The fifth film in the “Predator” saga (and third without Aliens in it), “Predators” (2010) pretty much stands alone, requiring no prior knowledge of the franchise. Cribbing from “The Most Dangerous Game,” the plot finds a handful of humans waking up in freefall toward the jungle below.
The layers of mystery are slowly peeled away: Most of the characters are “toughs” — criminals or soldiers. The planet is not Earth. “It’s a game preserve,” notes Adrien Brody’s character, “and we’re the game.” Indeed, the Predators copy tactics that these humans have used in their Earthly crimes and war strategies, such as sending in wild beasts to snuff out the prey.
There is one odd bit of mythology that links “Predators” with the wider saga: Alice Braga’s character, a government official, recognizes the Predator species from Dutch’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character) report on the 1987 events in Guatemala (interestingly, the country wasn’t named in the original movie). It seems odd that she wouldn’t also mention the 1997 events in Los Angeles. The 2004 events in Antarctica could certainly be unknown to the government, and the 2007 events in Colorado possibly could be deeply covered up.
Predators play less of a role in “Predators” than you might think. It’s almost an hour into the film before we get a good look at one of them. Rather, the movie — directed by Nimrod Antal and produced by Robert Rodriguez — relies on the mystery element and strong character actors for its momentum.
Indeed, Brody is a compelling presence as the soldier who prefers to work alone; he’s fine with the others tagging along, but he’s not above putting them in harm’s way to learn about the creatures hunting him. Laurence Fishburne has a glorified cameo as a lone human survivor who’s been on the planet for 10 seasons and has an imaginary friend. Danny Trejo (who it seems should’ve been in the original “Predator” but wasn’t) and Topher Grace, as a meek scientist, also highlight the ragtag band.
“Predators” is a worthwhile film in that it makes use of the creatures in a type of movie the saga hadn’t done up to this point (although the jungle setting at times calls to mind the first entry, and — after the steady build-up of the first hour — there are plenty of scenes of long-range laser blasts, explosions, and spines being ripped from bodies, as fans have come to expect).
Aside from introducing — but (rather inexcusably) not really explaining — the idea that the Predators can somehow space-warp selected people onto their game preserve, it’s not much of a sci-fi film (like “Prometheus,” its follow-up in the wider saga); “Predators” is mostly a showcase of fight scenes and violence. And as the first off-Earth “Predator” movie, it feels separate from the others.
But it holds your attention on the first viewing, and it’s a respectable addition to the “Alien/Predator” saga.