Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A sequel that at first seems like a reboot and it's also not a remake

I was relieved while viewing Predators (2010) to realize that it is in fact a conventional sequel and not a tiresome remake or "reboot" or re-imagining or any kind of "re". Robert Rodriguez's production follows the events of the 1987 original, which pitted Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse "The Body" Ventura and other 80s specimens against the vicious, cagey and agile aliens who live to hunt humans for sport. The over the top, but still fairly enjoyable 1990 sequel starring Danny Glover and Gary Busey, took the action to L.A. in which Glover not only had to fight a Predator in the streets but also had to do battle with Morton Downey, Jr. Which enemy was more fierce?

This entry in the series superficially resembles the first film. Tough guys, and one gal, with machine guns and other weapons, are lost in the jungle and are prey for the beasts. But this time, they aren't on any mission. They were mysteriously dropped from the sky into their surroundings and have no idea how they got there. What becomes clear is that all of them are expert killers. Adrien Brody is a no nonsense mercenary, Alica Braga is a sharp shooter, Danny Trejo is an assassin for Mexican drug lords, Louis Ozawa Changchien is a Yakuza member with a sword, Walton Goggins is a murderer, etc. Brody is the first to realize that they have been kidnapped and brought to a planet that is a game reserve for Predators to have some fun.

The film is basically an efficient exercise in sci-fi action. Humans being picked off one by one by the monsters while the survivors panic and try to be lucky enough to survive. Adrien Brody's character inexplicably provides exposition when he has no real reason to. He seems to know everything about the planet and the Predators not too long after falling from the sky. I guess he's just a real observant guy.

After a slow first half, the film kicks into high gear when the humans run into a man who has figured out a way to kill and survive, at the cost of his sanity. This is the character played by Laurence Fishburne, who gives an engaging and eccentric performance as a nutjob who knows more about the enemy than the band of human targets.

The cinematography and editing are first rate. John Debney's music score faithfully draws from Alan Silvestri's original music. What starts out as a run of the mill semi-remake becomes a worthy sequel that was made by people who like and respect the original Predator enough to want to make a new film instead of exploiting the Predator name to make another uninspired remake to throw among the pile. Rodriquez and director Nimrod Antal have crafted an entertaining summer movie that obviously lacks originality or deep imagination, but it manages to deliver nonetheless as a well oil machine. They both get cinematic brownie points here.

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