The unknown, disbelief, escalating dread, creditable characters, these are elements that most of the Predator sequels have lacked until now. Inventively in this film, human predators are turned into the prey, a fact they quickly become cognizant of.
The characters in Predators are the second best in the series next to the characters in the first film. Most are instantly believable as who they say they are, some more quickly then others by virtue of the way they are presented and the amount of dialogue they have.
The characters are not given artificial dialogue to spew, the dialogue is unique to them, their pasts (and present occupation), and from where they came from. It is one of best aspects of the film.
The female character in the film, Israel Defense Forces sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga), is more strongly written and acted than the film’s supposed lead mercenary of Royce (Adrien Brody). Most of the characters are self-sufficient, independent operators like from the first film. Only one or two are dependent on others and the group for survival. This is mostly do to the fact that they are not soldiers and are unarmed.
The setting of Predators is the familiar living organism that encompassed and cradled the end of the Special Operations Team led by Major Alan “Dutch” Schaeffer in Guatemala in 1987, though this jungle in on an alien world that is not in our solar system. The environment – an allegory allusion to isolation exemplified in Carpenter’s The Thing – has to be contended with as well as the alien threat.
Giving insight in the planet and situation is a clandestine vet of the alien hunting reserve. Prolonged isolation has taken its degenerative toll on the sanity rating of the sometimes mumbling, talking to himself Air Assault soldier Noland (Laurence Fishburne) like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and Will Smith in I Am Legend.
Another character that makes his presence felt is a convict due for execution in two days, Stans (Walton Goggins). Introduced in a rolling ground brawl with a Revolutionary United Front officer Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), the viewer might dismiss him as a “waiting to die”. Then he pulls out his knife (or shiv) then later he talks about what time it is. The viewer will never think about five o’clock the same again and his announcement alludes to a possible reason for his incarceration. He may be referring to male prisoners though when he references “bitches” as he would have been on death row for a long time with the appeal system the United States has in place.
Royce is more S.D. “Snake” Plissken than any other protagonist in the Predator series but his character was not written as well as it needed to be. Though the alpha male of the group, he is no L.A. Police Lieutenant Mike Harrigan. Harrigan had more A.Q. than any single character in Predator 2 and the rest of the series. It would have been beneficial to Royce had he been imbued with similar aggressive qualities.
The surprise in the third act was well done; the viewer will most likely never see it coming. The anomaly is hinted at, even pointed out earlier in the film but nothing is made of it until one precise moment.
Isabelle’s tale of Dutch and Predator was good and precisely placed, but was not as effective as the one told by Anna Utani in Predator about El Demonio que hace trofeos de hombres.
I like that they showed a second sentient alien life form on the planet besides the Predators. Too bad it was killed off by the “team” early in the film. It would have been interesting if it had become a member of the humans’ mismatched cadre.
The problems that affected the film were few: the “napalm” grenades and their blast wave were unnecessary. The two remaining Predators dying by decapitation was an exercise in a lack of imagination as was Nolan’s disintegration death scene (“What took you so long?”). Ten hunting seasons and he dies nonchalantly with a quip. The spine rip-out was thrown in with no build up or significance much like the skinning in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Both were nods to the first film, the former orchestrated better than the latter.
How does a new hunting season start in the middle of another? Fresh cargo containers are seen dropping from the sky at the end of the film. What was that about? From what is established from Nolan, a hunting season lasts a year, one of our years.
The fire ring was a brilliant idea with Royce covered in mud it was either badly written or badly executed. It should have been better than the human Emil Blonsky vs. Hulk battle in The Incredible Hulk. There was no build up to the Royce/Predator fight, no awe, no originality. In short, it was ordinary and non-climatic even though it was the climax of the film.
Nimrod Antal’s Predators is almost, almost the Predator sequel people have been waiting for since the original left the cineplex. The first two acts are stronger than the third. The third is riddled with emotionless deaths, homages, and seen-it-befores. There is, however, enough meat in the third act – and that clever twist spoken of earlier – to sustain it and uphold the Predator legacy.