Predators (2010)

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*. After a painful interregnum which saw them pitted against the creatures of the Alien franchise, the Predators return, in this belated sequel, for a battle-royale, bad-ass death match that has them hunting easier prey.
*. Despite having leapt (somehow) to an exotic safari planet, there’s decent continuity with Predator and Predator 2 (though the events of Predator 2 are left unmentioned). But continuity is not always a good thing.
*. Item One: In my notes on the earlier films I mentioned the problem of pacing. Specifically, the way these movies start out strong and hit a great median climax before slowing down. This is a criticism Predators also invites, given how it (literally) hits the ground running. On the DVD commentary director Nimród Antal and co-producer Robert Rodriguez mention how they knew sustaining such a pace would be a problem, but seemed helpless to avoid it. Indeed there is no median climax this time out and things just come to a full stop with the appearance of Laurence Fishburne’s Noland. From there the whole final act of this film is a drag, culminating in the supremely silly fight between Adrien Brody’s Royce and the chief Predator. I mean, once Brody had the drop on the Predator why didn’t he just blow him away instead of running around hitting him in the helmet, which patently wasn’t doing a damn bit of good?
*. Item Two: While the Predators have fancy helmets, they don’t wear a lot of body armour. So why do they keep getting shot in the torso at point-blank range without being wounded? I mentioned this when discussing the scene in Predator 2 where Bill Paxton’s character empties two full clips into the Predator on the subway car without so much as winging him. In this movie we see the Russian soldier Nikolai fire away at a bare-chested Predator standing just a few feet right in front of him and yet he only manages to hit him once in the shoulder. What gives?
*. Item Three: Where are they getting all this ammo? As I mentioned in my notes on Predator, ammo is very heavy, and you go through a lot of it in a hurry, especially when you’re going full auto all the time. In the scene where the team is attacked by the hounds we see them blowing off a truckload of ammo but they never seem to run out until they have to do a “shell count” and reload at the end. And of course they all have more ammo on them to reload with. Folks, we’re talking about hundreds of pounds of clips here. It’s just not possible.
*. Item Four: I have a nagging question with all three movies about why the Predators are always around watching their prey with their nifty thermal vision except when they can’t be for some plot reason. For example, when the humans are setting a trap. Then they are unaccountably missing.

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*. As I say, these are problems that I have with all of the Predator movies, and it’s too bad they’ve never found a way to get around them. In this film, however, there are some additional issues.
*. Chief among these, in my eyes, is how they really drag out the reveal that Edwin (the doctor, played by Topher Grace) is actually a psycho killer. I mean, I think we all knew that from the get-go. No spoiler alert needed (and none given on this site anyway). So it’s just a downer that Edwin lasts as long as he does, in order to do his predictable turn at the end.
*. Sticking with this for just a bit, I didn’t get much out of the commentary, but I was surprised Antal and Rodriguez thought the audience might turn against Royce when he advises leaving Edwin behind after he steps in a trap. By this point in the film surely there is no audience sympathy left for Edwin since (1) we already know Royce is the hero; (2) we have already seen him leave Danny Trejo’s character behind (which was the right move); (3) we already know that the doctor is in fact a villain (something we’ve suspected for a long time, but which is made explicit in this scene when he holds up the picture of Nikolai’s kids and claims they’re his own); and (4) we’re sick of Edwin’s whining.

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*. Adrien Brody didn’t get a lot of love from fans of the franchise. I think this is because their heads were still stuck in the ’80s. He’s a good actor and he obviously knew enough of what was expected of the role to put some time in the gym.
*. Speaking of heads being stuck in the ’80s, I already mentioned how there is no reference to Predator 2 in the script. Was this the result of a personal bias on the part of a certain action star? Apparently Predators was meant to lure Arnold back to the franchise, and he wanted to return to the jungle. For some reason he thought the move to the city in Predator 2, which I thought was very smart, was the wrong way to go.
*. Once again with the cliché that it’s the African guy who first senses the presence of the Predator. As with the native soldier Billy in the first film. These ethnic caricatures . . . they just know things the rest of us don’t.
*. Why does no one seem to twig to the fact that the parachutes are some kind of weird alien technology?
*. Isabelle is a young member of the IDF and tells us that she’s “seen most” jungles and that this isn’t one of them. Are there jungles in Israel? Are the IDF active in Asia, Africa, and South America?
*. There’s something existential about the predicaments such movies present us with. I’m thinking of movies like Cell or Saw or 10 Cloverfield Lane, where the characters simply wake up in a weird, hellish environment that will test their ability and will to survive. They don’t understand their situation, but they have to accept and make the best of it, defining themselves and their values in the process. All of these movies seem like versions of No Exit to me. Or is that digging too deep?

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*. How does the chief Predator survive being blown up by a whole set of grenades at the end? As noted earlier, he isn’t wearing body armour. But he isn’t so much as stunned by the explosion, and it doesn’t even damage any of his weapon systems!
*. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it, that these aliens are so advanced they’ve even perfected inter-galactic travel but what they really like to do is run around in the woods killing things. I guess we do the same, but a thousand years from now? That would be a depressing lack of moral progress.
*. I’ve talked about it endlessly, but again we have the video game aesthetic. This is a movie that has no beginning and no end: we just get transported to a certain alien killing zone (Doom, anyone?) and have to stay alive while killing all the bad guys. Then, level complete, it looks like another level is going to start, with harder-to-kill bad guys arriving.
*. There are no characters either. In fact they’re barely types, with no back story. Indeed we don’t even find out the names of the two leads until the final minutes, when it’s presented as a bit of a joke. Who they are just isn’t very important to anything in the plot.
*. In short, I thought this was a wasted opportunity. For an action film, the action isn’t all that great. They could have taken things in some interesting new directions but didn’t, settling for more of the same. Antal and Rodriguez wanted a movie made by fans for fans. That meant playing it safe. In that respect it reminded me of Prometheus, another movie that only marked an expansion into a creatively empty universe.

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