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Lukewarm franchise stays on the road to mediocrity

  • Anand Subramaniam

    Anand Subramaniam

    Desimartini | Updated - March 17, 2013 5:05 PM IST
    3.0DM (126 ratings)
    PredatorsWatch trailerRelease date : August 06, 2010

    The problem with trying to recreate the original tension and suspense of a classic thriller is a simple one - it can't be done. Any number of directors have tried and failed - Gus Van Sant and his shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's "Psycho" stand out in memory.

    I may be taken to the cleaners for this comparison, but the question facing any filmmaker trying to recreate the nerve-shredding tension of John McTiernan's 1987 classic is one that was answered decisively by Van Sant's debacle. The magic of a movie, that intangible something that makes something go from being "run of the mill action flick" to "cult classic that spawns a thousand spinoffs", is impossible to recapture even if you recreate every single thing that you possible can.

    Cue Nimrod Antal's "Predators", produced by Robert Rodriguez. Both men have stated their intention to make a film that was as close in tone as possible to the original, and the movie dutifully tries. A motley crew of hardened killers from various walks of life are dropped into an alien forest planet to serve as game for the titular "Predators". They are stalked and culled through the movie, with the protagonist and the girl finally surviving the onslaught to fight another day. Roll credits.

    But in trying to induce more human drama into the plot with shadowy character backgrounds, short-term alliances and hidden motivations, Antal loses his grip on the driving force behind the success of the original. McTiernan's movie chose one lop-sided battle and stuck with it - puny humans against mighty Predator. Knowing that the soldiers would function as a team but would die anyway is what lent the original its air of menace. "Predators" lacks that ability to make you feel the approach of an inexorable fate.

    Another problem is Antal's dependence on visual thrills. Explicitly showing every kill as it happens is good for CGI artists and visual artistry, but it takes the edge off the suspense. One of the most memorable scenes from the original movie was when Billy, the native American member of the squad being hunted by the Predator, stops running and turns to face the creature. The next shot was of the team hearing a blood-curdling scream in the distance, and after the two-beat pause, they run for their lives again. Nerve-shredding stuff. Here, though, the katana-wielding Yakuza enforcer's showdown with the creature becomes part martial arts set-piece, part character commentary, and wholly cheesy.

    The final element that contributes to the draining of all suspense and tension from the movie is in the title itself. This movie has "Predators". Plural. As in more than one. Three, actually. And one more that makes a fleeting appearance. And some hunting "dogs". It all detracts from how intimidating the Predator is supposed to feel - if they need three, plus a pack of savage animals to hunt down seven relatively frail humans, they can't be that terrifying, can they?

    Everything else is just about what you would expect from an action flick - the dialog is corny, the casting is stereotypical, and while the cast is high-profile, the acting is sub-par (Oh, Adrian Brody, how far you have fallen). The action is choreographed pretty well, and there are some neat decapitation and camouflage effects, and given that Hollywood movies are mercifully short when compared to their Indian counterparts, you won't be forced to endure the mediocrity for too long.

    All in all, watch only if you need an action fix with immediate urgency, and even then only if there are no real alternatives. Fans of the original - you'll want to see this just to remind yourself just how good "Predator" was.

    2.5 stars, with the extra half star for an ensemble cast and for the pleasure of seeing Lawrence Fishburne being blown into a gazillion pieces.

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