The concept of Predators has appealed to film makers for nigh-on 25 years. The first incarnation saw a muscle-bound team of elite soldiers which included Arnie, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura square off against an invisible stalking alien. The follow-ups were less successful: Predator 2 took the series in a whole different direction and the sooner the Alien Vs. Predator series is forgotten the better.
This fifth installation feels more like a sequel to the very first movie and neatly ignores the existence of the other three.
It opens with mercenary Royce waking up in freefall as he plummets towards a remote jungle. His chute opens at the last minute and he’s quickly joined by a motley assortment of other warriors: a sniper (Alice Braga), a Russian soldier (Oleg Taktarov), a drug cartel enforcer (Robert Rodriguez favourite Danny Trejo), an African death squad fighter (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a death-row inmate (Walton Goggins), a Yakuza member (Louise Ozawa Changchien) and a quietly reserved doctor (Topher Grace).
They resolve to find the reason why they’ve been brought together only to discover that they’re being used as game for the trigger happy alien Predators. It’s for the most part good fun. Adrien Brody makes a surprisingly good action man – his physique indicates that he’s clearly gone to the Jake Gyllenhaal School Of Fitness and his voice that he’s been to the Christian Bale-as-Batman School Of Enunciation.
I’m sure Strepsils could make a killing marketing to the action man crowd. Beefy as he is, his performance does often seem that he’s trying too hard and there’s always a nagging feeling that he doesn’t quite fit the role – you don’t go from sensitive soul to cold-hearted killer overnight.
It feels much more like a sequel to the 1987 original than any of the subsequent offerings. There are numerous nods to the first film (Nikolai’s minigun, original sound samples of Bill Duke’s dialogue, the similar musical score). That’s further enhanced by Alice Braga’s remarkable resemblance to Elpida Carillo and an acknowledgement of Schwarzenegger’s adventures. But these references never threaten to take over the film; it never strays into the Terminator 4 zone where all the good scenes were aping Terminator 2: it’s still its own movie.
This all results in some satisfyingly good action-schlock fun. It doesn’t have any of the wry one-liners you’d expect from the 80s original (“I ain’t got time to bleed”, “Stick around”, “This stuff’ll make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me”) – those were the trappings of another time but it still pulls its weight in genre dialogue (“Does this look like a team orientated group of individuals to you?”).
However, it’s difficult to see a reason why this story needs to be told. It reveals very little more about Predators as a species and is essentially a man vs. monsters shoot ‘em up, a computer game of a movie; an excuse for big burly warriors to shoot at big burly aliens.
Predator revelled in the unknown, a lone invisible force stalking an elite group. Predators introduces several of the gun-toting aliens but this robs the film of its tension, particularly as it’s often difficult to tell them apart. Somehow, one lone stalking Predator seemed much more of a threat than in triplicate.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable popcorn experience and a solid sci-fi action adventure. But it’s a largely pointless endeavour which does little more with the material other than add more Predators and unfortunately in this case, less is more.