Sunday, January 16, 2011

Predators (DVD) Review

Playing through the Predator campaign in Aliens vs. Predator reminded me that I never got around to seeing Predators, the latest film edition to the franchise. I was originally planning to rent it off the Zune Marketplace, but Best Buy was selling it cheap so I decided to use some holiday gift cards and pick up a DVD copy instead.

Like most DVD's today, the packaging is pretty basic. The case is the cheap "recycled" DVD case with the recycle logo and holes in the middle and the only thing inside is the disc itself. Honestly, with packaging like this digital distribution is certainly making a lot more sense. Of course, you're not reading this to have me bore you with descriptions of packaging wrapped in pretty pink bows, so let's get on to the movie itself.

Set in what appears to be the not-too-distant future, the film opens with Royce (Adrian Brody) awakening as he's falling from the sky. He's able to deploy a parachute to land safely enough, and quickly encounters several other survivors who arrived in the same fashion. Stranded on this jungle world, it becomes apparent that all these survivors are soldiers, mercenaries, criminals, etc.; in other words, some of the more deadlier people that Earth has to offer. All save for Edwin (Topher Grace), who's a doctor and the odd person out who runs around scared a lot.

What begins as a group of unlikely allies trying to find their way out of a jungle quickly turns into a nightmare as they realize they're not only kidnapped and stranded, but being hunted by something far more advanced than them, something that's not human.

What's fascinating is that Predators is actually based on a script Robert Rodriguez wrote back in 1994 as a sequel to Predator, only to have it rejected at that time. With the less than stellar success of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Fox decided to try and return the Predator franchise to its roots and finally green lit Rodriguez's script.

Directed by Nimrod Antal, Predators definitely alludes back to Predator on almost every level. From the cookie-cutter characters (who somewhat get cookie cut up as they're picked off one by one) to the oppressive jungle setting to the familiar sound track, it all comes together and works quite well.

The film does one better than some of its more recent predecessors by providing a little more attachment to the survivors, and while you are watching Predators to see them get butchered, I found I cared a bit more about them than the random hicks from the franchise's last cinema entry.

As the film suggests, there's more than one Predator this time around and they're actually a bit different than what we're used to. While still sporting the same weapons and tech that we've come to expect, these Predators are apparently from a different tribe that isn't exactly a big fan of the more traditional Predators we've known for the last 20 years. These new Predators are larger, have a few new toys and use more elaborate traps to hunt, and they also employ never before seen quadrupedal hunting beasts to flush out prey. They also tend to be more sadistic, and Predators has no shortage of violence or gore.

Roughly midway through the film, the survivors meet Noland (Lawrence Fishburne), who has lived and hidden on this world for several years. It's a rather interesting role for Fishburne to play, as all those years of being alone and hiding from the Predators has made him, well, rather... eccentric. Leading up to this point Predators had a good deal of suspense and action, however I personally found that after encountering Noland the film stumbled a little bit and became far too cliche and predictable, and the accelerated pacing to finish things up did not help the overall experience.

DVD's today also lack the plethora of special features they had half a decade ago. Instead of having a two disc set with a seven hour "Making Of" documentary, we're now treated to a few little featurettes crammed onto the only included disc. Included is a short doc on the locations used in the film, some motion comics, and the theatrical trailer; in other words, nothing really special outside of the film itself.

When all is said and done, I found Predators to be an enjoyable B movie. I'm glad I didn't pay to see it in theatres, but I'll certainly enjoy watching it a few times on DVD. Featuring some great violence and gore, some funny character moments, and crazy Fishburne, Predators is a solid entry into what's established itself as a great B franchise where regular levels of cheese are par for the course.

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