THE FRANCHISE SO FAR
Back in 1987, I really enjoyed the movie Predator, the original film about a race of warrior aliens who home to Earth on hunting expeditions. Their prey is an elite military team on a covert rescue mission. The Predator kills the team members one by one, but it is ultimately defeated by the team leader, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The sequel, set in present day Los Angeles, pitted the Predator against rival drug cartels and LAPD officers. It's a much more convoluted story and not as well done as the first film.
The less said about the two Alien V. Predator movies, the better.
A FRESH APPROACH TO THE SAME IDEA
As in the original film, Predators pits a group of humans against alien hunters. In this film, the group of trained soldiers and experienced killers are dropped into an unfamiliar jungle, which they later discover is an alien planet. They soon realize that they are in a game preserve, where they are being hunted for sport by aliens.
The movie begins with an unconscious man (Adrian Brody) plummeting through the air. He wakes up, panics, but then begins beating the parachute harness on his chest. It seems to be malfunctioning, but opens soon enough that the man makes a survivable hard landing. He is equipped for battle so quickly pulls out his machine gun. Soon more humans fall out of the sky near him. None of them know what's happening, and they are inclined to fight with each other. Brody (his character refuses to give his name) convinces them to calm down, and they figure out that most of them are soldiers, one is a convicted murderer, and one tells them he's a doctor. No one can identify the jungle that they're in, so they begin to travel towards higher ground, where they can observe the lay of the land. When they reach a clearing, they see a sky filled with planets and realize they are no longer on Earth.
During their journey, the group are pursued by alien hunting dogs, encounter booby traps set by another human, and are almost lured into an ambush when the Predators nab one of their group and use him to set a trap. They locate a death camp, where they see the bodies and bones of many previous victims, as well as a living Predator captive. One more human is killed there. The lone female in the group (Alice Braga) recognized the captured Predator, and explains that a similar creature attacked a group of soldiers in Guatemala in 1987 (a reference to the first film).
Another member of the group is almost killed when another human comes to the rescue. Noland (Laurence Fishburne) has been on the planet for a long time, surviving by salvaging weapons and tools from the Predators and their victims. He talks to an imaginary friend, seemingly suffering from the stress of battle and being alone. He tells the group that an alien spaceship has landed near the death camp, and he also explains that they are up against two species of Predators. One is larger and kills the smaller ones (the ones we have seen on Earth before) for sport, just as they kill the humans.
Predators find their camp and several of the humans are killed. One of the humans uses an ancient Japanese sword and duels with a Predator. Both are killed. The doctor is injured by a steel jaw trap, and Brody encourages Braga to leave him. She refuses. Brody releases the Predator in the camp and they seem to come to an understanding. Then the bigger Predator attacks. Brody runs for the spaceship. The spaceship takes off. The big Predator kills the little Predator. The spaceship blows up.
BIG SPOILER ALERT!!
The doctor and Braga are trapped in a pit. Braga offers to kill them both before the Predators can, but he doesn't care about that. He cuts Braga with a poisoned knife, paralyzing her. He tells her that he's a murderer and is going to kill her. Brody comes back in the nick of time, having not gotten on the spaceship after all, and he stops the doctor. In a technique similar to what the Predators did with the first human victim, Brody uses the doctor to lure the Predator close then detonates a bunch of grenades. The Predator is not killed, so they have a big final battle. Braga is wounded. Brody beats the Predator to death. Brody admits that his name is Royce and Braga introduces herself as Isabelle. They look up and see a bunch of new victims parachuting into the jungle, and Brody announces that it's time to find a way off this planet.
Credits roll over to the tune of "Long Tall Sally" sung by Little Richard.
MY COMMENTS AND OBSERVATIONS
Most of the characters are not likeable. They are thugs and murderers. Why should we care that they are in the position of being hunted like animals. They are animals.
