Saturday, 17 July 2010
Remember "Predator"? Yeah? Ace, wasn't it? Big, burly blokes with big bastard guns, swaggering through the jungle, killing baddies and blowing shit up? A mysterious creature sneaking about and eviscerating them one by one? Arnie immortalising corny dialogue in the way only he can? Apollo Creed getting his arm shot off (you can totally see it tucked behind his back!)? Billy the psychic Native-American taking his top off and self-harming? Shane Black telling bad jokes? "Long Tall Sally"? Goddamn sexual tyrannosauruses? "Over here... Turn around"? "KILL ME, I'M HEEEAAAH! DO EEET!"? "GET TO DA CHOPPER!"?
Reading the previous paragraph amounts to pretty much the same experience as watching "Predators". This is a film that was promised as a return to the roots of the series after the absurd developments and fanboy in-jokery of the "Aliens vs Predator" series. Robert Rodriguez dug out a script he wrote in the 90s as a sequel to "Predator 2", polished it up, hired the hilariously monikered Nimrod Antal to direct, and got cracking.
The film opens interestingly enough, with Adrien Brody waking up whilst falling from a great height. He panics, waves his beak around, tumbles through the air a bit, then a parachute seemingly opens automatically and he falls into a jungley place. So far, so moderately entertaining.
It doesn't take long for the film to start to go south.
As soon as Brody is up and about, inroducing himself to other parachutees, the cracks begin to show. The dialogue is stilted, unconvincing and contrived, and the concept immediately feels forced and juvenile.
It emerges that all the characters (Brody, Danny Trejo, Alice Braga and some others) are proper good at killing folks (Yakuza, Special Forces, Drug Cartel Enforcer, RUF geurrilla chap etc) and were all in some sort of combat situation when they were abducted by aliens and dropped in a jungle on another planet. I'm pretty sure I wrote this story at high school one time.
It may seem churlish to lament characterisation in a film of this kind, but everyone here is simply a type, with no development beyond the superficial "I know about hunting" or "I am a good sniper" or "I am Russian". The exceptions being Topher Grace as a Doctor apparently brought along by mistake, and Big Larry Fishburne as a (surprisingly well-fed) Ben Gunn-type character who has been surviving alone in the jungle for ages, dresses like a Predator and talks to his imaginary friends.
Many have voiced surprise at Brody's casting as a hardman action-fighter, but he applies himself well. Even if he is just playing a low-rent, imitation Riddick complete with selfish amorality and a less convincing character arc.
Along with the lack of anything approaching a relatable or likeable character, the action is strangely static and un-inspired, the Predators look cartoonish and silly, and the movie is steeped in the un-neccessary in-jokes that so marred the AVP films. When, in the first five minutes of the film, someone starts firing a mini-gun wildly into the jungle, I started to cringe. I didn't really stop cringeing for the rest of the film. They're all here: "Over here... turn around", "Kill me! I'm here!", a character takes his top off for a last stand show-down with a Pred-head, Adrien Brody ends up stripped to the waist and covered in mud for no apparent reason, and "Long Tall Sally" (a song which has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE EVENTS OF THIS FILM) plays over the end credits. It's the equivalent of watching the film with someone who keeps nudging you in the ribs and going "Remember "Predator"? Good wannit?" at regular intervals. This only serves to remind you repeatedly of a film you would rather be watching.
There is a problem here which faces many remakes and sequels to "classic" films. They are being made by fans. They end up becoming box-ticking fan-wank, attempting to elicit an emotional response by reaching into people's brains and pushing the button marked "nostalgic nerd-gasm". This is not enough.
There are a couple of moments in "Predators" that keep the interest (Grace and Fishburne, the moment when a corpse pleads for help), but they are almost entirely drowned in flat action, suspense-free "horror" and aimless and contrived plotting. "Oh, theres a plant that excretes a paralytic neuro-toxin! I wonder if that will come into play later on?" "Of course the Yakuza guy would find an ancient (but still shiny) samurai sword in a derelict spaceship! How else would he be able to have a worryingly inert and unimpressive kendo set-to with a blade-wafting Predator?"
If you fancy some Predator action, I would recommend you watch the original over this. Or even the second one. At least that has Bill Paxton. And Crazy Gary Busey.