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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Predators Review

I liked my review of this Predator sequel enough but PLEASE click on the link for a selection of some really awesome hate mail. 

From (Originally written 8 October 2010)

What it's about:

A group of cutthroats, soldiers and mercenaries wake up on an alien planet and soon find themselves the prey of fearsome predatory extraterrestrials in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Forced to work together they have to find a way to beat the odds and get off the forested planet before being brutally massacred, one by one, by their ruthless hosts.   

What we thought:

There apparently really is no keeping these, as Arnie's character in the original Predator put it, "ugly motherfuckers" down. In the nearly quarter century since they first hit our screens, thePredators have popped up constantly in comics, video games and, of course, movies but seldom to much interest to anyone beyond the most die-hard of fans. Plus, let's be honest, the original Predator wasn't all that great in the first place. Ahnuld has done better sci-fi action flicks (Terminators 1 and 2); the 80s yielded much better franchises (Rocky, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Die Hard) and if the question is indeed Aliens vs. Predators, then the answer must surely be Aliens. Yet, here we are again with the inevitable reboot of the franchise overseen, but crucially not directed by, Robert Rodriguez.

As the title suggests, Predators is very much to the original Predator what Aliens was to Alien: the alien playing field, the exponentially multiplied threats. The only difference is that while Aliens was the defining moment of that series, Predators feels like just another instalment of a series that must by now be stale to even its most fervent devotees. Worst of all is that the staleness looks set to continue into at least one more movie, as the film's frustrating non-ending taunts us with threats of what could easily be dozens more of the same boring showdowns between human and monster.

And, boy, is it boring. The opening few minutes do show promise as our motley crew of anti-heroes find themselves alone and under threat in alien territory. I was all set to praise the film for having the courage of its convictions, for being a true, down and dirty sci-fi-action thrill ride. Sadly, the movie didn't end after its first fifteen minutes. It's packed to the gills with massive explosions, ear-shattering screams, brain-pulverizing automatic gunfire, roaringly noisy baddies and frantic camerawork - but none of that was enough to stop me from very nearly, and very literally, falling asleep in the middle of it all.

Part of the problem is that it isn't all that well paced, as the beginning and end of the film are all about the shrieking action set pieces but the middle of the film is all about boring, inane yakking. I'm not sure how long that section actually was. It felt like it went on for hours but could have only been a brief five-minute hiatus from the cacophony. Mind you, it's not like it was any more or any less boring than the "action" but it did bring the film to a halt, making the whole ordeal feel much longer than it probably was.

I could also blame the typically ineffective CGI effects for totally failing to hold my attention but the film's greatest failing is that it absolutely failed to provide me with a single character that I could sympathise with, thereby never giving me a point of entry into what was going on onscreen. It's a very simple, very obvious and utterly essential rule that must steadfastly be obeyed whenever telling a story that is, by nature, removed from our reality: give the audience a human, real-world perspective to give weight and resonance to the fantastical. Or, to put it simply in this case: give us characters that we care about and NOT just an obnoxious parade of cannon fodder.

I can forgive the wonky pacing, weak performances (Adrien Brody should stick to dramatic roles - Arnold Schwarzenegger he ain't), dubious special effects and plot twists that are so telegraphed that you would have to be brain-dead to miss them, but until the filmmakers behind this franchise deign to give us human characters that are even a quarter as memorable as thePredators themselves, the whole blasted franchise will never amount to anything more than a tedious progression of flashy but uninvolving set-pieces. 

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