The planet was too much like Earth. The doctor recognizes a strange looking plant as containing a dangerous neurotoxin. I know they had to film on Earth, but we saw nothing alien at all except the Predators and one alien hunting victim. No plants that were unrecognizable. No animals or birds. (Hubby says he heard birds but I don't recall seeing any.) Some kind of beetle is found in the crate that an alien captive was dropped in, and they saw the same beetles on the corpse. Brody slapped a bug on his neck once. Just once. He also skewered a beetle of some kind, but I don't know if it was the same as the ones on the alien.
I thought Brody was going to eat the beetle. It would have been gross, but not at all unexpected. They hadn't eaten or said anything about food the whole time. They walked and walked and walked and ran and fought and walked, and never talked about being hungry or thirsty. Some of them had their battle backpacks with them; maybe they had some rations or bottled water, but we never saw it. We never saw the inevitable confrontation by the people who didn't have packs with them and would have also been hungry or thirsty.
The doctor is hanging from his parachute straps in a tree when the others first encounter him. He falls into a pool of water. It's played for laughs like, he's acting like he's going to drown then he stands up. None of these people think about the things that are in water in a jungle. There might have been leeches or bacteria or any number of nasty things. Nobody says to get out quick or anything. Later they are chased off a cliff and into a larger body of water, but they still don't seem concerned about dangers that might be in the water.
When Isabelle (Braga) tells about the Guatemala incident, she says one man survived by covering himself with mud to hide his body heat. The movie goes on for another hour before anyone uses that tip, and even then, it's not really used effectively. A ring of fire is more useful camouflage at that point.
The humans don't seem very careful to grab weapons when someone is killed. They do salvage a few things from Noland's place when they have to leave quickly. Near the beginning, they are using their guns pretty carelessly. After a big gun battle, when they have wasted a lot of ammo, in my opinion, Brody says that they need to count their rounds and conserve what they have, but we don't get a count and they don't seem ever to try to make their shots count.
The doctor's change at the end seems to come out of the blue. He has one conversation with the convicted killer/rapist that could possibly have made us wonder about it, but if they tried to do something subtle, it was too subtle for me. Near the end, he makes one decision that didn't seem in character, and then he lies about a photograph, but this was very near the end. It almost seems like they started out with him as a doctor then decided to go a different direction midway through the script.
The doctor finds the neurotoxin plant early on. Two other characters know about it. we don't see what the doctor does with the poison on his little knife; one assumes he wiped it off somewhere. At no point does anyone suggest that they use the neurotoxin on spears or arrows or bullets that might help defeat the alien enemy. Nor does anyone suggest that they try to reset the booby traps at the other human's camp or create similar ones around a camp of their own. It's like they just don't think about it.
The music was adequate and draws on the themes created by Alan Silvestri for the first film. New composer John Debney has never done anything truly inventive or inspiring, so it's not a surprise that the score wasn't anything special. The Little Richard tune was used in a couple of scenes in the original film, but my husband and I didn't remember it from the first movie, so its use over the end credits was mystifying at the time.
The direction by Nimród Antal was adequate. It's certainly not the worst film direction I've seen. Only one scene featured truly irritating camera work; it's near the beginning when the convict is fighting with a soldier from Sierra Leone. They stand up and the camera is shaking and the men are wobbling, and it's hard to focus in on anything. My husband was not impressed with the way some of the fights were shot. Antal has done a couple of features and apparently a lot of music videos. It's a really bad idea to use music video and videogame directors to direct features, but it seems to be the recruitment tool of choice for Hollywood. I think that's a lot of the reason that movies don't seem to have much heart and soul these days.
Predators was an interesting enough film and a somewhat worthy sequel to the 1987 movie. It's far from a great film. Like so many movies today, it seems less a cohesive script than a compilation of scenes and lines and characters cobbled together from previous films. It's not well thought out. There's no point to having the fight on an alien planet, except that it leaves two characters trapped there in set-up for another sequel.