Predators is, in a nutshell, a 106 minute love letter to John McTiernan’s ‘87 original. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.
It’s a good thing because, frankly, everything since the original has been a waste of good celluloid. It’s a bad thing because I get the distinct impression that everyone involved could have turned in something really top notch if only they’d had the courage to stand on their own a little.
For fans of the original the doe-eyed reverence makes for some fun reference spotting. It certainly makes Predators feel like a comfortable sequel to a 23 year old film. It even goes as far as to directly describe the events of the original film. In terms of quality, entertainment, and thrills it’s far more memorable than anything else that’s carried the Predator brand since Arnie first shook hands with Carl Weathers all those years ago.
The music features large chunks of the original movie’s score (which is great, I love the original score), there’s dialog repeated (I even noticed a couple of Aliens quotes in there too), and the old mini gun and mud smearing make an appearance. There’s so much familiarity that at times it feels more like a remake than a sequel. Rodriguez and co have been careful to sell this as a sequel, but in this modern age of “re-imaginings” it wouldn’t have been surprising to see this described as a remake.
I like the cast too. It’s nice to see Walton Goggins on the big screen after enjoying him in Justified. And I really don’t have a problem with Adrian Brody. I found him to be more entertaining in this than King Kong, at least.
The letdown for me was the Predators themselves. In the original, the Predator gets quite a bit of screen time on his own. Whether fixing up wounds, cleaning trophies, preparing for war, or lurking in trees, there’s a hunter/hunted relationship developed throughout the film, leading up to the final confrontation. You don’t really get that in Predators. There’s the occasional human-less scene, but what’s there doesn’t serve to form any sort of attachment or bond with the adversary. Part of this might also be the way the creatures move. Kevin Peter Hall really nailed his performance, moving superbly in every scene. The Predators here aren’t bad, but they lack a certain elegance and attention to detail that existed before.
Despite that, it’s all good fun. Really, it is. If you’re a fan of the original I suspect you’ll probably enjoy this. Just don’t expect too much. Don’t expect the original. What we have here is a solid B-movie with villains you’re already familiar with. Go in with low expectations, buy yourself some popcorn, and switch off your brain for a bit. Hopefully you’ll have a good time.