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Royce, a mercenary, reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors who come to realize they've been brought together on an alien planet... as prey. With the notable exception of a disgraced physician, they are all cold-blooded killers -- mercenaries, Yakuza, convicts, death squad members -- human "predators" that are now being systemically hunted and eliminated by a new breed of alien Predators.
For more about Predators and the Predators Blu-ray release, see Predators Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 20, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo
Director: Nimród Antal
» See full cast & crew
Predators Blu-ray Review
Rebooting a franchise is as simple as adding an "s."
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 20, 2010
The question is: What do you want from a new entry in the Predator franchise? Predators, plural, is effectively a reboot of the series, which, after the first film—1987's Ah-nold Schwarzenegger-led action/sci-fi/horror classic—quickly faltered with a less-than-stellar follow-up and two lousy Alien vs. Predator crossover flicks. What this new film does is pretend that none of the sequels ever existed. (I have no problem with this.) Like James Cameron following Ridley Scott's Alien with Aliens, director Nimród Antal and supervising producer Robert Rodriguez have slapped an "s" onto the title, essentially positing that their film is the true successor to the original. It's a ballsy move, staking a claim like that, but they come pretty close to earning it. Which brings me back to my question: What do you want out of a new Predator movie? If your answer is simply a team of badasses getting picked off one by one in the jungle, the kills escalating in goriness, then you'll probably leave satisfied, as Predators sticks rather closely to the formula established in the first film. If your demands are any more complex, though—that is, if you're hoping for something fresh, original, possibly even suspenseful—then Predators is likely to disappoint.
The film's opening, at least, is novel. We start with Royce (Adrien Brody), a mercenary who wakes up in a free fall, plummeting toward the jungle below. At the last possible second his chute opens—of its own accord—and he slams into the ground. Bang! We cut to the title—PREDATORS—in all- caps, letters as big as the screen will allow. Royce has no clue how he got here, and neither does Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), the twin-submachine gun- toting drug cartel enforcer who's this close to turning Royce into Swiss cheese. Once they sort out that, hey, neither of them are the bad guys, they stumble through the foliage and find several other seriously confused parachutists:
There's Isabelle (Alice Braga), a stone-cold CIA sniper, Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), a Chechen commando carrying a massive minigun, psycho death row inmate Stan (Walton Groggins), Revolutionary United Front soldier Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a stoic yakuza hitman. Oh, and let's see, there's also Edwin (Topher Grace), a cowardly, clean-cut, mild-mannered doctor. Hmm. Remember that "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" song on Sesame Street? That would be Edwin, nerd amongst stone cold killers. They throw around ideas about where they might be—the Amazon? Southeast Asia? Hell?—but it's only after they emerge from of the jungle and catch a glimpse of the multiple moon-adorned sky that they realize they've left Earth. I wish Charlie Pace from Lost was there, just so he could say, "Guys, where are we?"
As it turns out, they've been dropped on a kind of planetary nature preserve that was created by the alien baddies for the sole purpose of hunting the meanest, baddest sumbitches Earth has to offer. Royce pieces it together first. "Certainly there's no hunting like the hunting of man," he says, quoting Hemingway, "and those who have hunted armed men long enough—and liked it—never really care for anything else." The idea that man is the ultimate prey can be traced back to the 1924 Richard Connell short story The Most Dangerous Game—there was also a Gilligan's Island episode about it—and screenwriters Michael Finch and Alex Litvak borrow this concept, which was also the core of the first film, and briefly turn it on its head. See, the title Predators isn't just a nod to Aliens, it's also an acknowledgement that the real predators in the film are the human characters, who all come from murderous, genocidal, or otherwise violent backgrounds. The hunters have become the hunted, so to speak.
The first act sets up some potentially interesting dynamics between these unremorseful killers—Royce is the reluctant leader, Isabelle the peacemaker, Stan the loose cannon—and while there's not much of the jokey, testosterone-fueled camaraderie that made the first film so memorable, the actors are fun to watch. Brody is an unlikely action hero, but he pulls it off, borrowing Christian Bale's Batman growl and putting on a world-weary, I've seen some serious s--t in my time face. Topher Grace is alternately freaked out and sarcastic. Danny Trejo, badass extraordinaire, looks like he could pass a kidney stone in his sleep. But let's face it, most of these guys only exist to be fodder for the predatory creatures that lurk in the jungle. Until the end, when the script throws a few moral quandaries into the path of our heroes, the film is little more than an adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, a game of guess-who'll-die-next with a trio of vicious aliens doing the killing.
Antal and Co. do expound upon the mythology of the "predators," though, which should please fans eager to learn more about the dreadlocked, mandible-mouthed creatures. Here, we get a grasp on their hunting tactics, see one of their gory base camps—complete with a crucifixion of one of their own—and learn about a blood feud between two slightly different breeds of the monsters. Laurence Fishburne, of all people, makes a cameo as Noland, a Colonel Kurtz-style commando who's been living in the heart of darkness too long for his own good, but his presence is purely expository. He's here to hand-deliver a chunk of info to the audience, and that's about it.
