The recent commercial success and critical acclaim of Prey have revived interest in the Predator franchise. While there is somewhat of a consensus that this is the first decent sequel featuring the fearsome Yautja, Nimród Antal‘s frenetic and creative Predators begs to differ. This 2010 follow-up to the series literally and figuratively transports the audience to another world, presenting a riveting blend of old shticks and new tricks. What’s so good about Predators is that it attempts to present something different compared to its predecessors, while still retaining a recognizable charisma. Even though it tips its hat towards the older films, it manages to pull the audience into an unfamiliar world that piques their curiosity.
Predators follows a rag-tag group of dangerous individuals as they wake up mid-free-fall towards a strange forest. The ensemble character introduction is a melting pot of cultures and occupations. It acquaints the audience with cartel enforcer Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Spetsnaz soldier Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), IDF sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga), revolutionary death squad member Mombasa (Mahershala Ali), death row inmate Stans (Walton Goggins), Yakuza member Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), and strangely, a normal-looking physician named Edwin (Topher Grace). As they are unceremoniously led by a mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody), they slowly discover that they are not in any recognizable or even earthly place. They are on a game preserve planet, and unfortunately, they are the game. This is where the strength of the film lies.
It Finds New Ways to Expand the Lore
By bringing humans into the Predators’ own domain instead of them coming down to earth, it presents an exciting new dynamic and more innovative ways to explore the Predator lore. The previous conceptions of the fierce alien warriors have always presented them going against a group of similar people, such as a commando squad (Predator), a police officer and the city team (Predator 2), a hiking expedition looking to unearth discoveries (Alien vs. Predator), and even an uninteresting bunch of townsfolk (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem). This time, they take some of the most interesting personalities in previous films and add some more fuel to the fire. One aspect of the appeal of the deadly Predators was the question of how they would fare against other types of dangerous humans. Can the Samurai stand toe-to-toe against the Yautja? Can mobsters gun their way through these terrifying aliens? Can medieval knights vanquish these technologically advanced beings? With deadly victims specializing in different ways of terror and killing, Predators takes this character diversity and successfully runs with it.
Predators Honors Its Predecessors
It is also worth noting that these creative innovations breathing fresh air into the franchise are not completely “new.” They also pay their respects to the already established trends in the movie series and attempt to improve them. For instance, the death of Billy in Predator, while heroic, was underwhelming for some. The argument could be made that his killing not being shown on-screen made it more mysterious, but for a build-up that includes him marking himself before battle, it certainly did not reach its potential peak. Predators addresses this by “resurrecting” Billy through Hanzo. As the group runs away from the titular antagonists, he offers to stall so Royce, Isabelle, and Edwin can escape. Hanzo embraces the Japanese warrior tradition and unsheaths his katana and in a similar vein of honor, the Predator activates his blade as well. The duel ends in a stalemate with both of them dropping to the ground dead, taking with them the privilege of knowing that they died with pride. Here, the film acts as the representation of what the audience could have seen before in the original, as well as putting a new spin on what has already been known.
Aside from this, one can see that there are mirrors in the main characters. It can be argued that Royce is an updated version of Dutch if you will. While Dutch was an uber-masculine Vietnam War veteran with hero written all over, Royce is a mercenary who is morally ambiguous and would not hesitate to use others as bait. Both of them have been in the service and their superior skills and experience have made them leaders. Judging by film history, these main characters are products of their time, with Dutch representing the machismo-laden action scene of the ’80s, and Royce embodying the more subdued and conflicted action hero of the modern age.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Perhaps the most intriguing of this filmic reconstruction of the franchise is the direct statement to the audience to accept the new breed of creatures and let the past go. This can be found in the climactic scene, where a captured Predator heavily resembling the one in the original film is set free by Royce in exchange for a ride back to Earth. The new berserker Predator sees this unholy alliance and fights the old one, ultimately beheading it in the process. The message is crystal clear: the old predator is dead. Long live the new!
Aside from these, there is also a surprisingly humanistic aspect in this film, highlighted by the redemption of the main characters’ flaws. Early in the movie, Royce has shown that he will not hesitate to sacrifice any member of the group to gain a tactical advantage. However, in the fight to the death against the berserker Predator, Royce comes back for Isabelle even though he had a chance to flee through a spaceship. Maybe seeing these foul beasts around them made him realize that they are not monsters themselves, but caring beings who have lost track of their own morality. In a way, the monsters have made them rediscover their own humanity.
Predators Is Not a Perfect Movie
However, this film is not without flaws. The most frustrating part about it is the jarring plot twist that Edwin is actually a serial killer and paralyzes Isabelle with a neurotoxin he has discovered on the planet. He justifies this by mentioning his sense of familiarity, as here in the world of the Predators he belongs. From an objective point of view, this revelation does not make sense. Why would a person, no matter how ostracized, be fond of living in a location where he is constantly being hunted? Why would a human being who thrives on killing remain on a game-preserving planet where he is at the bottom of the food chain? It almost derails the entire plot and feels rushed, representing a perfect example of including a twist just for the sake of it.
While it may have disappointed viewers, this ham-fisted attempt at trying to shock the viewers does not take away from the merits of this film. Predators is an in-your-face movie that’s frenetically paced and fills certain gaps in the Yautja mythology. Despite the legacy of the previous films, this picture has the ability to stand out on its own, and even viewing it as a standalone movie, there is no feeling of missing out. The ruthlessness, creativity, and evolution of these honorable warriors are on full display, simultaneously satisfying the passionate fan base and enticing the uninitiated to join in on the fun.