Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Treehouse Review: Predators

"The sequel the original deserved" hailed exec producer Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal. Did it, really? Why, what had it done? What did that most beloved of Arnie classics really do to deserve this shonky squib of a quasi-remake of a movie? I’m not sure, but I do understand what they meant - Predator does deserve a sequel of suitable largesse. Predator 2, for all it's 80’s charm and Danny Glover, wasn't exactly what fans were expecting, and the less said about the cross pollination with the Alien universe the better. But sadly we’ll have to keep waiting for this mystical holy grail of monster-mashery, as this drab little number, which Rodriguez professed to contain “everything he would want to see in a Predator film” is a mildly entertaining romp, but little more, and certainly never reaches the dizzy heights of the original.

Adrien Brody (wait, wat?!) heads up a cast of roughnecks and ne'er do wells all dropped into the same situation, being, falling through the sky above a dense forest with various weapons of choice strapped to them. Initially no one knows what the hell is going on – each remembers a light, then awaking falling. What is clear is their similarities. Each is a stone cold killer of some form or another, either snatched from a warzone or maximum security prisons – there’s Brody with his big arms and gun. There’s Danny Trejo with his big knives and guns, there’s Alice Braga with her big ol' rifle, and various other people with either big guns or big attitudes – including the silent be-suited yakuza and the mouthy death row inmate – who unfairly doesn’t have any guns. Oh and there’s also a friendly family doctor. What on earth is he doing there eh? Well in a deeply obvious ‘twist’ we find out later.

Suspicion of kidnapping initially falls on each other and there follows lots of shouting and general pointing of various guns. Eventually they hit upon the idea that they should have a look around – so they do, grumbling and bitching about who’s toughest the whole while. We of course know the truth, and the little band of campers quickly catch up, that they are in fact in an Alien rainforest and about to be hunted by the most famous trophy collector(s) of all, the fearsome Predator(s). Well three in fact, hence the titular plural. Forget the notion of hundreds of the blighters though, three is the magic number (although we see another chap later on, so its 4 tops) the shot you may have seen in the trailer where Brody's body is lit up by countless little laser sights is simply not in this film – a shockingly misleading deception.

So comes to pass what you might expect, we get some predator style 1st person shots and the group quickly start losing members. Hunters themselves, the gang quickly recognise the tactics being deployed against them – we see packs of unconvincing predator dogs used to flush them out, wounded/dead comrades being used to unsuccessfully lure in more of the group, and eventually a full on showdown reveals the band of predators hunting them – a rather uninspiring bunch – they’re predators, what do you want? I don't know, heaven forbid this might bring something new to the table. After momentarily escaping them by jumping off a waterfall (hey just like Arnie!) the group get picked up by none other than Lawrence Fishbourne – who has been here on the planetoid for several years evading capture, going slightly mad and apparently eating all the pies. The guys is FAT now and it’s a little embarrassing to have to even mention it, but he’s supposed to have been hiding in a wrecked spaceship for years eating space rats, so seriously, why is the guy so fat?! Fail. Forced from hiding, in a blindingly stupid and incongruous move by Fishburne, who's supposedly evaded capture all these years but can't keep hidden in the presence of a film crew, what's left of the group move into endgame, and take on those alien sumbitches.

There’s nothing in Predators that’s overtly awful. The action is fun, the visuals are on the whole pleasing, the characters are diverse and interesting in a cardboard cutout kind of way, and each competently portrayed by the ensemble cast. Problems start at the top - Brody never convinces as the tough guy lead – his beefy arms which he must be very proud of, simply cannot do enough to detract from his adowable widdle face and you can't shake the feeling that he's wandered in from some less explosive movie by mistake. The rest of the crew are just not given enough to do to be interesting, or cared about, and like ten pin bowling pins simply wait to be cut in half. The loveable grunts of the original, this bunch are not. One sequence sees the yakuza chap, who has luckily found a samurai sword, engage in a little mono a mono action with one of the Pred-gang, in a nod to the fight we never saw between Billy the tracker and the original Pred, and this sequence is a winner if a little pointless, 'scuse the pun.

On the whole we’re left feeling this about the whole affair; was there any actual point to that? It’s not fun enough to satisfy your action craving. It’s not bloody enough to sate your gore hound. It just sits there on its haunches, beaming its little tri-laser sight into your eyes, until it decides to stop. At times it feels like a remake - what with having the same soundtrack, and scenes reflecting the original, but this just serves to highlight the lack of originality, and while it may reflect the original, the scene you're watching is never superior. Where are the quotable quotes? The mystery? The fear? The totally pointless inclusion of the mysterious doctor character is actually saved as a kind of surprise twist – look away if you really don’t want to know – turns out, he's a serial killer! And decides the final reel of the movie is a good time to start killing his companions, although they're almost certainly his only hope of survival. Hm, that makes complete sense, and nicely illustrates how misguided the creators were in uncovering where the horror lies in a Predator movie. You get the feeling the writers were scrabbling around trying to find the meat left on the bones of what was a fairly sound concept, but instead found only the gristle. Not the essential addition to the universe we were hoping then, but really, in the shadow of such great company, so much a product of its age, is that ever really going to happen? Tough to recommend on it's own merits, but worthy of a rent if there’s nowt on the telly.

Treehouse rating

2 out of 5



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