Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: Predators

If there was any question before, there is none now.  Last summer was the year of 80s cartoons; this is the summer of 80s action films.  And, as those of us on the east coast are aware, this year it grows hot.

But to say Predators is an 80s action movie does it a disservice.  Predators is what 80s action movies wanted to be but couldn't quite pull off.  It's the platonic ideal of the 80s action movie.

Before it was released, the question being posed was whether Predators was a better movie than Predator 2.  Rather than answer that, we'd rather pose an alternate question.

Was Predators better than the original?

Before answering this, we should pause to reflect on the original Predator, to consider its merits, as well as its weaknesses.  It is certainly a fantastic movie, produced with more ingenuity than money, staring the world's most iconic action star.  It introduced one of science fiction's most famous monsters to the world, and provided a climactic action sequence that remains among the best ever produced.

But it is far from prefect.  The pacing of the original was inconsistent, and, while it used them mercifully sparingly, their were some groan-worthy lines of dialogue.

Predators, in contrast, opens at a breakneck pace.  It offers no unnecessary exposition and no flashbacks of any kind.  Not a single frame of the movie is wasted on planet Earth.  Not a second.  Character interactions are quick and smartly written.  These characters are no deeper or more complex than those in the original, but, by and large, they're far more effective.  With two exceptions, any member of this piecemeal team could have carried the movie.  Those exceptions, incidentally, are not accidental.  The two "odd men out" practically steal the show.

Which brings us to Adrien Brody, a man who, by rights, should never have been cast in an action movie.  He's thin, weak, and timid.  The last person you'd expect to fill Schwarzenegger's shoes.

After watching Predators, we're ready to see Brody cast as Conan.  Only it would be somewhat redundant, as that was more or less the part he played in the film.

Conan.  With an American accent.  And a gun.  Fighting beside several of the world's most badass mercenaries, killers, and soldiers.  Against three brilliant and merciless alien hunters.

Yeah.  It was better than the original.

While the final act of Predators wasn't quite as amazing as the showdown in part one, as a whole it has fewer flaws.  And, start to finish, it's solidly entertaining.  There were a few blatantly CG explosions that we could have done without, but that's hardly worth complaining about.  We were also a bit surprised by how much Predators echoed Pitch Black, though this is more an academic observation than a complaint.

While it was better than the original Predator, it falls short of Alien, which is really the bar SF action/horror is measured by.  Even so, if Alien is a five star picture, Predators deserves four.

Also, we'd like to take a moment to bow to the genius that chose the music that plays at the start of the opening credits.  It hardly seems a stretch to conclude that was probably Rodriguez's call.  While there will likely be some disagreement, we consider it a fantastic decision.


ZaK Kauffman said...

Good movie, it had its heart in the right place, but it lacked punch for me. I enjoyed it all, but there was never a moment where I really got engaged or had my adrenaline pumping.

All of the secondary stuff was really solid, but I don't think it had a single really great action sequence, and that kept it from going all the way for me.

Brody was damn good.

Erin Snyder said...

I can respect that. The Conan moment really worked for me.