“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
- Ernest Hemingway (quoted by Adrien Brody as Royce in the movie Predators)
Overall, I'd say the movie Predators was pretty good in spite of the fact that I spent a good part of it peeking out from behind my popcorn box. (Sorry, I have a low tolerance for gore and scary things.) I'd already read a review about it and thought it did sound promising, although not quite my kind of movie for the reasons above mentioned. [Warning: There may be some spoilers.]
However, I had watched the original Predator movies as a child (the first two, but not the Aliens crossovers). My dad was a great movie fan, and a valued patron of the local video rental shop, and we all eagerly looked forward to our Friday and Saturday night movies, which included most of what my dad called "classics," as well as the films featuring Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme. What struck me about the first Predator movie was that sense of man using his wits to survive and kill the alien predator. That's the part I always wait for with bated breath when I am able to catch the reruns, that part where Dutch realizes that the mud can mask his body heat and uses it to outwit the predator. There's something about it that makes you, somehow, proud to be human. The part I hated about the original movie was the girl, Anna, who seemed to be good only for shouting and looking sullen and didn't contribute much else. I guess I resented that she seemed to be a token character, a damsel in distress that acted like she could take care of herself but was always in need of rescuing.
What I like about the new Predators movie: it took that concept of human vs. alien and expanded on it (and I like the way Royce figures out how to beat the Predator, which is of course not the way Dutch did it), and at the same time it reversed the part I hated. Yay for Isabelle. I love it that she actually fights, and I mean fights. She's brave, she's fierce, she's a sharpshooter, she's even compassionate. In a nod to Anna in the first movie, she is also the one character who actually knows what the Predator is and tells the others about it, in essence recounting what happened in the first movie so as to show the continuity of the films.
This new movie is not set on Earth anymore, but on a completely different planet... and how the characters finally realize this is one of my favorite scenes (I can has wallpaper please?). In that sense, however, where in the first movies it was a case of a man against a monster, this new movie has been transformed into an allegory of humanity's battle for survival. Observe, for instance, the characters themselves, representing at the same time the different continents of Earth, and the best and the worst of humanity. We have a mercenary who was once with the US Special Forces (North America), a Death Row convict (North America), an female member of the Israeli special forces (Middle East), a member of the Yakuza (Asia), a Russian (Europe), a Mexican drug cartel enforcer (Latin America), a member of the Sierra Leone death squad (Africa), and a doctor (North America). How they all choose to fight, and in many cases, die, is telling. (Perhaps I'll write a more detailed analysis of this later, when it doesn't spoil the movie experience for many people.)
Along the way, the group learns why they are on that planet, and pick up some unlikely allies and enemies along the way. There are some unexpected twists, and many characters are not what they seem. All in all, I'm glad I won my bet with myself as to who would be left at the end, although I lost as to why. Part of the movie reminded me of Broken Arrow (heehee, guess which part.) And oh yes, I may have to reconsider not being an Adrien Brody fan.
* As already mentioned, that part where they find out where they really are.
* The sword fight scene between the Yakuza member and one of the Predators. Amajing!
Royce: It wants you to feel something for that man. To be human.
Isabelle: And what are you?
Things-- and people-- are not always what they seem. I went to see the movie expecting lots of action and thrills, and got what I expected-- and also got to thinking about the movie's imagery and the weaknesses and strengths of humanity. All in all, a worthy successor to the Predator franchise, and this might very well be a case where the successor trumps its forebears.
Disclosure: I was able to watch a special screening of this movie for bloggers, at SM Megamall. Thanks, SM Cinemas and Azrael Coladilla.