By Stina Chyn | July 10, 2010

Depending on your thought processes while at the movies, you either form an opinion before the film is over or hold off any evaluations until the ending credits appear.  During the seconds before the lights brighten, you may be speechless.  By the time you meander back into the outside world, that loss of words is likely replaced by some articulation of whether or not you had a good or lousy time in that darkened room. A film studio rejoices when adjectives such as “mesmerizing,” “marvelous,” and “inspirational” come to mind, less happy when “laughable,” “stupid,” and “forgettable” surface.  Twentieth Century Fox’s “Predators” (Nimrod Antal) leans towards the latter.

The newest addition to the Predator franchise begins with Adrien Brody plummeting through the air, wearing a parachute that deploys before he hits the ground.  “Predators” flashes on the screen.  In lieu of opening credits, you get Brody literally above the film title.  The other characters, one woman and six men, are introduced within minutes.  Disorientation and truculence recede as the group of eight tries to figure out why they have been dropped in the middle of an Amazonian-esque jungle.

Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) as well as Brody and Alice Braga’s characters all have had weapons training by trade or life calling.  Edwin (Topher Grace), a doctor, and Stans (Walton Goggins), a death row inmate, are the only civilians.  Brody’s follow-me-or-not-I-don’t-care attitude makes him team leader.  They make way to higher ground and find clues indicative of a foreboding plot afoot; their trek leads them to a cliff with a view of a planet-filled sky.  It’s an awesome sight, though its implications are not as breathtaking.  The voyage home will be much longer, and only if they survive the lethal indigenous flora and fauna.

The film’s action picks up when a pack of “dogs” attack and disperse the group, killing—offscreen—one of its members.  Desperate to get off the game-preserve planet, the remaining seven take more risks, share a few philosophical moments, and encounter a survivor (Laurence Fishburne) of ten seasons’ worth of hunts.  He informs the shrinking band of humans that the Predators import creatures and people, hunt them for sport, and adapt to the “game’s” cleverness; most clever players.  Unlike the ensemble casts of generic horror and sci-fi films, the bunch in “Predators” is not as formulaically unintelligent.  Nonetheless, most of them must die, and die they do.

I went into the film with a bias in favor of the Predator as a character.  Moreover, based on the trailers, I expected the film to be better than both “Alien vs. Predator” pictures.  The premise and the cinematography are improvements, but the execution and the finer plot details are just as mediocre.  What went wrong? Nimrod Antal’s director credits thus far have been few, but in “Kontroll” (2003) and “Vacancy” (2007), he demonstrated more than a competency in applying storytelling to the cinematic medium.  Writers, Alex Litvak and Michael Finch have an even shorter filmography.

None of the actors are terrible.  At worst, Topher Grace is self-consciously wry.  Adrien Brody’s participation is curious.  Did he want to kick some monster-creature’s a*s without having to save a dainty damsel too?  Did he need a professional reason to bid adieu to his scrawny physique and herald a big ‘hello, darling’ to broad shoulders and a chiseled chest that could rival the whole of Team Jacob?

“Predators” could have been the (guilty) pleasure of many cinema-goers; instead, there’s too much dialogue for mindless violent spectacle and not campy enough to be so-bad-it’s-good.  For the fans of the franchise, the titular creatures have so little screen time that you might force yourself to fish for profundity in Alice Braga’s comment that she and the other humans are like the Predators.  Thank the gods for Walton Goggins’s presence.

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  1. Stina Chyn says:

    Topher Grace wasn’t bad either…until the final five minutes.

  2. Ferraro says:

    “Thank the gods for Walton Goggins’s presence.”

    I actually really liked this movie. I’m sort of gay for Predator and Walt Goggins was absolutely awesome. He had the best lines.

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