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Jason Wallis ‘Predators’ not the sequel we’ve been waiting for

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Posted: Saturday, July 17, 2010 12:00 am

Looking over a few of my columns from the beginning of the summer movie season, I began to get quite depressed. Here were the words of a naïve and hopeful young man, so full of wide-eyed anticipation for “what was sure to be one hell of a summer,” now confronted by the harsh realities of one of the most disappointing periods for movies in recent memory.

I ache for my lost innocence, and now, after seeing the lifeless and pointless and altogether unfortunate “Predators,” I see no way that the summer season can possibly redeem itself over the course of the next five weeks. (Sure, it’s given us “Toy Story 3,” but that about all it’s given us.)

“Predators” may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back — a film so bizarrely miscalculated, so demonstrably awful that one is left to only sit back, aghast, and marvel at how a group of professional, functioning adults could have possibly all come together in some perfect storm of idiocy and agreed that this was a good way to spend their time and money. It’s certainly not a good way to spend yours.

Next week we’ll look at Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” a mind-bending neo-noir co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who for my money are the two most talented young actors working in Hollywood.

Now, I’m prepared for the rest of the summer to bring the suck, and at this point it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find that “Salt,” “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Middle Men” and even “The Expendables” are all wretched. But if “Inception” turns out to be underwhelming, I think I may become inconsolable and succumb to some kind of horrible malaise brought on by one too many dumb, disappointing wide releases. And where would we be then?

NOW PLAYING

“Predators”

* 1/2 (out of four)

2010, Nimrod Antal, U.S., R

All right, how do you screw this up? With a decent budget, a green light for an R rating, and a capable producer in Robert Rodriguez, this relaunching of the “Predator” franchise should have been at least a minor success. Anyone with a shred of filmmaking skill should have been able to craft these elements into something resembling passable popcorn entertainment, yet even mediocrity appears to have been too tall an order for the aptly named Nimrod Antal (best known for “Vacancy” and “Armored”).

Throughout the nearly two-hour film he consistently fails to exhibit sound judgment as a director, filling his work with visually lackluster and poorly staged action sequences, terrible character development (an offense he shares with writers Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, rookies both) and maddeningly repetitive shots (the whole “cue dramatic music, then linger on the actors’ shocked faces for 20 seconds before cutting to what they’re looking at” thing is used about half a dozen times, to annoying effect). How directors like this continue to find work despite their unimpressive track records is completely beyond my scope of comprehension.

And it’s not even like ol’ Nimrod had to shoulder the daunting task of actually remaking John McTiernan’s 1987 “Predator” and retooling the mythos (although it should be noted that he relies heavily on McTiernan’s film, and often blurs the line between fair homage and lazy derivativeness). This one is a sequel of sorts, and opens with a group of strangers finding themselves stranded in a remote jungle after being dropped from the sky by persons unknown.

It’s eventually established that they are all criminals and/or mercenaries with violent tendencies and combat ability (save for a mild-mannered doctor whose role in all this is unclear), and it’s not long before the group discovers that they’re not even on Earth at all. It seems they’ve been abducted by a race of alien hunters who aim to pick off their able-bodied guests for sport, and their only hope for escape is to stick together long enough to commandeer one of the alien spacecraft and make it back home.

Sounds simple and easy enough, but everything seems wrong from the outset. First of all, whose idea was it to cast Adrian Brody in an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type action role? His energy is all wrong for an alpha-male part like this, and while there’s no denying that the dude is buffed out, when he does eventually lose the shirt for a final showdown against one of the alien predators, it’s a bit like looking at Hugh Laurie’s face superimposed onto Christian Bale’s body. Made me feel weird, man.

But not as weird as Laurence Fishburne, who turns up halfway through the film to wander around mumbling and giggling to himself for 10 minutes before quickly finding his way back out of the movie. What madness is this, and what kind of coke-addled sociopath could possibly think that this is how you’re supposed to handle a long-awaited follow-up to a classic Schwarzenegger action flick? The whole thing is a mess (especially the cataclysmically stupid “twist” ending), and despite the huge window left open for a sequel, let’s hope the film’s disappointing box-office take will preclude a second bizarre attempt to give “Predator” fans the true sequel they’ve been waiting for.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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