Over Here!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I did not care much for the Alien vs Predator movies. The last one I hated with a vengeance in fact. I don’t know how the Aliens will cope, but there is one clear truth. The new Predator film gets off on the right foot during development and wipes the slate clean of the AvP films, which is a celebration in of itself because those two foul things are no longer canon. But for those who wanted to see another creature feature battle, Predators battle not only human prey, but other creatures and even their own that get out of line. (Well, it’s a bit more than that, but I won’t want to spoil the specific details of it.) The film also loosely ignores the events from Predator 2 (1990) although, according to interviews with Nimrod Avatal (Vacancy), the events from that film are not all discarded- only the AvP films. That’s good enough for me, that’s all I want to know. There were some spoilers that the internet gave out, such as what’s up with Topher Grace’s doctor character Edwin, and other details- but I have to admit that the demise of some characters packs some surprises, as you don’t know how they go out or in which order. There are also a few who don’t like Grace’s role and/or the actor. His lines and mannerisms come off as more small attempts at comic relief, be it obnoxious or playing the straight man. In a way, his character works. What is more interesting is that all of the characters work in this film.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga star in the sci-fi action three-quel 'Predators'

While Alice Braga and Adrien Brody are the leads in the film, the real presence belongs to not Laurence Fishburne, who has a brief part as a Predator survivor gone mad, but rather Oleg Taktarov as Nikolai- who could have played him dumb, but plays it smart. There’s something about the MMA star turned supporting actor (We Own The Night, 15 Minutes) onscreen that the camera loves. It’s also easy to see why he’s cast. Build is one thing, but his passing resemblance to the late Charles Bronson in his Once Upon A Time In The West days is nearly uncanny. Given the premise of the film, actors such as Oleg, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien and Braga don’t have to worry about accents due to the concept of the Predators abducting soldiers, criminals and other “predators” from Earth to a distant ‘game preserve’ planet. Every character gets a minute or two to shine. I also found that there was enough individuality in each character, and I could tell who was who do to characters actions. I actually felt that, even though the backstories for each character are short and to the point, the characters were developed quite well. It’s actually refreshing to see something like this. There was some concern in Internet land about Brody being the lead ‘hero’ of the film because Royce isn’t “built” like Dutch from the first film (or Carl Weathers’ Dillion, for that matter) and the idea that he and this international team is facing off against three Predators who are bigger and with less honor than the ‘classic’ Predators, who also show up in the film.

I felt that this plot point was a bit hard to chew, until the film got into the third act. Yes, the new “dark’ Predators are taller and stronger than the other ‘clan’ of Predators that we know. But the film sticks to the rules even while exploring new ones and sticks by those new rules as well There is nothing I despise more in today’s cinema than a sci-fi or fantasy film who creates a universe and then breaks the rules set by that universe created because those 20 or younger will think it will be cool. That’s not how you make things cool. You make it cool by sticking to the rules set up by the created universe. Any audience, young or old, has to have such guidelines or the audience will be small in number. Having rules helps in suspense, storytelling, and drama. Even for films that ask to check your mind at the door have a set of guidelines in that horror, sci-fi or fantasy universe.

The Predator foes in the film have rules- they have no honor and are arrogant. They have all sorts of tools, attack pets, and upgrade on tactics and tricks when eluded or defeated, but they make themselves known quickly, and it causes room for them to error. The additional idea is that some of those they capture may have some knowledge of the Predators themselves, as hearing about the events from the 1987 and 1990 films. This changes the dynamic, so that the audience does not get ahead of the story. While the first movie had the Predator stalking the team, by now the audience would know that the Predator(s) are out there watching, and it is a matter of time before they close in. With the knowledge shapes goals and tactics: it would be great if the Predators were simply killed, but the goal is to outsmart them and steal the ship in order to get off the planet.

The film ends, and opens up the realm of possibilities. Someone finds an ancient sword, as if good as new. Could a prequel happen where (early mean) Predators hunt Samurai? When the next batch of hunting prey arrive, will the Predators have a surprise waiting for them as the survivors will fill them in? Could the “pets” be killed first or trained to turn against their owners? Could the action take place on another part of the planet? Near the volcano?

The franchise, without being rebooted or remade, is back on the track, and it is no only satisfying, but it is a blueprint as to where things went wrong and how to make it right. Better than the AvPs and igiving them walking papers isn’t enough. Nimrod Avatal and Robert Rodreguiez have surpassed the entertaining but campy Predator 2 but have actually rivaled the enjoyment level of the original.