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Predators: Blu-ray Review

Predators (2010) movie poster Predators

Theatrical Release: July 9, 2010 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Nimród Antal / Writers: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch (screenplay); Jim Thomas, John Thomas (characters)

Cast: Adrien Brody (Royce), Topher Grace (Edwin), Alice Braga (Isabelle), Walton Goggins (Stans), Oleg Taktarov (Nikolai), Laurence Fishburne (Noland), Danny Trejo (Cuchillo), Louis Ozawa Changchien (Hanzo), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali (Mombasa), Carey Jones (Tracker Predator), Brian Steele (Berserker Predator, Falconer Predator), Derek Mears (Classic Predator)

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by Kelvin Cedeno

What exactly is the difference between a remake and a reboot? The distinction seems to lie in the story being told. While remakes tell the same story from a new angle, reboots seek to tell a new story while returning a franchise to square one.
Reboots have been doing well so far, with Batman Begins, Casino Royale, and Star Trek pleasing fans of the original properties while welcoming many new ones.

One reboot that came and went with little fanfare was Fox's Predators, grossing a mere $126 million worldwide. While that would look like a bomb by normal summer movie standards, the production's $40 million budget ensured some profit. Will this start a new franchise the way the aforementioned reboots did? Only time will tell.

What's interesting about Predators is that while it's not actually a remake, its story certainly harks back to the original, and there's one link that even makes it a sequel of sorts. In this tale, the lead is a mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody). Suddenly finding himself airborne after being thrown off a plane, he lands in a secluded jungle with eight equally bewildered people. Outside of a doctor named Edwin (Topher Grace), all of the other stranded characters have had experience in hunting and killing. Some, like Isabelle (Alice Braga), are part of military units while others, like Stans (Walton Goggins) are convicted criminals.

In wandering through the jungle, the group soon realizes that they're on a completely different planet, but that's actually the least of their worries. Strange alien predators prowl around in search of humans, and these creatures are fully aware of the group's presence. Royce and the others learn from a crazed hermit (Laurence Fishburne) that the planet is actually a gaming preserve in which the predators bring in humans and other foreign creatures for hunting. To make matters worse, these aliens can quickly pick up weaponry skills and fighting tactics just from observing how others behave.

Royce (Adrien Brody) and Isabelle (Alice Braga) take aim during their desperate battle against the alien Predators.

Usually, stories feature either a complex plot where the characters are pawns or a loose plot that allows for character development. The best tales find a way to combine both, providing an interesting storyline with well-rounded characters. Predators doesn't really fall into any of these categories. Not a great deal actually happens other than the characters wandering aimlessly while trying not to get killed. The filmmakers don't use the allotted time to develop these personalities beyond one note, and some not even that far. You know there's a problem when you're identifying a character solely by his race.

To truly create suspense, you need to show the audience that these are real people who've been dropped into a frightening situation. Without that human connection, you end up with little more than a glorified video game. Actually, that's probably not a fair comparison since at least in a video game, a level of tension comes with being put directly in the character's shoes. Here, there's a constant disconnect from everything that's going on. People die left and right, but it doesn't feel like anything, and you're left wondering why you should even care.

In the movie's favor, it does attempt to establish a tone and get a feel for the world we've been thrust into. The titular creatures don't even appear until around the halfway mark. The problem is more time is spent having characters react to their surroundings via painful lines of dialogue than in trying to distinguish everyone. Admittedly, no one in the cast does a bad job. They all turn in serviceable work, and Adrien Brody makes a more convincing action hero than expected, but the material prevents all from creating memorable personalities. Only Laurence Fishburne's part comes close to being noteworthy, and it's over as soon as it's begun.

Laurence Fishburne stars as Noland, a veteran of the human-Predator wars.

Produced by the cost-effective Robert Rodriguez, Predators is slick given its low budget. Perhaps a factor in the frugality, there is a greater reliance on animatronics and suited performers than CGI for the predators. The computer work is mainly for embellishment, and this makes the creatures more believable. No matter how excellent CGI can be, there's something about having a tangible on-screen element that grounds a scene in reality.

Despite not throwing CGI at us left and right or becoming an endless string of action sequences, Predators still can't manage to rise above a mediocre script. The characters are nothing but props given B-movie dialogue, and the situations they find themselves in aren't terribly thrilling. It's closer in style to the original 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film than the sequels and spin-offs have been, but one can't help but feel this was a missed opportunity to satisfy established fans and attract new ones.

Buy Predators from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
DTS-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Eco-Friendly Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

On Blu-ray, Predators appears in its 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. The original film has become the poster child for excessive digital noise reduction, but thankfully there's no such problem here. Given the digital roots of the source, the image is expectedly flawless. Color timing and saturation are kicked down a notch for a grimy effect that's replicated accurately here. The image is consistently well-defined, something particularly important given the lush landscapes. There are no discernible digital woes in this exceptional transfer.

