Directed by Nimrod Antal
Starring Adrian Brody, Danny Trejo
The original Predator was a little action film that ended up being elevated to iconic status not just because of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscles but also because of tight writing unique Stan Winston alien designs, and suspenseful and well tuned direction from John McTiernan. This is a film that should have spawned a long running and successful franchise. It did begin a successful franchise but not because there were a bunch of successful films. Predator 2 featured Danny Glover and Gary Busey doing battle with aliens in a burned out city and overall it was entertaining if a little less successful that the first film. The films that followed were Predators vs. Aliens films and those two films managed to destroy not one but two great franchises.
Those ugly mother f#@kers deserved another chance at a good movie and when it was first announced that Robert Rodriguez would be producing a new Predator only film the stars seemed to be aligning for a potential reboot of the franchise. Happily Rodriguez and his director Nimrod Antal decided rather than do a reboot they would do a sequel to the first film. The film they crafted, simply titled Predators with an “s” and it’s a very solid homage to the first film and an evolution of the story that started with the first film. Brian Singer should really take a look at Predators and see the right way to homage a franchise and still do a good movie. Singer’s Superman Returns focused more on the homage than on the storytelling and well, that’s another article.
In this film a group of people including a couple of mercenaries, a soldier, a yakuza hitman, a doctor, and some criminals that are also good at killing wake up to find themselves hurting through the clouds with parachutes on their backs. Once they all hit the ground after some fighting and disagreements they decide to investigate the strange forest they are in and try to figure out where they are. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that they are in fact on a planet set up as a game preserve for the Aliens to visit and hunt. So the set up here is very reminiscent of the original film except that now they are on another planet. Thematically the main story does this throughout its running time. The creators take the classic story and give it an upgrade. The eventual final fight is a fairly clever play on what Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) had to do in the first film to beat the alien he fought. The score even contains some elements from the original film’s score and there are some shots in this one that are reminiscent of the original. These little nods are a great way to tie this movie to the original and forget the others even exist.
Add to the almost standard alien versus hero story an additional layer of fascinating alien mythology and a nice bit of character development with a twist. Speaking of character, Adrian Brody does a better than expected job as the black ops mercenary leading this merry band but he still just never feels exactly right. Nimrod Antal mentions at one point during the bonus features that he didn’t feel like he could find someone that could fill Arnie’s boots so he wanted to go a completely different direction. I absolutely agree that if Nimrod had gone with someone like The Rock the focus would have switched from is Predators a good movie to is The Rock as good as Arnie was or are these filmmakers trying to just rip off the original film aka Superman Returns. So go a different direction but get someone who feels like they could be a mercenary or a soldier which Brody does not. Brody on the other hand might have made a better sniper, someone less action oriented and more introspective. He’s a good actor though, and he does a fine job even with the gruff I wanna be Clint Eastwood voice.
Unfortunately this movie didn’t break any box office records when it came out so it’s unclear whether there’ll be a sequel and there absolutely should be a sequel. The ending of this film is a really gutsy move from the filmmakers and it had me really excited to see what comes next. The action is exciting, the characters were entertaining if a little underdeveloped (mostly), and the added mythology was great fun. There’s tons of potential for more storytelling here so cross your fingers that we do get a sequel.
This 1080p HD presentation appears to have been taken directly from the original digital elements similar to what happens with animated films. That’s right Predators was shot entirely with digital cameras. Often digital video doesn’t handle heavy motion and action with highly detailed backgrounds but whatever Nimrod and crew did they did it right because this film look fantastic. It was excellent in the theater and it looks just as good on blu-ray. Black levels are deep and inky without sacrificing detail, which by the way is strong throughout the entire film in dark or bright scenes. Skin tones are realistic even in this slightly color shifted environment. This is literally a near perfect transfer.
This blu-ray brings the audio goodness here with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Audio is well balanced with score, dialogue, and fx all coming through loud and clear throughout the surround environment. Directional audio is skillfully presented so that when these characters run through the jungle you can almost feel the tiny branches breaking across your face as you run with them. Sub woofer use is great when it’s being used but it feels a little inconsistent. That’s a minor complaint though for a near flawless audio presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The first obvious bonus feature is that there’s a second disc in the package with a digital copy of the film. The blu-ray packaging is a standard slim blu-ray case with a picture of the Predator on the cover rather than actor floating heads; a good decision.
There’s an audio commentary with producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal. These guys really get each other and they come off as two buddies chatting about something they both love. Rodriguez shows just how smart a filmmaker he is because he believes that Antal made a better movie than he would have made. Rodriguez knows what he’s good at and he felt being a producer on this film was a smarter move and as it turns out he was probably right. There’s a lot of really good behind the scenes information in this movie length conversation between the two filmmakers.
There’s a set of overly brief motion comics that offer up a little background on the characters. As these motion comics get more fascinating they end. On a good note the original actors narrate their own character’s motion comic adding a little more depth to these brief prequels.
There are three featurettes on this disc and one of them, “Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn” offers up a great deal of information about what went into the making of this film. There are some actor interviews but the focus is on the director and producer recounting the making of the film. There’s also some great on set footage and focus on all aspects of the making of this film. Also worth noting is that all of this outside of one brief portion of this documentary is exclusive to the blu-ray.
There are two other brief featurettes that feel a little more like marketing fluff and they are honestly a little spoilery if you want to learn about these characters in the way the film originally intended. I’d advise waiting on these featurettes until after watching the film if you haven’t already seen it.
Finally there are some deleted and extended scenes and a trailer. The deleted scenes are mostly character development which would have been nice in the film but were probably cut to keep the movie sleek and fast moving.
So, this blu-ray isn’t as jam packed with bonus features that I’d hoped it would be but the commentary and the 40 minute making of featurette are both really high quality bonus features.
Predators is honestly like Predator 1.5 rather than 2.0 but the deepening of the alien mythology in an intriguing way rather than the campiness of the AVP movies is a huge step in the right direction. This is the way this franchise should have gone years ago and hopefully we’ll get more films along these lines.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10