In fact, the story is directly referenced in dialogue once, but it is continually referenced throughout this script with dialogue lifts (Come on, kill me, I’m here!!!) and action beats (too many to list – but, for example, remember when, in the original, Billy decides to make his last stand and strips himself of all but a big knife? Well, we get the exact same music cue in this film at a similar point when one character decides he’s going to hang back and deal with one of these big beastly buggers himself). Sometimes the ticks on the list work, other times it feels like they are just doing a lazy retread, but ultimately it is an enjoyable experience that doesn’t tarnish the Predator franchise, but might just help get the green together for them to make another stab at it in the future.
So, we have a group human protagonists, at the beginning of the film, waking up in free-fall then parachute dropping onto the surface of what they come to realise is not their home planet. They also come to realise that each of them has some sort of military or deadly background – hence why they were chosen, snatched and dropped here to play prey to three bigger Predators. Think of them as even more bad tempered and ugly that the original type of predator (but fear not, we get to see one of the classics too).
Having to band together and find their way through the terrain – it isn’t long before they are set upon by their alien foes and have to defend themselves – which to all extents and purposes the human protagonists do quite well. Adrien Brody has been chosen as the main, white man muscle for this flick – not comparing very well to Schwarzenegger, but still showing his leadership qualities. The rest of the cast sometimes have trouble keeping up with their character development – being left to act with their eyes a lot of the time. Oleg Taktarov manages to convey a lot of pathos in his Russian hulk, while you are never quite sure what the silent Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) might be thinking until later in the film.
The comedy is mainly left to the death row addition to the team, Stans (Walton Goggins) who gets some of the best dialogue, the darkest of laughs and ultimately is dealt the best card when it comes to how they deal with his character. Adrien Brody as beefed up as he may be, is never given the right words to say – so is lumbered with some of the stiffest macho man dialogue that perhaps only a Schwarzenegger or a Van Damme could pull off due to their monotone diction. Give it to a man with an American accent and it falls even flatter and becomes almost laughable.
The worst offender in the film though, is the revelation near the end, about Topher Grace’s physician character that is given very little background or even reference in the first acts of the film that it seems very tacked on. Tacked on in that it doesn’t seem necessary at the time it happens, and also defies the logic of the character given what they have just been through. Still, again, how they deal with this character is almost worth the lousy twist.
The pace of the film wisely has a slow build, and even gives us a few surprises before the action starts. After the first major action set piece when one of the team goes missing there is a very eerie scene in which they approach the member of the team once found, which then leads to an even creepier moment.
It is around the halfway mark that they are happened upon by guest star Laurence Fishburne who almost walks away with the whole movie as a bat shit crazy ex-Seal who has been on the planet surviving for some time.
To say that Predators is nowhere near as good as the original is hardly going to be news. To say it isn’t as good as it should have been, may be a bit of a disappointment to some with high expectations. But to say that it is better than most and worthy of the title is fair. With the right money in the bank they could go on – but hopefully with a better story that progresses the franchise, and not leaves it stuck on auto-pilot.