Predators

Starring Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, and Laurence Fishburne.  Directed by Nimrod Antal.
Rated MA15+ restricted (strong violence). 107 min.

Following on from the Predator science fiction series, which began in 1987 under the direction of John McTiernan, this third film in the series, steered by a new director, attempts to offer a military updated and more sophisticated version of sci-fi action-adventure.  It is more violent than some of its predecessors, and at times looks as if it is knocking at the door of the horror genre. The original Predator film was grisly, and this one has modern special effects, designed to help deliver its punches.

The classification of this film is restricted with its emphasis on strong violence, and the film merits this classification.  Part of the creative team behind the movie is the well-known director, cinematographer and producer, Robert Rodriguez, who was responsible for the gruesome thriller, “Sin City” (2005). Rodriguez has worked with Quentin Tarantino, and he is no stranger to showing graphic violence.

The principle behind the Predator series is important. The Predator is a member of a warrior race which hunts hostile members of other species for aggressive sport. Now,  many years on, this film shows human predators being hunted on an alien planet by other predators, who have learnt lots of tricks in the past. The Predator series spawned a second series where Predators did battle with Aliens in two subsequent movies, released in 2004 and 2007. Here, the Predators inhabit a far-away jungle planet, which serves as a game preserve, where they can hunt and kill their prey for sport. Each Predator has particular skills in stalking and killing, and they have acquired special hunting techniques.

In this film, Royce (Adrien Brody) is abducted and released onto the alien planet, where there are already other humans with a criminal history, who have got there in the same way. All have been sent there for a purpose. Royce assumes leadership of a  group of seven hardened individuals, who come to realize that they are prey on the Predators’ planet. They have been cold-blooded killers in the past, and have cruelly despatched other humans while working as convicts, mercenaries, commandoes, or members of death squads. Now, it is their turn to be hunted and killed by a new breed of Predator. The only way of surviving (and most of them don’t) is to band together as a team. The new Predator combines cunning with technological superiority to hunt the group down. Humanoid enough to identify with, these Predators are ruthless. They love the thrill of their sport, and are hunting and killing to make them better at the chase.  

The Predators are all sadistic killers, who want to study their prey, and they stalk them to learn their ways. Significantly, the Predators are not computer-generated. Most of them are actors wearing suits, and the film uses special cinematic techniques to give animals on the planet, robot-like movements to stalk and kill also.  The tension in the movie comes mostly, though, from the fearful anticipations of impending doom by the hunted. When the Predators actually appear some time into the movie, they are disappointing; the make-up and body suits don’t live up to their lively reputation. But despite the disappointment, the game between hunters and prey turns predictably nasty and bloody.

For those entirely at ease with the Predator series, this film is a step forward in the use of advanced technology, and it will no doubt appeal for that reason. The film creates some very distinctive special effects that rely heavily for their impact on what you are led to expect will happen. Not all of those effects work well, and some look plain silly. Hardened Predator fans will probably love the movie; they are used to the aggression anyway. But for newcomers to the series, the film may make them uncomfortable with the extent of aggression it displays in the name of entertainment.

Twentieth Century Fox.  Out July 8, 2010.

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.


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