The Ugly MF’s are Back!

(**** SOME SPOILERS!****)

When I heard that the Predator franchise was getting a reboot, I was extremely excited. I’ve been a Predator fan since the first movie. Despite the tepid sequel and the abysmal Alien vs. Predator movies (that last one was pure garbage although the Dark Horse series it’s based on were actually very good), I was still holding out for a good, solid movie one day.

Well, that day has come! Enter Robert Rodriguez and his style of film-making and vision. Although he did not direct this movie, he produced it. And a great job he did! From what I’ve read, he had been shopping around his script for several years. He wisely passes the writing and directing baton to others. The writing has been credited to Alex Litvak and Michael Finch and directed by Nimrod Antal (Armored and Vacancy).

The movie pits several human hunters against, not one, but three predators. We have soldiers, a mercenary, a convict, a Yakuza, a female sniper, a Mexican drug enforcer, and a seemingly normal, unassuming man claiming to be a doctor, dropped into the middle of an alien planet, ready to be hunted. What makes this movie work for me is that they’ve taken the predators and placed them back in a jungle environment. They’ve pitted the predators against soldiers, not teenagers, townsfolk, or archeologists. It’s pure bad-asses against alien bad-asses.

The movie begins straight with action from the first frame and the pacing is pretty solid. The acting is top-notch with a few surprises. I was very dubious with the casting of Adrian Brody but here they went against type. Arnold was impressive in the first movie and trying to replicate him would’ve been a mistake. Instead, the lead character was not as muscular (although the man clearly worked out for the role!) but a thinking man’s soldier.

The effects were very well done as so were the creature designs. The new, larger predator and the explanation of in-fighting between the smaller predators was a new addition and twist to the story and I would love to see more of this in possible sequels. This revelation was made by Lawrence Fishburn whom I completely forgot was in the movie by the time he showed up! His role was small and short, only serving to provide this piece of  information.

For the Predator geeks out there, there’s an “Easter Egg” in the movie in the form of the alien that chased Topher Grace playing as bait. That alien was the original Predator design for the first movie before being axed and replaced by Stan Winston’s brilliant creation. If you own the special edition Predator DVD, check out the making of featurette it and you’ll see it in there. I thought it was a sly wink at the true fans.

Another treat was the fight between the Yakuza and one of the Predators. One of the things that really bothered me in the original film was Billy’s death. This character was set up as a total bad-ass, not afraid of any man and physically looked like he could give Arnold a fair fight. When he hung back with his hunting knife as the others ran on, I thought that he would give the Predator a really good fight. Instead, not only don’t we get to see the fight, we hear his death scream off screen. What a gyp! It was really cool to see the Yakuza hang back just as Billy did but this time, we were treated to a good blade against samurai sword fight. I was very pleased with the outcome of the battle. So much so that the audience in the theater I went to started clapping!

The music was not Alan Silvestri’s but it sure did sound very much like it! It was perfect for putting me in the mood and it was really reminiscent of the first film.

The movie’s ending was open ended, suggesting a sequel. I really hope so! I hope that either Nimrod Antal takes over the reigns again or that perhaps Robert Rodriguez takes on the directorial job. This movie in my opinion isn’t necessarily better than the original but instead, completely ignores all the previous sequels and builds on the Predator mythology. I felt that it paid homage to the first film and made it a perfect and proper “sequel” to the original.

This is the best non-animated, non-3D film this summer!

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