The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"PREDATORS"

Predators
Adrian Brody and Alice Braga form an uneasy alliance to fight off the Predators.

Predators is the sequel I've been waiting for since 1987. The original, which starred future Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, was a fun sci-fi/action picture. Predator 2, from 1990, made the mistake of taking the creature out of the jungle and putting it into the streets of Los Angeles, to be hunted down by Danny Glover. Needless to say, it didn't work. Then there were those two terrible Alien vs. Predator movies of the last few years. They brought new meaning to the word "suck." Thankfully, producer Robert Rodriguez has assembled a team of filmmakers to create what feels like the only genuine Predator sequel to date.

The movie opens with a bang, as the first image is of a man (Adrian Brody) in freefall, unaware that a parachute on his back is timed to open. He eventually lands in the middle of a jungle. Soon afterward, several other people land as well. All have had the same experience: somehow blacking out, then coming to as they plummeted inexplicably toward the ground. It soon becomes clear that most people in the group are, in some way, killers. Brody was a one-time government mercenary and assassin. There's a member of the Japanese Yakuza, a death row inmate, a gang member, and so on. The odd person out is a doctor (Topher Grace), whom the others surmise is there to treat their injuries.

And it doesn't take long to figure out what will cause said injuries. They quickly figure out that they're on a different planet, sent by an unknown entity for unknown reasons. Their purpose is to be prey for the vicious creatures that inhabit this strange world. Brody leads the charge in trying to find a way to defeat the predators and get off the planet. In so doing, he stumbles across a man (Laurence Fishburne) who was sent down with a previous group, somehow managed to survive, and now has a grasp on sanity that is tenuous at best.

Predators was made in the same spirit as the original. All of the action takes place in a jungle setting, and the emphasis is on survival. Some characters are killed by the creatures pretty quickly, while others live to fight a little longer. There are plenty of scenes in which the fearsome predators shoot electrical charges at their prey, blend into the immediate surroundings, or display their hideous flapped mouths in preparation for attack. The fun of the original was watching people try to stay alive in a confined space, with a lethal and nearly-invincible enemy stalking them. Predators recaptures that vibe perfectly.

Director Nimrod Antal (yes, his name is Nimrod) stages the action well, using just enough gore to make the point without going too far overboard. The performances are about as good as can be expected in this type ofq fare, with Brody convincingly playing a stoic-but-flawed ex-soldier and Fishburne successfully navigating a role that could have been very, very silly. Most importantly, the special effects team has perfected the creatures without feeling the need to reinvent them. These predators still look creepy, and their attacks on the humans are handled with all the ferocity fans of the original would expect.

For me, the main drawback of Predators is that the character development is pretty thin. Most of the characters just represent individual traits as opposed to being fully fleshed-out people. A little more depth might have given me an increased desire to root for them. Pictures like this work best when we really want to see the victims escape. Maybe character development will come in the next sequel which, as suggested here, could involve a search for answers as to who is sending prey to the creatures.

On all other levels, Predators delivered exactly what I wanted. It may not be a great film, but Rodriguez and Antal know that fans have been craving a faithful sequel for a long time, and they've resolved to give it to us. To this, I can only say: At last!

( out of four)


Predators is rated R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.