Born and conceived from a shelved 1994 Robert Rodriguez concept, Predators is an embodiment of the 1985 original as much as the sequel Fox could never seem to nail after three previous attempts. The hunt and ensuing suspense are what the franchise and its fans have been clamoring for going on close to a quarter century, marred only by running out of steam and ideas as the film winds down.
Predators is a play on words that refers to the kidnapped “killer” humans dropped on an alien planet and the Predator aliens who put them there to hunt for sport. Like the original Predator, the unlucky participants are stitched together by clichés. There’s Robert Rodriquez favorite Danny Trejo playing a mirror image of himself; Adrien Brody as surly tough guy loner who channels Christian Bale’s Batman voice and his beefed up body; Walter Goggins as a motor mouth serial killer coward; Lawrence Fishburne as the guy with a trippy sanity; Oleg Taktarov as the mild-mannered big gun; Louis Changchien as the silent assassin; Alice Braga as the Latino macho warrior; Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as the clueless guy most likely to die quickly; and Topher Grace as the sniveling dweeb with questionable loyalties.
It is to be expected that most of this motley crew will die, and they do. How they die pulls back from the gore and inventiveness of Predator or even the Alien vs. Predator spin-off sequels. Rather focus on blood, Predators guns for thrills in an action-packed first half with alien dogs and a myriad of chases that get the blood pumping as familiar notes from John Debney’s score hang overhead. Then an awkward discovery is made which slams the pace into a brick wall as the remaining survivors limp through the final act with an inconsistent sense of urgency and scenes mirror the original with lesser results.
Fox’s Blu-ray transfer for Predators is prime evidence that shooting natively in HD can deliver rampant detail (you can count facial scars, fabric stitching, etching on weapons, etc) and dimensionality (some forest/jungle environs are mesmerizing) without being overwhelmed by a negative digital feel. The telltale sign that we’re not dealing with a film based source is minor noise, in backgrounds and dimly lit scenes, that adds ambiance without being distracting while the subdued palette and lush jungle colors balance exceedingly well against deep, well resolved blacks/shadows. CGI and live action are impressively blended in this high-def image with superior depth and life-like renditions that help absorb you into the action.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is very good though falling a bit short of greatness. While consistently robust in quality with noticeable directionality, the sound design is sometimes too front heavy utilizing the rears just for atmosphere (jungle noises and subtle use of the somber score). This causes the hard kicking action sequences to seem out of balance at points, but overall this lossless audio delivers a thrilling experience, with some rattling use of your sub, that compliments the commendable HD video.
Beyond The Feature
Fox has compiled some decent extras that while not mind blowing in quantity are about on par with what I’d expect from this release. Two additional discs are included, one with the DVD version and another with a digital copy of the flick.
Audio Commentary from Producer Robert Rodriguez and Director Nimrod Antal – Rodriguez dominates this track, showing the depth of his involvement with this project while proving how much fun it is to listen to him talk. The duo chat throughout the almost two hour runtime covering the 15 year gestation of the script, staying true to the original flick while delving deeper into the Predator mythology and shooting anecdotes among other expected topics.
Robert Rodriguez Presents Exclusive Prequel Motion Comics – Extraction(8:45) and Crucified(2:11) are motion comic “vignettes,” voiced by the cast, that fill in some back story on Isabelle, Cuchillo, Hanzo, Mambasa and the hunted Predator. Not essential but still interesting.
Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn (40:12, HD) – Cast and crew talk about returning to the themes of the original film, constructing the culture of the Predators, shooting in the Hawaii wilderness and finding other locales to mimic a jungle (a surprising amount of spots are outside Austin, TX), coordinating stunts, special effects and choosing the cast. A solid “making of” feature.
The Chosen (9:52, HD) – A promotional look at the nine predators “chosen” as prey.
Fox Movie Channel presents Making a Scene (7:06) – A look at the first sequence where anything “alien” is shown during the film, being the “make it or break it” scene for hesitant viewers.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (11:21, HD) – Eight entries, in varying quality, that are interesting to watch but wouldn’t have helped the pacing to have been included. Though the “woman pee, men piss…I unleash” line from Danny Trejo was pretty funny.
Also included is the Predators Theatrical Trailer (1:56, HD).
Predators failed to scare up huge box office business so for many its Blu-ray release will mark a first viewing. The high-def quality is unquestionably good and the supplements not too shabby either. Though the film loses its steam in the latter third, the ride to get there is a lot of fun and shows promise should Rodriguez be given a shot at a sequel.
– Robert Searle and Dan Bradley
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