Predators, by Albert W. Vogt III

The Predator franchise is the one set of movies where I feel it is okay to do them out of order.  After the first two, anyway, there really is not an order to them.  They are, along with the Alien series, two of the most recognizable science fiction/horror films around.  Because of this name recognition, the studio that holds the rights to them sometimes takes the rights off the shelf and makes them into one-off productions that I am sure they hope will turn into the start of a renewed and long-lasting interest in these titles.  When that does not work, they combine them.  There are a few Alien vs. Predatorflicks, and I will get to them.  For now, I am rounding out the ones dealing just with our favorite hard to see space creatures, having also recently also seen Prey.  Hence, today you get Predators (2010).

The first shot of Predators is of Royce (Adrien Brody) awakening while free falling through the sky.  Not long after he comes to, his parachute opens just in time for him to survive a rough landing.  He is in an unfamiliar jungle, but he is armed with all the weapons this former United States Special Forces operative turned mercenary typically has with him.  He initially believes he is alone, but soon he discovers that there are others like him that have landed in the same area and are in similar states of confusion.  Also, they are all killers in some fashion, ranging from soldiers to criminal elements.  As this is somewhat of an ensemble cast, they will be introduced as needed.  The important part is that they do not immediately begin killing each other.  Also, Royce is the one who seems the least troubled by their situation and comes up with a plan of action that they all follow.  For the time being, his idea is to get to higher ground and assess the situation.  Doing so reveals a bigger problem: they are on another planet, which lines up with a number of other little clues they notice along the way.  The next clue shows them the dangers.  Suddenly, a noise like an alert splits through the air and a pack of four-legged beasts charges at them from the bush.  They all begin firing, and soon the threat is over.  Yet, in the aftermath they notice that one of their number, a member of a Mexican drug cartel named “Cuchillo” (Danny Trejo), has been killed.  Furthermore, his body has been boobytrapped, a fact that is first noticed by Royce.  This discovery leads him to believe that they have all been brought to a sort of hunting preserve, and that they are the prey.  To confirm this hunch, they track the retreating pack back to a sort of camp where they have their encounter with not just one of the alien species we know as Predator, but three of them.  Royce notices their camouflaged forms first, coming shortly after another of their fellows is killed, and tells them to run.  Though they manage to escape, they soon encounter another human resident of the preserve, one-time United States Army Air Cavalry serviceman Noland (Laurence Fishburne).  Somehow, he has managed to survive a previous drop, and had been scavenging ever since.  Royce and the rest are somewhat relieved to find another friendly face, but it almost becomes deadly when Noland tries to gas them in his hideout to take their weapons.  To escape, Royce concocts an explosion that alerts the Predators.  While the Predators go after Noland, Royce and those who are left go in the other direction, though a few more are lost along the way.  His next goal is to find a spaceship to fly them off planet, and there are only three left.  Aside from Royce, there is an Israeli sniper named Isabelle (Alice Braga) and Edwin (Topher Grace), a doctor.  In their dash back towards the camp where they hope the ship is located, Edwin steps in a trap that severely wounds his leg.  Royce wants to leave him, but Isabelle insists they stay with him.  While Royce goes ahead anyway, we learn why there is a seemingly harmless physician with their hurt companion.  He is actually a serial killer, and brought there by the Predators as a sort of check against the humans becoming too strong.  Meanwhile, at the camp, Royce frees a Predator being held prisoner.  In exchange for its freedom, Royce makes it understand that the humans want off this planet.  Unfortunately, this is when the last of the other Predators shows up and restores order (the other two dying earlier), destroying the ship before it can get off the ground.  Luckily, Royce was not on it, having gone back for Edwin and Isabelle.  While he had been gone, Edwin had temporarily paralyzed Isabelle.  Still, he cannot outwit Royce, who kills the doctor before the same can be done to him.  It is then on to an ending reminiscent of the first film in this franchise, though with Isabelle also pitching in to defeat the last Predator.  Though triumphant, our two battered remaining humans look up to find the whole process starting over with more parachutes falling from the sky.

The ending of Predators is kind of a gut check.  At least in the previous two we knew our heroes had survived their encounter with a deadly alien and would live.  I doubt Isabelle and Royce could go on much longer given their condition in the final moments.  At the same time, it is remarkable what a gut check can do for Faith.  In this light, I give you a character I have yet to discuss: Stans (Walter Coggins).  Of all the people in the film, he is probably the last one you would expect to receive attention in a Catholic sense.  To be sure, he says some of the most awful things throughout the film, including blatantly admitting that if he ever made it off the planet he would go back to a life of drugs and raping women.  That is not someone for which I root in films.  Yet, God has a purpose for us all, even hardened criminals.  Redemption can seem like a general and overused term.  You might also find it unbelievable that the Church grants absolution to the kinds of people society deems beyond hope, all the way up to the point when they take their dying breath.  The key is the earnestness of the Confession of wrongdoings, and a true desire that comes from within to change.  A lot of people, Christians included, want to see corporal punishment for convicts because they desire the kind of justice that is meted out and observable with our own eyes.  They do not have time to let God do run His course.  I assure you, Hell is far worse than any sanctions we can devise, including the death penalty.  Though faith is nowhere to be found in this film, this all lines up pretty well with Stans’ character.  He behaves in an appalling manner throughout.  Still, when it becomes abundantly clear that he is about to die, he does the right thing by sacrificing himself so that the others can escape.  It is not exactly a Final Confession, but I will take it.

I feel like Predators is a more worthy successor to the original than Predator 2 (1990), even if the former is even closer copy than the latter.  It is hard to mimic a masterpiece, and the art world is full of failed attempts at doing so.  It may seem weird using the word “art” here, but I am sure the filmmakers and actors and actresses would be more apt to agree with its usage.  Either way, if you want a more updated version of the same story, you could do worse.

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