His appearance, mid-way through, marks a turning point in the film. Up until our gang of military misfits and murderers follows Noland back to the long-abandoned spacecraft he calls home, Predators moves with a deliberate slowness, trying—without much success, unfortunately—to build some oh my god, what's gonna happen next tension. Post-Fishburne, the film seems to abandon this failed tactic and rushes, instead, to give the people what they want. That is, lots of grisly predator action—which it delivers. You'll see a spine ripped straight out of a body, a showdown between a predator and a the samurai sword-wielding Hanzo—one of the best scenes in the film—and a fiery, mud-splattered finale that promises an inevitable sequel. What will they call it? Predators 2?
Predators Blu-ray, Video Quality
As you'd hope from a summer blockbuster title, Predators' 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is exceptional in every respect. Fans of the franchise will remember the Digital Noise Reduction debacle surrounding the release of the Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition a few months ago, but there are no such controversies here. The film was shot digitally, using the Panavision Genesis camera, and the image is clean, nearly noiseless, and surprisingly film-like. This is one of those movies where you can marvel at the sheer amount of detail and texture on display. The jungle foliage is crisply defined, nearly every stitch of the military costuming is offered up for our inspection, and—here's the real proof of clarity—each pock and crater of Laurence Fishburne's characteristically pitted face is readily visible. So much so that, in close-up, his loveable mug looks like a relief map of the moon. (Don't even get me started on Danny Trejo's iconic visage.) In keeping with the tone of the film, bright colors are restrained, with the major exceptions of the lush forest greens, vibrant orange fire, and the predator's blistering red laser beams. Given that so much of the film takes place at night, what's really important is that black levels are as stable as they are—deep but allowing plenty of leeway for shadow detail. Furthermore, there are no encode hiccups or compression problems. I missed seeing the film theatrically, but I imagine Predators looks just as great—if not better, given the stronger contrast ratios of TV screens—on Blu-ray.
Predators Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I could say the same regarding the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. If you've got a capable 5.1 home theater system, turn this sucker up loud and prepare to be sonically assaulted (in the best possible way.) Predators' sound design is intricate and dynamic, equally adept at handling all-out action sequences—whiplash cross-channel movements, gunshots spraying in all directions, rippling explosions—and quieter scenes, where the immersive ambience effectively puts you right in the middle of the jungle. I don't think there's a second that goes by in this film when the rear channels aren't put to some kind of use. Wind whips, insects buzz, fire crackles, water gurgles—and this is when there's hardly anything going on. When the track's going full-tilt, as it often is, it's incredibly active and engaging, with swooshing atmospherics, noisy battle sounds, and the punchy rat-a-tat- tat of machinegun fire. Somehow, even in the midst of the chaos, dialogue is perfectly clear and balanced. I was also quite impressed by John Debney's rich, expansive orchestral score, which gives the film a grandness that it probably doesn't deserve.
Predators Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary with Director Nimród Antal and Producer Robert Rodriguez
Antal and Rodriguez seem cut from a similar cloth, and their brotherly affection comes across in this genial commentary track. That said, Rodriquez totally dominates the conversation, which makes you wonder whose baby Predators really is.
Robert Rodriguez presents Motion Comics—Exclusive Prequel Vignettes
There are two short motion comic bonuses for fans here; Moments of Extraction (1080p, 8:45) shows what each character was up to when he/she was taken by the predators, and Crucified (1080p, 2:11) tells the story of how the one predator came to be strung up in the campsite.
Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn (1080p, 40:12)
This is a the main bonus feature event—a comprehensive making of documentary that covers every element of production, from the early origins of the reboot as Robert Rodriguez' spec script to casting, development, creature design, and the shooting process. Includes loads of on-set footage and interviews with the cast and crew. The doc is broken into six segments, but you'll probably just want to hit "play all."
The Chosen (1080p, 4:52)
A brief profile of the human "predators" who have been airdropped on the planet.
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (SD, 7:06)
Basically, a promo with clips from the film, quick words from the actors, and a dissection of the scene where the alien "dogs" show up.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (1080p, 11:21)
Includes nine trimmed or cut scenes.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 1:56)
Sneak Peeks (1080p, 6:21)
Trailers for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of Knight and Day, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and "What's Hot on TV on DVD." Before the main menu, you'll also see promo spots for The A-Team, Mirrors 2, and Machete.
Predators Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
That Predators is the second-best film in the series isn't saying much—considering the competition—but it's successful at what it does, namely, reenergizing a flagging franchise. While it's never scary, or even particularly suspenseful, the film is elevated by strong performances from its principals and a few new twists on the Predator routine. Whatever your thoughts on the film itself—ass kicking actioner or been-there-before bore—what's undeniable is that the film is flat-out stunning on Blu-ray, with a gorgeous transfer, full-throttle audio, and enough extras to keep fans busy for a few hours at least. This one will definitely sate your appetite for extraterrestrial carnage until the Alien Anthology lands on Earth next week.
Predators: Other Editions
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