I’m one of probably a handful of folks who didn’t mind the Alien vs. Predator films. I mean, sure, the first one was kind of dopey, but it was still more fun than your average studio release, while Requiem, for me, is a gruesomely guilty pleasure. Still, I can see how “serious” fans would be put off by the flicks, and it’s obvious that Fox sees that, too, as they’ve dropped the whole “VS” thing for the time being to focus on rekindling fan interest in the individual franchises. Ridley Scott is currently hard-at-work on a pair of prequels for the Alien series, while Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal have already delivered their take on the Predator mythos with…wait for it…Predators!
Predators wastes no time getting started as we’re immediately introduced to Royce (Adrien Brody), as he awakens mid freefall and comes crashing through the jungle canopy. He has no idea where he is or how he got here, but it isn’t long before he discovers he’s not alone, as, one-by-one, he meets seven other “heavy hitters”, each of whom apparently share the same travel agent. The roster of tough guys/gals include the cartel enforcer, Chuchillo (Danny Trejo); IDF sniper, Isabelle (Alice Braga); Russian soldier, Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov); Yakuza gang member, Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien); serial rapist, Stans (Walton Goggins); Rwandan death squad soldier, Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali); and…um…geeky suburban doctor, Edwin (Topher Grace). It’s obvious that they’ve all been brought here for a reason, but that reason isn’t made clear until they find themselves being chased around the jungle by all manner of beasties, all in the name of sport. Yes, this is a Predator hunting ground, and they are the prey. While the odds are certainly against them, our antiheroes have their weapons, their training, and even a little inside knowledge (it seems Isabelle is privy to some sensitive documents concerning a certain alien visitor’s trip to Central America circa 1987) to at least give them a fighting chance. Their chances start to look even better when they encounter Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a survivor of ten hunting seasons who not only knows how to kill the creatures, but even knows a way they may be able to get home.
I hope you weren't expecting much by way of an intelligent critique, here, 'cause, in my book, all a Predator movie needs to work are two things; Predators and victims of Predators. This movie has both, therefore, according to my stringent criteria, it's a success. Yeah, it's dumber than a bus load of mutes, but it's my kind of dumb, damnit, and I enjoyed it. That being said, however, there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding this film’s pluralization of the word, Predator. Most theater goers went in expecting to see a whole lot of Predators and what they got was…well…three (okay, four, if you count the runt tied to the tree, but he doesn’t do all that much). The advertising campaign didn’t help matters much as one very memorable scene (actually, the coolest scene) in the trailer features Adrien Brody shaking in his boots as his torso is covered in those nifty little laser site-dot-thingies, suggesting dozens of Predators aiming their shoulder-mounted cannons at him. The scene’s actually in the film, but there’s actually just the one laser-site-dot-thingy, thus, not nearly as cool. Still, if body count serves as any kind of indicator, anything more than the three Predators in this flick would be overkill. The action here is wall-to-wall, and the level of carnage is through the roof. Sure, it’d be neat if, at some point, we got a glimpse of some sort of Predator army or a peak at the Predator home world (which this isn’t. It’s simply a game preserve where they drop prey), but, judging by how the film ends, I sort of think that’s what Rodriguez may have in mind for future installments. Let’s just hope he gets the chance to show us.
Predators comes to Blu-ray packing a fantastic 2.35:1 1080p transfer that’s brimming with fine detail, and outstanding depth and dimension. Everything from the jungle scenery to fine facial detail is exceptionally well defined. Blacks are rich and true, and contrast is spot on throughout. The color palette is a bit subdued, but the lush tropical greens and plentiful gore pop off the screen.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is equally impressive. The bottom end is fueled by percussive gunfire, gut rumbling explosions, and the Predator’s guttural groans, while dialogue is mixed up front and center. The surrounds are put to great use, not just during the films numerous action sequences, but also during quieter moments, with nicely implemented environmental effects that are natural sounding and immersive.
Extras include an enjoyable feature-length commentary track with Antal and Rodriguez, a beefy making-of documentary entitled Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn (HD); a brief featurette focusing on the human characters called The Chosen (HD); Fox Movie Channel Presents: Making a Scene (SD), which is a quasi EPK styled behind-the-scenes bit featuring interviews and a look at the making of the Predator hounds scene; Robert Rodriguez Presents Motion Comics, which are exactly what they sound like – slightly animated comics, with Moment of Extraction offering a glimpse at what the characters were doing before they were plucked from Earth, and Crucified telling the story of the “runt” Predator and how he ended up tied to the totem pole at the Predator camp. Rounding out the extras are deleted and extended scenes (HD), as well as trailers for this and other Fox releases (HD).
Predators is lot of fun; from its Lost-style opening sequence to its bloody beatdown of a finale. Sure, there were a few minor missteps (Fishburne’s glorified cameo is mostly unnecessary and only serves to slow things down, while a revelation about a certain character is a both obvious and a bit laughable), but, overall, I consider this a welcome return to form for the franchise. Fox’s Blu-ray presentation is nothing short of exemplary, with near perfect picture and audio quality, and a healthy assortment of HD extras that are sure to please fans of both this film and the Predator series as a whole. Recommended!