Predators
Hello?! I think I wandered into the wrong genre … anybody???

Theatrical Release Date: 07/09/2010
Director: Nimród Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walter Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali

Bursting into theaters this weekend is “Robert Rodriguez’s Predators”. Many people (mostly those with a y chromosome and nostalgic hankering for old school Schwarzenegger) are excited to see what Rodriguez can do with the franchise. I wonder how many of them actually realize that he’s not directing the project?

No, instead the man in the director’s chair is Nimród Antal, who’s filmography probably doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence: “Armored” (did anyone see this?), “Vacancy” (which Elizabeth and Audrey panned), and “Kontroll” (which I appreciated but no one saw). Well, to my great and welcome surprise, Antal didn’t abuse the faith placed in him and there is finally a sequel to “Predator” worthy of being included in the franchise.

Some out there may be wondering why “Predator 2″ isn’t worthy … I suggest watching the film and you’ll get your answer. And even though there were some initial plans to include cameos by Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover, the final result is a film with no hint whatsoever that cops ever encountered an alien menace in the streets of L.A. (and Gary Busey is scarier than an alien hunter anyway). In this installment, a group of human killing machines are dropped unceremoniously onto a distant planet and methodically stalked and killed (you can take your own guesses at who survives).

Antal and his team did a nice job of making the action harken back to the original film, while still updating a few effects to appease modern audiences. The infrared vision of the Predators is back, as is the idea of creating traps made out of whatever materials the alien jungle can provide. Along with two new creatures (one of which still needs some explanation), it was nice to see that different kinds of Predators (and their disdain for one another) are also introduced.

The team of humans who have banded together to increase their odds of survival are a nice mix of stock personalities and combat styles. Adrien Brody utilized his best Batman voice to hopefully allow the audience to buy his tough guy shtick, though the supposed 25 lbs. of muscle mass and abs that he added for the role still didn’t stop me snickering a bit when the shirt comes off. Alice Braga is an underrated actress and managed to make her character work within the flimsy context of the film’s premise (as much I like this flimsy premise). Topher Grace is at first a surprising choice (especially because I didn’t know he was in it until I saw him) but his casting makes sense given the character.

One notion I would like to dispel in case it’s something you were really looking forward to is a lengthy part for Laurence Fishburne. Morpheus is almost completely useless, barely a plot device and on-screen less than a majority of the other humans. And if there’s are elements to the film that I have complaints about, they stem from the order in which certain characters are killed (the first one to go is über disappointing), the explanation of how long a hunting season lasts, a poorly set-up stand off between one character and a Predator (you’ll know what I’m talking about), and how too many of the film’s “twists” are foreshadowed or poorly executed by Antal. If anything really surprises you, this is clearly a genre you’re just now being introduced to.

Still, if you’re not too critical, the bottom line here is that “Predators” is fun and a welcome popcorn flick so I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5. It matches up well with the original film (even including a shortened version of my favorite movie quote of all time) and should have fans leaving the theater satisfied for the first time with any cinematic follow-up to the franchise (don’t get me started on the “Aliens vs Predator” crap). So enjoy watching alien trophy hunters track down Brody and his pals, this is the first film of the summer worth its release date that isn’t animated and hopefully a sign that better studio films are on the horizon.