable. Instead, we get Adrian Brody, Topher Grace (?!!), and a bunch of expendable minority actors walking around in the jungle of the game preserve planet they've been dropped on, getting picked off one by one in between bouts of incessant gabbing. Where's the action? More importantly, where are all the Predators? I expected the stakes to be raised. Nope, there are only 3 Predators on the planet. We're teased with quick glimpses of a Predator bird and dog, but those creatures are quickly abandoned. I wanted a movie like James Cameron's Aliens - what I got was a substandard sequel along the same quality level of the two Alien vs. Predator movies.
Brody stars as Royce, the leader of a pack of degenerate strangers who have been mysteriously dropped on a foliage-filled planet to be hunted by the Predators. Some live, some die - and it ends just like the first Predator - with one of the characters covering themselves in mud to avoid the Predator's infared vision. Not very clever. Word has it that the screenplay (by Alex Litvak & Michael Lynch) is based on a script that Rodriguez was commissioned to write back in the mid-90s. This certainly feels like a work-for-hire - it's no wonder that Rodriguez decided not to direct himself. Why put all that energy into a movie that doesn't raise the stakes at all and gives you no further insight into the Predator creatures?
The action doesn't even really begin until 90 minutes into the movie! A bloated Laurence Fishburne (might be time to start getting into Morpheus shape again) appears midway through, but rather than inject some new energy into the story, he just leads the characters into this truly awful middle section of the film, where everyone hides away in a dark bunker and ... nothing happens.
This should not be a difficult movie to make. Predators fighting humans, each trying to one-up the other through hunting gamesmanship, and each action sequence punctuated by a kick-ass moment or two. I'm not asking too much here. As it stands, I was so frustrated leaving the theater, I vowed to never see another Predator movie again. Just like I ditched the Saw franchise after the worthless fourth sequel, I think it's time for me (and Fox) to hang up the Predator franchise and call it a day. Let's come up with a new creature, Hollywood!