Predators (Blu-ray)

Fear is reborn.

Predators opens with buff mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody, King Kong) in freefall, tossed out of a ship of some sort, rocketing towards the ground. He pulls his chute, lands, gathers his wits and soon discovers an assortment of off-putting facts: 1) he’s joined by a selection of other badasses, most of which want to kill him; 2) no one knows how they ended up together; 3) they’re being chased by weirdo dogs and an unseen force that fires laser bolts at their faces; and 4) it doesn’t appear they’re on Earth anymore.

Predators isn’t as good as Predator 2. Regardless of how you may feel about Danny Glover’s misadventures, at least you can admit the sequel took the character in a new direction, showed the audience some cool wrinkles in the storyline, and put the Predator in a location that spawned unique situations.

Predators just feels…familiar.

I’ll stop there and defuse the tension quickly by emphasizing that I did not dislike the film. It was one of the few I caught in the theaters during the Crap Summer of 2010 and I left feeling satisfied. Not blown away by any means, but not annoyed.

Predators feels a lot like Predator: an elite squad of fighters, wandering through the jungle, getting systematically slaughtered by a kick-ass alien. There’s a bit more to that of course, including a memorable appearance by Laurence Fishburne and a nice bout of hot Predator-on-Predator action at the end, but the plot, distilled, is awfully reminiscent of the original.

The reason this doesn’t work as well is simple: there’s no mystery as to the identity of the monster. And for that matter, it’s no surprise that our heroes have been dumped on an alien planet; this aspect was integral in the film’s marketing. So why then is so much time spent dragging out the reveals of the Predator and the locale? I kept thinking: “Yeah, I know all this, show me the stabbing!”

I suppose director Nimrod Antal wanted us to bond with the characters, but apart from Royce (granted, his storyline was the tired “I don’t need teamwork!” cliché, but Brody worked hard and he was a convincing physical presence), everyone else were one-dimensional Action Hero Cutouts: the Russian tank, the silent-but-deadly Yakuza, the loudmouth antihero, and the comely female exposition machine. Topher Grace’s role offers some meat, but he seemed miscast.

Nevertheless, when the Predators show up and start throwing down, I am able to set aside many of my misgivings and succumb to the sweet embrace of shoulder-mounted plasma cannons blasting holes into dudes’ abdomens. In the end, that might be just be enough.

Fine, Bill Paxton would have put it over the top.

Fox’s Blu-ray is a good one. The 2.35:1 transfer (1080p, 28 MBPS) holds nicely even throughout the dark sequences (of which there are many) and the kinetic action moments. The first third — which takes place in the daylight — is a bigger treat, as the jungle environment pops from the clarity. Some of the CGI struggles under the microscope; the alien war dogs and some dodgy fire effects the hardest hit. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio pumps out the iconic Predator themes well and pushes out the big-time aural centerpieces (the big fight at the end, the opening freefall, anytime a fusillade erupts) with verve.

Extras: Commentary from Rodriguez and Antal; a nifty Prequel Motion Comic detailing the history of the film’s characters; a lengthy series of making-of featurettes (in HD); a not-so-nifty promo segment about the human characters; deleted and extended scenes; and a “Making a Scene” feature from Fox Movie Channel.

It’s leagues better than any of the AVP garbage, but Predators, while visceral and cool in places, falls short of the first and second entries.


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