We often talk about films being formulaic and I fear that our overuse of the term may have caused it to lose some of its impact; so when I say that Predators is really formulaic, try and treat it as though it’s the first time I’ve ever uttered the word.
Eight strangers wake up stranded in a jungle – attempting to find out where they are and how they got there – only to be picked off one by one by a mysterious enemy hiding in the shadows until the final showdown, where only two of the eight are still standing. These two must then face the mysterious enemy head on using the knowledge they’ve garnered of it throughout the course of the movie, before emerging victorious.
Formulaic right? All that however, isn’t to say that formulaic equals bad, it’s just that if you’re looking for something new and refreshing, you won’t find it here. Please don’t be upset if I’ve spoiled the movie for you, after all it should be stuff we’ve all seen before. It should come as no surprise then that the Japanese guy dies an honourable death protecting the others, or that the final two left alive are the main character and the only girl. Frankly if these things do surprise you, I highly recommend you stop reading this and start watching more movies.
I believe I’ve made it fairly obvious before now that I’m a big action movie fan so none of the formulaic chat above adversely affected my viewing of Predators whatsoever. It was nice to finally receive a spiritual successor to the original movie, and the fact that it literally lifts its scenes straight from the Action Movie Handbook proved to be somewhat more of an enjoyable aspect rather than a bad one. After the initial twenty minutes, the action comes thick and fast and it doesn’t take all too long before the group’s number begins to diminish and the way in which this is done is so predictable that watching Predators becomes a game of guessing how and when the big stuff is going to happen.
The standard formula here is supported by the movie’s ensemble cast with all major “tough guy” stereotypes catered for; the Russian, the Yakuza, the Cartel enforcer and so on. Adrien Brody leads the cast and seemingly attended the same “how to be a tough guy” school that Christian Bale did, simply by buffing up then acting distant and talking in a gravelly voice for the duration. Performance wise this isn’t going to do anything for his career but it’s always nice to see familiar faces treading new ground. As far as whether or not him taking the lead in an action movie goes; my response to that is very “meh” – he’s not bad, it’s just that this role isn’t a deep character piece and doesn’t really call for much more than a cursory performance and there isn’t really anything any other actor could have brought to it that Brody didn’t himself. The other guys in the cast all play their stereotyped roles well enough with a mentally disturbed Laurence Fishburne probably providing the most entertaining performance of the support. Again some of the familiar faces are treading new ground here, but none of them do anything special.
My only real disappointment was in the sloppy way which the introduction of the “super predators” is handled. The main enemies in this film aren’t the predators we’ve seen before but a new harder, faster, stronger type who are at war with the lesser kind we’ve encountered previously. Presumably then in the twenty three years between the original and this one, standard predators with their heat vision and energy weapons just became too standard fare to deal with Adrien Brody alone so now we have to deal with the big daddies too. This element wasn’t handled particularly well and could prove confusing to newcomers to the franchise, which is a shame when every other aspect is so welcoming. I will say though that we’re given nice visual indications when both types are on screen to make it easy enough to distinguish between the two.
All in then, I found Predators to be a very enjoyable watch – classic summer action sci-fi fare- but realistically your taste in film will decide for you whether or not it’s for you. It’s so standardised it isn’t going to change any minds so if you like this kind of thing already, then definitely go and see it. If you’re massively against action sci-fi then it’s not going to do anything for you. If you’re in the middle, then you could do a lot worse right now in the lead up to this summer’s big movies.