20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Adrien Brody, Alice Braga, Topher Grace
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes
Rebooting a franchise can be a tricky endeavor. While it presents the opportunity to take creative liberties with well known characters and creatures, there is an obligation to recognize previous entries in the series and how they inspired an updated vision. When Robert Rodriguez mentioned that he was interested in the 'Predator' series, the film world listened. He may have had his name attached to about 3,000 projects (anybody still waiting for 'Red Sonja'?), but 'Predator' was the spark that grew into a fire. The buzz took a bit of a hit when Rodriguez left the directorial duties to Nimród Antal ('Vacancy', 'Armored') and replaced Dutch, the big, buff Arnold Schwarzenegger with Royce, slender 'Pianist' Adrien Brody. Even with these changes, 'Predators' still carried a great deal of excitement throughout the film's production. Unfortunately, it opened during the wake of all things 'Twilight' and stumbled through a $52 million theatrical run. Who says that it is the end for 'Predators'? As genre fans know, many box office 'flops' find their audiences in the home video market. Would Dutch approve of the direction the franchise has gone or would he call this Blu-Ray release 'one…ugly motherfucker'?
'Predators' hits the ground running. Royce (Adrien Brody) wakes up in a free fall then begins to desperately release his parachute before hitting the ground. He is able to secure a tough landing in the jungle below and quickly finds out that others have awakened to the same nightmare. Part of the diverse clan consists of CIA agent Isabelle (Alice Braga), a drug cartel enforcer named Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), and Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a quiet Yakuza hitman. There is also Chechen commando Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), a death row inmate named Stan (Walton Groggins), a soldier known as Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) and Edwin (Topher Grace) a timid doctor who almost seems out of place in this ragtag group of killers. Most of these characters are used to calling the shots, but hesitantly decide to take advantage of Royce's knowledge and training to lead them out of the jungle. While Isabelle checks off potential areas of the world the group may be, they are surprised to find out they aren't even on Earth. In most situations, this would be the biggest problem. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when they realize they are on a planet with the sole purpose of being hunted by extremely skilled and violent alien predators. Handpicked for their individual skills, the group must find a way to survive in a world where alien predators are just as excited about the hunt as they are about the kill.
I really enjoyed 'Predators'. While the original film was filled with muscle and guns, this reboot features characters that bring different skills to the table. All of the characters are still equipped with heavy artillery, but their unique backgrounds help create some interesting encounters when confronted by predators. Adrien Brody borrows from Christian Bale's 'Batman' with his gritty voice. He may have seemed like an odd choice as a lead for 'Predators', but excels in the role. Royce never loses his vision of freedom and will make any sacrifice necessary to meet his goal. Alice Braga and Topher Grace bring heart to a film expected to be shallow in character development. They are the yin to Royce's yang, letting emotion cloud their decisions as he tries to remain detached. While there is a fair share of grunts in the film, Danny Trejo was underused. The 'Predator' fan in me wanted the character of Cuchillo to run parallel to Sonny Landham's Billy. Trejo, who was able to showcase his acting chops much more in 'Machete', is one of the few menacing characters who could believably pull off the 'tough guy who knows he has met his match' role.
Most won't pick up 'Predators' for the acting though. Genre fans are thirsty for blood and know the true stars of the film are the aggressive alien predators. They will not disappoint as Antal does not hold back on violence. While they have always been known for their stealth skills, these predators seem to be students of 'The Most Dangerous Game'. Humans are the ultimate prey and these guys love to hunt. The predators not only hunt humans for sport, they learn from each experience to sharpen their own skills for the next group of victims. It explains why Royce and his oddball crew are so diverse and definitely sets up some great moments in the film. Any genre fan who doesn't get excited when Hanzo finds a sword for his mission needs to go back and watch 'Goyôkiba'. It is one of the areas where the reboot excels – expanding on storylines we are familiar with to create new and interesting scenarios. The added element of motive not only makes the predators vicious, it adds a sense of terror that was missing from previous entries in the series.
When Troublemaker Studios is involved, the end result is usually pretty good. 'Predators' hits the home market with a stunning 1080p/AVC encoded transfer that is very impressive. At first thought, I believed the picture quality may have stood out because I had just finished watching 'Predator' on Blu-Ray. The 1987 classic shows its age in high definition and has a grainy feel to it. 'Predators' is very slick. There is a high level of detail that captures all of the intricacies of the jungle and special effects. Flesh tones are superb and can be downright scary depending on the actor in front of the camera. I love what Danny Trejo brings to a movie, but a high definition look at the details in his face can be downright scary. The beauty of 'Predators' takes a bit of a hit once the action shifts to night shots. Even with accurate black levels and crystal clear action, nothing beats the sunlit look the film sports in the opening scenes.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Track is the highlight of the disc. A movie like 'Predators' needs a field of sound that takes viewers off the couch and places them in a predator infested jungle. The aggressive mix makes use of all speakers, balancing a crisp dialogue in the front field with outstanding rear speaker cross-channel effects. There will be bullets whizzing around your living room and explosions vibrating your floor. Don't slap yourself when you hear the insects buzzing in the jungle, it is just part of the ambient sound increasing the experience of the film. It may be a good idea to warn the neighbors before cranking up the volume; otherwise it is possible the police may show up to investigate the gunshots.
It is the extra features that may explain why Robert Rodriguez didn't direct 'Predators'. One of his most popular featurettes is the 'Robert Rodriguez' 10 Minute Cooking School'. Can you think of any 'Predator' inspired food? Would you really want to eat it? This hiccup could be the creative wall that pushed Rodriguez out of the director's chair. All joking aside, the 'Predators' Blu-Ray release does offer a feature length commentary with Director Nimród Antal and Producer Robert Rodriguez, deleted scenes, Prequel Inspired Motion Comics (similar to the comics found on 'The Crazies' DVD/Blu-Ray), and some featurettes that add depth to the film. 'Predators' also includes a digital copy of the film for those who like to watch movies on the go.
While I can only speculate on what Dutch may call this release, I found the blu-ray to be a breath of fresh air in the series. The cast did a stellar job with the material and there were some creative ideas put into play whenever a predator was onscreen. The original may be iconic, the questionable video quality and lack of extras certainly put a damper on its high definition debut. 'Predators' not only sports a great video and audio transfer, it comes with enough extras to satisfy any fan of the film. A purchase is recommended to get the full experience of the film since rental copies have no extra features attached.