The DTS-HD 5.1 is equally strong. The first half of the film is dominated by realistic jungle ambience that's only occasionally interrupted by an exaggerated sound effect. Once the actual predators reveal themselves, the track kicks into high gear, filled with an almost excessive amount of roars, shrieks, gunfire, and explosions. All of this is mixed in a way that takes complete advantage of the surrounds, and the dialogue is always clear despite these. The surprisingly animated score also compliments the other elements well in a track that few will find fault with.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The Blu-ray's supplements begin with an audio commentary by producer Robert Rodriguez and director Nimrod Antal. Though both lively, Rodriguez dominates the track. Among the discussed topics are Rodriguez's original 1990s treatment of the story, the efforts to firmly link this entry to the original movie, various behind-the-scenes stories from the shoot,
and the challenges of designing and executing the predator effects. It's an informative and spirited track that doesn't run into any dead air.

The video features, all in HD unless otherwise noted, start with two collections of Motion Comics. To those unfamiliar with this recent practice, these provide comic book artwork that's been minorly tweaked to feature animation and give off a sense of depth. "Moments of Extraction" (8:45) takes a first-hand look at Isabelle, Cuchillo, Hanzo, and Mombasa's lives before the start of the film. "Crucified" (2:10) shows how the predators torture and kill one of their own. While the latter doesn't really add much, the former is far more valuable than any minimal lines of exposition given in the actual film. In a nice touch, all of the original actors reprise their roles vocally for their monologues.

The centerpiece of the supplements, "Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn" (40:12) is a six-part documentary that covers every base of production. It begins with a look at the story and what the filmmakers wanted to tie to the original and what they wanted to alter. It progresses to the actual shoot, showcasing the difficulties of Hawaiian location filming and how to replicate it on a sound stage. The documentary concludes with predators themselves and how their looks and tactics were updated for this reboot. Because Rodriguez and Antal feature heavily in this, information overlaps with the commentary, but there's still a good deal of valuable footage and information gained.

"The Chosen" (4:52) is a promotional piece in which each of the characters tells their story and assesses their current predicament. Between this and the motion comics, it seems the filmmakers were aware of how uninvolving the characters were and chose to rectify that in other outlets. As such, the sound bites provide a bit more perspective and act as an interesting promotional tool.

"Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene" (7:06, SD) is another in the channel's endless series of promotional interstitials. Here we take a look at a sequence in which the gang is attacked by four-legged predators not unlike canines in behavior. The piece zips through the design process and delineates what was physically on set and what was digital. Despite its brevity, it's an enlightening clip made all the more valuable by its behind-the-scenes footage.

Next are nine deleted and extended scenes (11:21). Some of these are little more than inconsequential cut gags. Others, however, provide nice character moments that should've been left in, the most notable of which gives an entirely different angle to Topher Grace's character. Sadly, no commentary or intros explain to why they were excised.

The supplements conclude with the always-appreciated theatrical trailer (1:55). A digital copy DVD-ROM is also included for transfer to portable devices.

The majority of these extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray edition. All the DVD retains is the audio commentary, 1 1/3 of the two motion comics, and one of the six parts of "Evolution of the Species." Not a fun time for extras-loving fans of standard DVD and Predators.

The disc opens with trailers for Machete, The A-Team, Mirrors II, FX, and Fox Digital Copies. Additional previews can be found under "Sneak Peek" for Knight and Day, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Fox TV on DVD.

The main menu features a montage of character close-ups stylized to look as though they're being viewed through the predators' radar. The pop-up menu opens from the bottom, utilizing Fox's annoying design of squeezing in one menu element at a time within a small box.

Both the Blu-ray and digital copy discs are housed in an eco-friendly keepcase. This comes inside of a cardboard slipcover with embossment and holographic effects. Inside, the only pamphlet is the one holding the digital copy activation code.

Edwin (Topher Grace) is a doctor who finds himself trapped on an alien planet with a group of tough-as-nails mercenaries, including Isabelle (Alice Braga) -- all of them being hunted by Predators.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Given its subject matter, Predators had the potential to be something remarkable, but it succumbed to mediocrity and safe-playing. It's handsomely produced but hollow to the core, and that robs it of any terror or suspense it might've delivered.

The Blu-ray provides exceptional image and sound, plus pretty decent supplements in light of the film's lack of notice. Fans of the franchise will be probably more forgiving of the shortcomings after all of the terrible sequels they've been dealt, but newcomers are encouraged to either check out the original or visit the much stronger Alien series.

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New: Winter's Bone • Toy Story 3 • Grown Ups • Exterminators • Elf: Ultimate Collector's Edition • Paths of Glory
Adrien Brody: The Experiment • The Thin Red Line • The Village • The Darjeeling Limited • Angels in the Outfield
Alice Braga: Blindness | Walton Goggins: That Evening Sun • Miracle at St. Anna | Danny Trejo: Con Air
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Reviewed October 29, 2010.



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