Predators Rant/Review

Script writing has degenerated to such a degree in Hollywood that plots are no longer necessary. The original predator involved a jungle showdown between an alien from outer space and gun wielding folks as end state, right? Well the entire premise of Predators is predicated on an absurd deus ex machina: rather than go through the effort of establishing a reason for the cast, setting and plot to exist, the cast is virtually teleported into a jungle with predators immediately and without explanation. I am not arguing that action movies should be Shakespeare, but Predator had a number of interesting and compelling plot points: the supposedly missing cabinet minister, a CIA cover-up, false flag operations, the whole subplot involving the rebels (clearly modeled to reflect US relations in South America during the 19870s and 80s) and a general climate of military realism. Even the reason why the cast of the original Predator has to trek through the jungle rather than be magically saved by a helicopter pick up makes sound sense: the first chopper sent in was shot down by a heat seeking missile, and the LZ is too hot. They can’t make subsequent contact with friendly forces because as we might recall command has established a small window by which to talk to the special forces team in order to avoid interdiction by potentially listening enemy forces. This makes sense from a military perspective, and grants the film a plausible reasoning for throwing the cast into a horror/sci fi scenario.

In Predators, there is 0 exposition. The cast is literally thrown into the jungle with only the flimsiest of implied explanations. The cast of characters find themselves parachuting from the sky, apparently not knowing how or where they got there. As there is no connection between the characters whatsoever, or a reason for the plot existing, the film comes off of as a sort of fanboy’s eroticism and an exercise in violence masturbation – a “plot” so simple that it cannot rightly be called a plot and might as well been cooked up by a 12 year old kid having a daydream.

“Guys I totally just got the coolest idea, just like, take 10 guys and their in a jungle with predators.”

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This leads me to my next point – the characters themselves. They consist of a series of racist caricatures, evoked to explain their nature materially and without nuance. We have the crazed, hillbilly, tattooed, cussin’, death row guy who loves knives and having fist fights for no reason, the African tribesman who speaks primitively and has done “barbaric” things, the meditating, katana wielding, Japanese samurai, the smarmy Mexican drug dealer,  the Russian (who is identical to the Russians from the 80s),  the Hispanic hot girl who is tough and knowing, the effeminate, white collar, geeky scientist who spews out random scientific facts and the magical negro, Laurence Fishburne. Adrian Brody is perhaps the worst lead in recent memory – his horrible attempt at speaking like a tough guy (think Christian Bale) and imitating manliness and arete is painful and nauseating to watch. His womanlike hipster looks and overcompensating weapon don’t help matters. He is as much of a man as Pee Wee Herman and shames the memory of Ahnuld.

Aside from the DP – a note on the character development and drama. There is none. One of the most depressing scenes is when the scientist literally abandons the Commie and makes no efforts to save him (mere seconds after the latter saved the former). This is to say nothing of the fact that an on screen friendship is alluded to. The scientist takes 0 time to reflect on what has just happened, or the fact that he made no effort to save his new friend (who was not in a hopeless situation by any means – about 10 meters away from the gun toting cast). Does the scientist alert the cast that the Commie is about to be murdered? Of course not, he just keeps running. Excellent character drama in Predators.

The film also represents a serious degeneration in the conception of hero. The protagonist does such heroic antics as:

1. Leading a group of less experienced fighters into what is clearly an ambush in order to gain intelligence about his enemy.

2. Abandoning two members of his party because one of them is injured and the other refuses to simply boobytrap the wounded one and leave him for dead.

3. Signaling the predators to his location in order to free himself from a trap, simultaneously leading to the deaths of most of his party.

4. Torturing a captured prisoner.

5. Making an alliance and then betraying his ally by not aiding him in a decisive battle.

…and generally using those following him as tools in order to save himself.

Inspiring stuff.

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It seems as if every movie coming out of Hollywood, and most creations of society in general, are nothing more than mere pastiche of good memory. All one needs to do to make a movie nowadays is to remake something worthwhile, as if simply the memory of the artifact will overcome the flaws of the new production. Indeed, the American psyche appears unwilling and unable to process new concepts, ideas and mythology and instead has become reliant on a stream of imitation and reinvention. As with the Freidberg and Seltzer films, the American public is seemingly entertained just by recalling something, anything, they can remember. Freidberg and Seltzer just take pop culture references and play them back to the audience, this is somehow funny, while Predators invokes scenes and music from the original Predator, and this is somehow invigorating. And while the events they plagiarize had essence, the recreation is soulless and absurd.

Take the scene from Predators in which the samurai sacrifices himself Billy style. In the original film Billy was a member of a special forces team which had existed for years, and some members had been traveling together for decades, working in Vietnam together. The members of the team respect and love each other. Each loss if a terrible catastrophe, although the team soldiers on in military style in order to complete the task. Billy’s sacrifice can be interpreted as an act of honor to aid and preserve his friends. It is also in line with his spiritual roots – he considers himself to be a warrior, and after sensing the predator by subtle intuition throughout the film, challenges his opponent to a showdown out of frustration. The director even had the dignity of not making the Billy stand into a gimmicky fight scene – we used our imagination to fill in the blanks (remember when everything didn’t have to be vulgarly and explicitly displayed?), and everyone was OK with that.

This scene is shamelessly reproduced in Predators. The katana wielding samurai replaces Billy, stripping his clothes in the same way, revealing a back full of traditional Japanese tattoos. Even the same music is used in the scene. Cue the fanboy eroticism: “Oh gee, I wanted to see Billy fight the predator, so gay!” Cue the 5 minute sword fight between a Predator and the samurai. Except this time around the samurai had no previous indication of being a warrior (other than racist stereotyping) and has no relationship with any of the other characters. He also had no evident frustration with the predator, and has no other apparent motives for committing what is almost assuredly going to be suicide. While early in the film another character, the African savage, detects the predator for a moment with his intuition as Billy once did, this character is killed early on the film, and has no relation to the samurai. Such trash.

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Don’t watch this.

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