Predators (2010)

Rated: R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language.
Length: 107 minutes.
Grade: AFAB=A
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $147 million (52 U.S., 75 Intl., 20 DVD)

Written by: Alex Litvak and Michael Finch (First script), based on characters/concepts created by Jim and John Thomas.
Directed by: Nimrod Antal (Armored, Vacancy, and Hungarian titles), but the real name to know here is that Robert Rodriguez was the major producer.
Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, and Alice Braga
With: Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.

Eight unusually talented strangers find themselves inexplicably stranded on a distant planet, which turns out to be a game preserve for alien predators.

Entertainment Value: A
Alright, here’s what you need to know about this movie. Predator was one of the great, cult-popular cheesy action movies of the 1980’s. People my age grew up watching Stallone and Schwarzenegger define the action movie genre, and Predators is a classic. Fun, innovative, clever, funny, and just plain fantastic. Then the horrible thing happened: sequels. Horrible, awful, disappointing sequels. Until a guy named Robert Rodriguez came along and helped produce Predators. And the best way I can describe this is as the only and proper Predators 2, following faithfully and entertainingly right in the bootprints of the original as if the rest of the junk just didn’t even exist. Great action, sardonic humor, and homage after homage to the original made this far, far more entertaining than I had expected or hoped for. And the clue that this would be the case comes right in the title: Predators, almost obviously paralleling the title of another brilliant (and the only brilliant) sequel to an original classic, Aliens. It’s exhausting and discouraging to have good movies turned into bad sequels, but when the once-in-awhile masterpiece fulfills the secret hopes of my inner 16-year-old, it makes me smile. I was a bit concerned about Adrien Brody sequeling Ahnold, but this turned out to be no issue at all.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence F, Language F
This is definitely a hard R movie. There is abundant violence, carnage, and gore and way more than enough F-language to keep all young adults out of the theater. But at least it’s squeaky clean on sex and drugs. HOWEVER, the ads on the DVD are themselves quite R rated, with sexual elements in particular. So, if that’s an issue (like with a teen boy, just skip to the movie).

Significant Content: A
Here’s where this movie really surprised me. The themes about human nature here are fascinating, most notably the idea that the one fate worse than death is what you become in the process of doing whatever it takes to stay alive. People who engage in warlike endeavors do so because it’s highly thrilling and rewarding (see The Hurt Locker, e.g.). Real predators (alien or human) depend on the human qualities of honor, love, and loyalty to create weak spots for predation, but these things are exactly what make us not monsters like them. Even the people who kill are not all morally equal. Some have honor and principle, but others do not.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
For homage and style, mostly. I about fell of the couch when they started playing “Long Tall Sally!” And despite the carnage and likely primary appeal to teens and the inner teens of people like me, it’s nice to see some real substance here.

Discussion Questions:
~“There’s no hunting like hunting a man.” Why do you think this is so? How does this explain why people might re-enlist in the military or join other neo-military organizations and/or the police? Why are we reluctant to think of such endeavors as intrinsically interesting and even stimulating rather than as noble devotions to principle? Does the fact that a detective, say, enjoys his game of catching criminals make him any less a hero?
~“There’s a fate worse than death, what you become to stay alive.” Do you agree that self-preservation isn’t the most important thing? What’s the Christian perspective on this? What things would you be willing to die rather than do? ~What things would you be willing to die to protect? Which takes more courage: to die for something or to kill for something?
~Do values like love and loyalty make us weak and vulnerable to predators? Are they worth the risk? Why might someone say that the person who exploits others because of such traits is really betraying his own humanity (or the idea of being human) in addition to harming people? How does your answer hear relate to Lawrence Fishburne’s character?
~Who in this movie would you classify as a sociopath? Why or why not for anyone else? What tactics and biases do these characters use to their advantage?
~If sociopaths are only loyal to themselves, ordinary people are loyal to those they like or value, and decent people are loyal to strangers, to whom are Christians loyal?
~How many homages to the first Predator can you identify here? My own list is below the Overall Grade, if you’re interested.

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Discussing why they were all selected.
~The dilemma of whom to help/save.

Overall Grade: A
Surprisingly thoughtful, thoroughly satisfying sequel to the original Predator, as if (wish, wish) all the other junk had never been made at all.

Homages to Predator:
~Predators learning language and using it to spoof people.
~“I’m here. Do it,” goading of the Predator into a trap/away from someone else.
~Protected by mud.
~The gatling gun for Nikolia/Jesse the Body.
~They refer to the 1987 movie directly as a team that encountered something in the jungle.
~Billy/Henzo’s last stand.
~Long Tall Sally music from the inbound helicopter ride.
~The end credits style.
~Alan Silvestri’s score, slightly modernized.

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