Predators (2010) Blu-ray Review
The response to the Nimrod Antal-directed Predators was pretty tepid around these parts, with our own James Marsh and Jim Tudor giving it a resounding, "eh." Having had a chance to watch the recent blu-ray release myself, I can see where the enthusiasm gap came from with this one. While in no way particularly bad--it verges on having a couple of honest-to-god good moments--Predators never really figures out how to make the most of the titular villains as a story engine, and the limited scope leaves you having a hard time remembering what you just saw.
The movie is a pseudo-sequel to the Schwarzenegger classic, this time dropping eight killers on an alien planet used as a game preserve for the Predators. The killers--soldiers, mercenaries, and/or criminals must learn to work together to overcome the trio of Predators stalking them through the hostile alien environment. Adrien Brody leads the cast as a dead-eyed merc, who simply wants off-planet, and doesn't give a damn about his fellow hunted. It's easy to share his sentiment. The script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch is simply populated with types--the taciturn yakuza, the cuddly but tough Eastern European, the Danny Trejo--and it's hard to build up much interest in their plight.
It if sounds like I'm completely hating on the movie and the package, I'm not. It's just so thoroughly middle-of-the-road and it's weird seeing everyone involved portraying the effort of making Predators some great piece of art that was going to revitalize the franchise. I suspect Antal seriously gave some thought to where he wanted to go with the franchise, which makes it kind of disappointing that the best he and Rodriguez could come up with thematically is, "who's the real predator?" And when you say that out loud, it kind of makes the whole thing feel trite.
You can detect elements of old drafts of the script, left truncated by the rapid production process and the demands of making a lean action movie. As a game preserve, the alien planet feels a bit sparse; additionally, there's the introduction of some kind of caste struggle between the Predators on the cover and the one type that Arnie fought back in the 80's (passingly explained by a wild-eyed, scenery devouring Laurence Fishburne); for hardened killers, the main cast is frequently portrayed as panicky and on the run, making their escapes from their hunters feel more like matters of luck. That the scope of the movie never really matches the promise is the largest problem for Predators.
Sound and Video
For all of my complaints about the actual film, the palette and visual direction of the movie is rich and beautifully reproduced here, acting almost as a mini travelogue for the Austin and Hawaii locations where the film was shot. The colors are rich and the levels are just right. I think there was one low-light scene that betrayed the use of a digicam, but it was so fleeting that worrying about it too much is just nit-picking. The image is incredibly detailed, offering glimpses of every little grotesque element of the new Predator makeup effects.
It sounds good too, with a mix that allows you to hear some interesting ambient jungle noise as the leads are being chased for their lives.
On The Disc:
Some Motion Comics (meh)
Commentary by Antal and Rodriguez (it's aight)
Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn doc (some meat here)
The Chose featurette ("this cast is brilliant, blah blah")
Deleted and Extended scenes (got deleted for a reason)
Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene (back to "meh")
It's actually a fully-packed disc, and your mileage will really vary depending on how into the movie you are. There are actually a few fairly extensive docs looking at the production process for the movie, chatting with everyone from Antal and Rodriguez, to effects guru Greg Nicotero. It's actually really endearing watching Nimrod Antal talk about the movie, because he gets so hyped about the production and the relative hardships in making it (some uncooperative Austin weather, having to film his featured creatures in broad daylight). At the same time, that enthusiasm doesn't really show up in the final product.
Rodriguez talks a bit in the Evolution of the Species doc about his original vision for the movie, saying it was more Avatar than Predator and you kind of wonder during the doc why he didn't actually take the reins on this one. I'm not saying it would have been a better (or worse movie) than the one here, but I'm sure it would have been something interesting, at least, and maybe a little batshit insane when the movie needed it.