The Pitch: This Time It’s War. (Actually it’s a lot like the first time, but more Predators. Guess the title’s a bit of a giveaway.)
The Review: It seems a very sensible rule in life that if something is good, then more of that something must be even better, right? Probably the most clean example of this in movie history is the Alien / Aliens pairing, which gave us two very distinct movies with a common theme, and the second using its increased numbers to great advantage to increase the threat. Sadly, that franchise then took wrong turn after wrong turn, and not content with sullying its own name dragged the poor old Predator franchise in as well, thanks to a long running comic crossover. And even more sadly, by the end of those two movies the scripts were coming across as bad fan fiction.
Ridley Scott has indicated an intention to take the Alien franchise back to its roots, which can surely be no bad thing; Robert Rodriguez may not have felt the most natural choice at first thought to do the same for Predator, but actually letting the purveyor of some decent action movies of the last couple of decades loose on this has worked out quite well. This is the first movie in the pure Predator franchise to actually pit more than one Predator against the “good” guys, at least in active play; what this does do is drop some rather more ambiguous characters into the mix, in this case quite literally dropping them into the atmosphere in the opening sequence.
As they move through the terrain, we learn bits and pieces about their characters, not enough to make them much more than one dimensional but enough to make each one distinct and to set up some useful group dynamics. Adrien Brody would probably not be any sane person’s choice for the follow up to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he’s buffed up almost to the point of looking like a special effect and seems to have been taking gravelly voice lessons from Christian Bale’s Batman, and it’s his choices that anchor proceedings. Of the others, Alice Braga and Topher Grace get most screen time, and Laurence Fishburne drops in for a daft but charismatic extended cameo later on.
Director Nimrod Antal does keep things moving very effectively; none of the reveals are stunningly original or hugely impactful, but the scale builds effectively and there are some nice moments of tension and action. The decision to return to the jungle, even if it’s not quite the same setting as the original, gives Predators a back-to-basics feel, and this serves it well. The humans get to be humans and the Predators get to be Predators, not suddenly developing strange new powers or traits, and it all ends with some effective stand-offs and match-ups. Ideal weekend evening entertainment if you want to turn off your brain, sit back, relax and get just a teensy bit nostalgic for when men were men and action movies were action movies.
Why see it at the cinema: The wide frame is used to regular advantage to highlight the isolation of the soldiers, and there’s some big, big images as well as a big, big sound field. So make the most of it if you’re going to.
The Score: 7/10