The Predator franchise gets a boost of much-needed testosterone in this reverent reboot that enjoyably kick-starts the series it was looking to resurrect, even if it rehashes a bit too many of the aesthetics of the Arnold classic in the process. From the jungle setting to the note-for-note score, Predators seriously wants to tap into what made the original film so great in the first place, which it actually accomplishes in a no-nonsense B-movie way. It also opens up the mandible monster's world just enough to justify more outrageous creature FX while laying enough groundwork for an interstellar adventure that still feels like a continuation of the first film's jungle setting. The movie will no doubt fit the bill for Predator junkies who have been so sorely mistreated in movie-theater seats as of late. In turn, series newcomers are dealt a lot of what made the initial film a success -- minus the larger-than-life cast, which this one fumbles somewhat, despite the varied star-power it boasts.
The pic explodes upon the screen from the first second, with a Special Ops commando (Adrien Brody) free-falling through the sky, only to have an automatic parachute unfurl seconds before he plummets to his death. Upon hitting the ground, he finds himself in a jungle -- with other humans falling through the trees shortly thereafter. Before long, a group forms, with just about every member admitting to being a hardcore killer from different spots on Earth. One look at the alien skyline and a few monster attacks later, and the team comes to terms with the fact that they've been placed on a game preserve by an alien species that lives to hunt. Cue discoveries. Cue traps. Cue familiar themes. Cue the mankind-being-just-as-evil plotline.
When it comes down to it, Predators taps into the original film's iconographic storytelling techniques so much that it genuinely feels like a true continuation. Gone are the football-pad-wearing Predators of AVP, and in their place are multiple cool Predators who study and mimic their prey in the exact way people familiar with the series expect them to. While the film's main flaw could very well be that it hits on too many familiar notes from the series, it's still a lean, action-packed time at the movies in an age where "bigger is better." Another ding in its armor could be the cast itself, which looks to be the perfect DNA make-up for a solid ensemble, yet in a few instances (other than the wilder-than-wild Laurence Fishburne), opportunities are wasted (Danny Trejo, anyone?), with other characters used merely as placeholders to hearken back to previous beloved characters (dear Oleg Taktarov, your gun was somehow a lot cooler when Jesse "The Body" Ventura used it originally). There's also at least one painful CG moment that's just plain pitiful, especially in a film with so much practical FX work.
Yet, for any nitpicky digs that it may warrant, Predators is solid. Director Nimród Antal knows how to shoot action without resorting to jerky camerawork, and his methodical shooting style exudes class -- something that's been missing since the much-maligned second film. The Predators themselves look quite good -- props must go out to KNB EFX for continuing Stan Winston's legacy -- but the lone exception is how little face time the big bad Predator is given near the end. Probably the best thing about the film is that it's open-ended, so there's hope for a continuation that doesn't feel the need to regurgitate its predecessor's blueprint. As fun as all of this is, one can't help but yearn for a fresher angle on the material that doesn't ape the slow burn of the original -- or feel bound by an uninspired script that falls flat in the last act. This movie monster certainly deserves better, but sometimes you take what you get.