The notion of a new Predator movie may inspire thrills in many, but the idea didn’t really fly with me straight away. I’ve seen the original Predator, which was good, and Aliens vs Predators, which was laughable, and that’s it. But then I heard that it was being made by Troublemaker Studios, which is owned by Robert Rodriguez and—well—that was it. I had to see it. Rodriguez is one of my heroes: a man who, with his talent for making solidly fun movies without budget blowouts, could probably have done Avatar for forty-six dollars and a six pack if James Cameron had bothered asking. So with the movie out yesterday but me at work, I barrelled towards the cinema for the first Friday showing, armed with popcorn and the stupid, adoring smile reserved only for Robert Rodriguez. And all he did was produce the thing.
It’s the story of eight people who are dropped from the sky with nothing but a parachute and the weapons they were last carrying. They’re all fighters—mercenaries, yakuza, soldiers, murderers—and despite being naturally wary, they band together to try and figure out what’s going on. It soon becomes clear that they are on another planet and that something is hunting them. Whatever could it be? Oh, yes, Predators, that’s right.
So does it hold up? Well, it’s a physical impossibility for Robbo to make a terrible film, so yes. If you wanted to go see a movie about humans fighting Predators, then you’ll find all you want in it. Surprise deaths, gore, explosions, the chasing of something that can be virtually invisible. The cast is solid, including the likes of Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo, surprise tough guy Adrien Brody, and serial creeper Walton Goggins. There are moments of tension and drama, and while the humans are generally a reprehensible lot of killers, you still feel for them and don’t really want them to die. (Shocking spoiler: not everyone survives.) Brody’s Royce takes charge, along with Israeli Defence Force sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga) who supports him and also does all those womanly things like have emotions and get nauseous at the sight of an eviscerated carcass. They need to find a way off the planet, and with the help of an unexpected cameo appearance (not from Arnie, keep your panties on), they may have a chance.
Predators is a good movie that does what it says on the box. It’s formulaic, but it’s not B-grade, or too corny (though there are a few clichéd lines thrown in there, like “Storm’s coming. Better get to shelter” and “I can’t do it alone!”) and it’s well-made. The Predators are big and enormously-mandibled, but for me—who didn’t see Predator as an impressionable teenager but as a cynical adult—they just look like oversized people and aren’t that scary to me. I like to be frightened, and this movie had some jumpy parts, but I couldn’t help finding the Predators faintly ridiculous. At one point, a monster rips out a human’s spine with skull still attached, a serious and awful moment that seemed so overdone that I burst into giggles.
For a studio known for pretty fun and dependable special effects, one explosion looked far too fluffy and fake, which was a great shame, and another visual flaw came in the scene where our heroes are able to see the sky properly for the first time and the shot of nearby planets looks lifted straight from a motivational poster. Some of our humans aren’t developed enough as characters for us to do anything but say “ew” when they die. There are a few other flaws—why are there Earth plants on a different planet? why do they comment that the sun doesn’t move but then suddenly they’re in night? why do the Predators occasionally stand up and dither before making the kill, leaving nearby shooters able to get their targets carefully positioned?—but on the whole, seeing as you’re already buying into a plot where aliens farm violent humans to indulge their hunting habits sans pickup truck, the problems aren’t that large. All in all, the movie remains a satisfying bust-up on a beautifully rendered planet, and while it’s a bit carnage-by-numbers, it’s still absolutely worth watching, even if just to see Adrien Brody a bit nude and covered in mud.