Resume, Reboot or Retire – Predator

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If a film makes any sort of return – oh, you can bet we’re getting a sequel. That might make sense if your film is say – Spiderman, but Big Momma’s House? Welcome to a new series of articles where we take a look at film series and ask Reboot, Resume or Retire?

PREDATOR

‘Pick on someone your own size’, 1987’s Predator introduced us to everyone’s favourite bullies – Predators. With the chilling news that the summer will bring us another Predator film we’ve seen our dreadlocked friends in no fewer than 4 previous outings. Being a healthy mix of 1980’s action excess, sci-fi and Arnold Schwarenegger Predator ticked all the boxes for an enjoyable, yet throwaway, blockbuster. It doesn’t have much to say for itself but gets by on Arnold’s one liners and testosterone. Memorable scenes include our crack team vaporising a large stretch of jungle and Arnold impaling an enemy followed by the line ‘stick around’. It’s gloriously daft – if you liked Die Hard and Lethal Weapon you will know what you’re getting. We don’t see much of the Predator – it’s never clear what its motivations are and it’s largely reduced to ‘the threat’, a plot device – but one with a lot of style. I suppose it’s the Predator’s part ninja part alien badass that explains the characters appeal.

Predator is a solid 8/10.

A sequel was always likely and director Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare of Elm Street 5) is determined to stick with the Predator formula – big 80’s action name and bloody OTT violence. Events unfurl in a city setting this time and we have a bit more story too – something about gangs in LA in the year 1997. The Predator gets a bit more development – seems they are seeking worthy prey (the predator spares a pregnant woman for instance) and they have even encountered Ridley Scott’s Alien. It wouldn’t be fair to say Predator fails simply because Schwarzenegger wasn’t involved – but it certainly fails. Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) is hopelessly miss cast – he’s not a leading man and Predator 2 really needed one. The whole cast makes Predator 2 feel like some sort of 80’s has-been convention – Busey, Paxton, Davi , I could have been watching Licence to Kill, Die Hard or just about any other film of that era. The OTT style was part of the charm in Predator but in Predator 2 it just falls flat. Without the humour the excess just feels like, well…excess. I often draw parallels with Predator 2 and Die Hard 2 because to me they are very similar – loud, obnoxious and with absolutely nothing original. Without a genuine ‘star’ there is precious little reason to care about anything that happens in Predator 2. Ultimately the story concludes without every really concluding – the Predators simply go home.

Predator 2 is quite simply a bad film – 3/10.

14 years on and Paul W S Anderson (Resident Evil) is tasked with bringing back our dreadlocked friends to the big screen. Perhaps driven by the realisation that the Predator hadn’t really been developed into much of a character they are paired up with the aliens from Aliens – a match made in heaven (or at least the countless comics that had come before). 2004’s Alien Vs Predator is pure MTV. Paul Anderson isn’t just content to make Predator 3 – he’s going to update the series with every trick going. Fast cuts, high tempo, superficial story and characters – AVP is the son of the MTV generation. AVP has no interest in being anything like Predator 1 and 2, or the Aliens films. Gone is the OTT element from Predator, gone too is the gore, gone is the fun perhaps?

To be honest – I admire AVP. Alien and Predator fans wanted a gory death match on Earth with shoulder cannons and tail impaling galore. AVP doesn’t give us that – and people disliked it as a result. What AVP does do is give us a ultra polished, ultra modern instalment – finally the Predator gets the back story and culture they have lacked. The Predators are shown as being far more vulnerable than previous instalments – here we have juvenile Predators learning the hunt, and quite simply – making a complete mess of it. Perhaps the ‘cool’ factor takes a dent but a humanised Predator was more interesting for me personally. People didn’t like its MTV style but here is a film that achieved everything the director set out to do – we might not approve, but this is the coherent and relevant film Predator 2 should have been.

Modernised and put back on track, 7/10.

 2007 was AVP2, the fourth outing for the Predators. With AVP giving a shot in the arm to two flagging series there were high hopes for this. Critics of AVP seemed to focus on the lack of wholesale slaughter – so AVP2 would deal with that. The Brothers Strause were put in charge and things seemed to be all set.

Simply put AVP2 should have finished this series. The budget was slashed to such a degree it’s difficult to imagine what even James Cameron could have done here. We have such a limited budget that we never actually see the aliens clearly at any point. Nothing is added to this series and it’s nothing short of incredible that there were sufficient funds to actually make a film at all. Everything is deliberately dark for fear the audience might catch a glimpse of something. One can blame the directors or one can simply accept that as with Alien 3 – if Fox want to wreck something, they’ll do it. If a director as talented as David Fincher couldn’t save Alien 3 what chance did the Strauss Brothers have?

Quite simply AVP2 isn’t worth dwelling on. 2/10.

With a total rating of 20/40 the Predator films are now a legacy of missed opportunities and cinematic junk. Yet the appeal lives on – buried within dire scripts is a character audiences still connect with. It’s difficult to understand why – we’ve never really explored the race in any depth. Perhaps there lies the appeal – the belief that there is a story to tell and that one more film will do it. Perhaps because we’ve never really ‘met’ the Predator a succession of poor films haven’t really damaged its image. I feel there is a great Predator film just waiting to be made. It is for that reason I don’t feel a reboot is warranted – the character hasn’t been damaged and may have actually been enhanced. Retiring this series while it still has that one great film left in it would be a mistake. 2010 will give us ‘Predators’ – free of the Alien baggage we just might be getting the focused film we deserve. My hope is that we finally get a true insight into their culture – and a true demonstration of their abilities. With some big name stars and a more realistic budget 2010 may finally see this series get the justice deserve. Bring it on.

Resume, Reboot or Retire – Resume!

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One Response to “Resume, Reboot or Retire – Predator”

  1. Danjo Kazooe Says:

    Interesting article. I’m glad you are just as keen as me to see the new Predator movie. You seemed a little sceptical at first. Did the footage sway you?

    I must object to some of your opinions though. Predator II is a great action movie! Not as good as the original – due to the lack of larger than life stars to chew its scenery – but a fun, violent expansion on the Predator mythos. As mentioned – we learn alot of new info about the Predator race, and it is these ideas that cemented the creatures place in sci-fi history.

    I really don’t get what you see in the first AVP. The once brutal Alien/Predator series gets a kid friendly makeoever – making the movie feel more like a long episode of Power Rangers than a sci-fi horror. I really hated the Chariots of the Gods angle Paul Anderson mixed into the monster mythologies too. It never sat right with me, and has unfortunatly become cannon to the series.

    The sequel AVP Requiem was more of the kind of movie I was hoping to see in the first place. I always wanted to see Aliens come to earth, and I always wanted to see Alien/Predator fisty-cuffs. This movie offered both! Sadly, the lack of budget really hindered this one, and despite good intentions – really failed on all counts.

    With Ridley Scotts Alien Prequel on the horizon – do you plan to give the Alien series the same treatment?

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