This summer, fear is reborn.
Next year, which at the time of writing this is just around the corner, a new Predator movie is coming out. Who knows if I'll really enjoy it when it comes out, but there is a bit of unfinished business to attend to long before it gets to that point. When it comes to the Alien and Predator franchises, I've already done them all - except tonight's flick. Can this flick redeem the poor reception of AvP: Requiem, or is it bound to be less predator and more prey?
There's a bit of a mixed feeling upon watching this movie. Right off the bat, if a person isn't in the right kind of mind for this movie, they are probably going to have a rough time at best - and I'll be honest about that. The movie wastes not time just dropping you into the events (quite literally in the case of the characters), with an few exposition dribbles here and there that serve as a break from the action. The plot at it's core is about as weak as you could be to facilitate the action - gone is the premise of a rescue mission that's nothing more than a CIA lie, or the mystery of a city rife with homicides from some new killer in town. Instead, we are given one that equates simply to a basic instinctual premise: survive.
As a fan, this is enough for me to have fun. It's basically telling me as a casual movie goer to just click that brain back a few and not overthink things to enjoy the screen. This isn't to say there aren't issues here and there, or elements that feel very shoe-horned in, but simply that the movie within the first fifteen minutes should have shown you everything you need to temper you expectations for the rest of the movie. In turn, as a fan of the first, I end up finding plenty of similarities to the original Predator, much in the same way many folks found a lot of similar things to The Force Awakens and one of it's predecessors in particular. Still, it does some things different and tries to drive in new things - which from a fan standpoint can sometimes be aggravating.
Actors do a pretty good job here, and the cast is probably one of the most diverse of either franchises due to it's simple "strongest of everyone" approach - top of the shelf Russian, Japanese, Israeli, Mexican, African "warrior" types are represented here with the IDF even being a butt-kicking lady sniper. It's honestly one of the finer elements in the movie, as even despite it's simplicity it allows things to be interjected - such as why characters might know something is a trap - without really breaking into the disbelief territory. It's not quite as strong when it comes to the doctor and the "FBI's most wanted" characters, as one seems to feel like it was only there for a commentary on what it is to be a monster, and the other seems more like it was a comedy roll meant for Bill Paxton to play (even though he isn't in this movie). Each person gets their moment to shine, although the cartel member played by Trejo isn't around long enough to contribute much beyond a few lines.
The effects here are quite well done. There's a few moments where things are less impressive in the CG field - such as a few of the running hounds - but for the most part all the effects we love to see from a Predator film exist in full. You want that sweet Optical Camouflage? It's still there in plenty. Plasma bolts blasting things apart? Also there. You want some practical suits? Plenty of those as well - and it all looks pretty good. The predator suits in particularly look far more slimmed down from their overly-bulky AvP counterparts, and the new-type predators all have quite unique masks to help set them apart with their roles. Admittedly, I'm not super fond of the new-type heads when we finally see them, and because of the new heads the masks can also feel a bit elongated compared to the traditional, and I don't think they've ever quite got predator "classic"s mouth to be quite on par with the original.
The human characters also have plenty of individual costume assets to help put them apart from one another - including armaments. I'm sure some of this comes from the diversity itself, but you don't have much of a hard time telling characters apart in this one. I know back when it came out, there was a lot of complaints about Brody not having the build of someone like Arnold - but considering the fact that I recall a predator getting beat by a constantly sweating and plenty winded cop that looked like he was about to keel over and die from chasing him down at times, I don't really hold the same viewpoint. To say that I think his character is the strongest as far as portrayal goes isn't quite what I'm getting at though - that would end up going to the short amount of screen time we have of Fishburne. The guy nails acting off his rocker, and to boot has a costume cobbled together of various things, making him into a sort of psuedo-Noguchi character we never fully got from the AvP movies.
In the case of this movie, I feel that people who are fans of the previous movies will have more fun with it than others for plenty of references and nods. Things like what I just said, musical throwbacks, putting in a minigun despite kind of being pointless as a man-portable weapon, and probably most importantly from that fan aspect a sort of soul re-visitation of the fight on the tree with Billy that we never got to see. By all means, you expect it to cut just like in the original, but here they bravely choose to show you the entire drawn out fight between predator and prey, and it plays out like something in Ninja Gaiden. I'd be remiss to say that the ending part of the movie could do with perhaps a little bit of brightening up, but there are times when it downright uses the dim lighting for some great effects during both the sword fight and some of the later moments as well. Still, it does suffer from the "one uppance" bug as these things sometimes can - just like in every Jurassic Park movie where we had to kill off the T-Rex to show something is stronger than it, here we have to oppress down our classic predator so that the new ones can be the "cream of the crop." It's somewhat annoying as a fan, but at least it's not as dumb as four armed berserker predators.
In the long run, the movie is relatively enjoyable as an action movie, but fans of the franchise will probably get more out of it for enjoyment factor. Of course, that isn't to say that fans might not find retreading and "one uppance" to be an annoyance, but for the most part the movie does a good job of turning a lot of it's negatives into at least a net zero. The cast does a fine job, the music is there to hit the nostalgic bones in your ears, and the visuals are well done and enjoyable to see. A moment here or there might seem oddly timed (the planet reveal), and one or two characters might feel more annoying than others - as well as many feeling relatively as developed as a slasher movie cast - but the action and Predator feel are still there to tell you that it's all okay. Well, at least until your head is mounted on a wall.