Audiences are slowly getting used to more and more abstract sequels these days. Now that we all understand the difference between a sequel, a prequel, a remake and a reboot is, we now have new sequels that slot in somewhere in the middle of existing franchises. It happened in 2006’s Superman Returns (which did its best to ignore Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace), and now we get to see Predators, a film which ignores both Predator 2 and the Alien vs Predator films.
This feature has a strange history, as many will already know. Robert Rodriguez originally wrote a version of the script whilst working on Desperado in 1995, which was rejected. Fast-forward some 14 years and that film has finally been made. In fact, Predators only got the green light just over a year ago, so whilst it took 14 years to get off the ground, they certainly didn’t waste any time once the decision was made.
It’s hard to tell if my knowledge of the film’s recent history coloured my expectations, but Predators certainly feels rushed. The special effects are fairly rough, and the pacing feels haphazard. In fact, the whole thing feels pretty cheap. The original film looked far slicker than this.
It would be easy to argue that this is the first Predator sequel we should have had. This time around, a ragtag bunch of very violent people gets dropped into an unknown jungle, with no memory of how they got there. The opening is a lot like Cube, actually. The problem is that this film can’t keep us glued to our seats from the get go like Vincenzo Natali’s debut feature did, because the audience all know exactly what our humans are up against.
This means that the first 40 minutes are pretty much wasted. Sure, this is a nicely varied bunch of people, but they’re all pretty much defined by their nationality, rather than any attempt to infuse them with any sort of significant characterisation. There are only so many types of badass, after all. Adrien Brody is in the lead role, and some may be surprised that he does make a pretty decent action hero. He’s tall and buff but has the advantage of actually looking like a real person – something Arnie and his biceps have never really been good at.
Predators can be congratulated for making the majority of the film about the humans, rather than the titular aliens. The film’s namesakes actually don’t have much screentime at all. Instead it’s the infighting and bickering (and brilliantly hilarious appearance by Lawrence Fishburn) that keeps the film moving.
Unfortunately, it lacks any decent action, something which comes as a disappointment. Say what you will about the first Alien Vs. Predator, but at least there were some nifty fights. Here, it’s clear – again – that it was a rush job; a lot of the film’s climax happens in the dark. The most annoying part of the film would have to be the score, however, which simply feels like Alan Silvestri’s original soundtrack put on shuffle. I appreciate that they wanted to carry over some themes for consistency, but John Debney’s work does nothing new except add some guitars into the mix.
This is a film that only barely passes for decent entertainment. Predators never gets boring and it’s fittingly brutal, but saying “It’s better than Predator 2 and Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem” is faint praise indeed.Rating: