Tuesday, 2 November 2010

PREDATORS DVD review

The new Adrien Brody starring sequel is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Watch the trailer and read my review, after the jump...

After surviving a freefall into a secluded and hostile jungle, mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) must team up with a group of similarly clueless and equally armed soldiers to battle against the beings that are out to kill them. Hunted like dogs, they must use their military knowledge to fend off the Predators.

The jungle set first film in this series came out in 1987 and was very much designed as a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger and his particular brand of action; lots of guns, lots of muscles. This was followed in 1990 by the Danny Glover starring, inner-city set sequel which only grossed half as much as its predecessor, and was seen as quite underwhelming for fans of the original. The Predator franchise got a major boost when it was pitted against the Alien franchise in two critically despised but awfully profitable spin-offs, so it was only a matter of time before the Predator race took the lead in its own film once again.

Robert Rodriguez has long been a fan of the series, and had written a script for a sequel as far back as 1994, so when 20th Century Fox decided to kick some life back into the franchise it was Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios who got the call. However, Rodriguez is only overseeing this project from a producers standpoint, with directing duties falling to Nimrod Antal, director of Vacancy and Armoured. There's a definite trend at the moment to see these small-time directors being mentored by more established and successful directors.

This film introduces some new elements into the series, firstly that this film is not set on Earth. This is set in the confines of a jungle planet which may be the Predators homeland, though this is not established. The jungle setting is of course reminiscent of the original Predator film, with the Predators using the trees to gain a high vantage point. They still dart around the screen in cloaked form, and you'll always be checking the peripherals for signs of their presence. It's a haunted house movie, but set in a tropical jungle. We also see the introduction of a Predatorish breed of dog used in the hunt. These are rabid, snarling creatures that could jump out of the shrubbery at any second, and are a nice but underused addition to the series.

In terms of casting, no-one here has the same star (or muscle) power as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and although you could argue that Predator starts as an ensemble piece, Arnie's the main reason to watch. Here we have Oscar winner Adrien Brody leading the cast as mercenary Royce, a self-serving soldier for hire who becomes a de-facto leader in all the chaos. This must be the most mainstream thing Brody's ever done, but he plays the no nonsense action man well. He gets to use his wits and off some Predator dogs with a frankly massive knife, and is totally believable doing it. He's backed up by Isabelle (Alice Braga), a ballsy sniper with a distrust of Royce's methods. The rest of the cast is filled out with character actors you'd recognise from elsewhere, with That 70's Show's Topher Grace as the doctor, Laurence Fishburne as the grizzled war vet and Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo as the one guy smart enough to bring two guns.

Following the course of the original film, the shabbily pieced together team slowly get picked off one by one, as the Predators decide to stop toying with their prey and get straight to the spine-ripping. As with the original, some guys you'll care about, some guys you just want to see killed, and there's a few interesting set-pieces that bring new ways to see them dispatched.

The Predators may hunt in packs of three from the trees, but that doesn't mean there's not other things to watch out for from outside and within the camp. These Predators have continued the idea that they treasure their spoils of war, adorning their armour with remnants of previous victims. They still look awesome in full costume, but perhaps aren't given enough screen time.

There's plenty of nods to the original, including a reference to Arnie's method of survival, though Predator 2 and the AVP films have been glossed over in the story. The original Predator isn't required viewing though; I could have gone into this franchise assuming this was the first film and it wouldn't have lost anything. As well as the original film, thematic devices have also been borrowed from Aliens and Cube, which may make the story seem somewhat similar to genre fans.

Remember the scene in the original where Billy faces off against the Predator on a bridge? It's a fantastically grandstanding moment that unfortunately we don't see the conclusion of, we just hear it. Well here we finally have the pay-off for that fight, reenacted by the equally honourable and silent Yakuza, Hanzo. It's these moments that make the film great, and there's enough of them to keep you entertained.

It's not as much a stand-alone joy as the original, but does feature better acting and plot development. Some of the characters do seem unnecessary (ahem, Laurence Fishburne), but not to the point of distraction. You know what their final outcome will be, it's just a matter of waiting.

However, as a reboot of a franchise I can't think of any more successful attempts than this. It holds up to the original, whilst adding new elements and new characters. I just hope the rumoured Alien relaunch is as entertaining. For a series that I considered dead, I'm now eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Verdict





This is a reprint of my cinema review, where I originally awarded the film 4 stars. It doesn't work quite as well on home viewing, so I've adjusted my verdict accordingly.

No comments:

Post a comment