This article was heavily inspired by our own Kali Tuttle, and her masterpiece on the 20th anniversary of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Kali live tweeted the movie as part of her process, and I thought that was genius. So, I asked her permission to do the same for the 10th anniversary of Predators. If you happen to feel like reading my 118-deep Twitter thread, feel free. It contains screen captures, so at least it’s illustrated nitpicking.
Spoilers here, and in said tweets, as you might expect.
Our Characters, Part One
Predators opens with an unconscious Adrien Brody in free-fall. He wakes up, freaks out accordingly, barely gets his parachute open in time, then crashes into the jungle. The thud of his landing coincides with the film title hitting the screen. It’s an effective way of starting off. Immediate action and chaos.
Next, Danny Trejo arrives. He and Brody have kind of an action movie version of a “meet-cute.” Trejo pops up immediately after landing, two guns ready to blaze. “Calm down,” says Brody. “F*** you!,” says Trejo in a panic. This is repeated, and it’s pretty funny. A dead guy unceremoniously falls out of the sky while they’re arguing.
Next thing we know, our duo is being fired upon. The shooter has the aiming ability of a Star Wars Stormtrooper, because lead characters are involved. Brody tracks down the source of the gunfire, puts a gun to the new guy’s head, and says: “Please stop doing that.” It’s all in the delivery, but I promise, it works. He then tells him, “You’re firing on the wrong people.” “How do I know?,” asks the new guy. “Because, otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Turns out, the new guy’s name is Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), and he seems pretty nice. Shooting at them aside.
Hold On… What’s Up With Brody’s Voice?
I feel I should tell you, Adrien Brody is using sort of a Clint Eastwood meets Batman voice for this movie. The reasoning, I assume, is his character wishes to remain nondescript, and not have an identifiable accent. No one knows a thing about this dude (not even his name), and he wants to keep it that way. Brody is a method actor, after all, so he thinks about these things. Plus, it sounds action movie-ish.
Our Characters, Part Two
A woman arrives next. She’s standing there silently, aiming at our three dudes. She could’ve easily taken them out without them ever knowing what hit them. “You wanna lower the weapon?,” Brody asks. A slight shake of her head and a smirk are the only response. I think we’re going to dig her.
Next, we get another silent but deadly type of character: a man in a suit, and nice shoes. He seems like the coolest person here, and he hasn’t said or done a thing yet. Then, he takes off his shoes and spends the rest of his time barefoot.
Now, there’s a dude (Walton Goggins) in an orange prison jumpsuit, fighting with another guy (Mahershala Ali) he met right at that moment, yet already has beef with. Our quartet arrives, sans cool barefoot guy, who has yet to be seen by them.
Goggins asks if Ali is with them, then mentions a guy in a tree…
Oh Boy, Here We Go
The “guy in the tree” (hanging upside down from his parachute) is none other than Topher Grace. Definitely not among my favorite actors. The only thing I liked him in were the early seasons of That 70’s Show. And maybe BlacKkKlansman, because he was almost unlikable enough to pass for David Duke.
To be fair, the person they originally wanted for the skinny comic relief (and totally not a villain in waiting at all) doctor character was… wait for it… Adrien Brody. I am completely serious. Brody basically said, “Nah, I’m good. How about that lead, though?” The filmmakers told him he wasn’t the right type. He put on 30 pounds of muscle, campaigned hard, and got the part. As great as that was for him, it left us with… this guy.
Now that the main cast is assembled, it’s time to start figuring out what the heck is going on! Where are they? Why? What’s all this weird stuff they keep finding? Soon, they stumble upon a fact that changes the game.
This jungle they were all dropped into is… not on Earth! And yes, the score essentially goes “dun dun dunnn” when this is revealed.
Suddenly, they’re being chased by dog-like things that have antlers on their heads, and mouths like the sandworms in Beetlejuice. It’s the first super “what the heck?” part of this movie, and frankly, takes down its quality. They had potential to be cool, but… weren’t. They justify their existence somewhat by attacking Goggins, whom we all wish harm on by this point. After the dogs are called off by a whistle sounding, Brody declares this planet is a game preserve. They are the game. Those were hunting dogs, sent to flush them out.
Bummer, But Helpful
Trejo‘s character (apparently named Cuchillo) is the first to die, because this big meany movie wants to bum me out. Cuchillo’s death serves a purpose, though: it reveals Predators can record voices and use them for manipulation. Braga found this out after she shot him (from behind) to put him out of his misery, and he called for help again! He was clearly dead before her “kill shot,” so, it was the Predators using his voice the whole time. They set him out as bait, and boobytrapped him.
A Bunch of Stuff Happens
Next, the group (sans Cuchillo, plus barefoot guy) finds a camp, with a strung-up Predator on a totem (the first we’ve seen one). Alice Braga’s character reacts in such a way, Brody’s character concludes she knows what it is. She looks at him as if to say, “I don’t know anything. Stop looking at me like that!” He keeps his suspicions quiet for the time being, because he’s busy slinking away.
Eventually, the creatures show themselves. All hell breaks loose. Weapons and Predators of various types everywhere! Brody yells, “Run!” from a safer distance. It’s disorienting for them, and the viewer. Unfortunately, we lose Mahershala Ali (his character was named Mombasa, says the credits). He was calm, skilled, and quite knowledgeable. They needed Mombasa.
They run away, Princess Bride-style tumble their way down a hill, fly off a cliff, and land in the water. Braga punches Brody in the face, for setting them up. He defends his actions as research, then announces Braga recognized that thing at the camp. She begins, “’87. Guatemala…” and gives a nice summary of the first Predator movie. She says the lone survivor (that’d be Arnold) covered himself with mud to hide his heat signature, which the Predators use to track. I have a feeling this information will come in handy later on.
Hoarders: Predators Edition
Someone is whispering to what’s left of our group. “Over here. Turn around.” It’s a Predator… or is it? “What the hell are you?” asks Brody (sounds familiar). A helmet comes off, Laurence Fishburne appears and replies, “I’m alive.”
This character, who has been on the game preserve planet much longer than our main group, invites them in. He lives in a repurposed spacecraft, and introduces himself as Ronald Noland. He explains he’s a scavenger of things the Predators (and human game) leave behind. That explains the helmet, and his ability to cloak himself as they do.
Noland basically exists to provide information. There are two main species of these things, he says, and they have a blood feud: big ones hunting little ones. The filmmakers call them Predators and Upgrade Predators, or “Berserker” and “Classic.” Oh, and they come and go on a ship. Brody promptly decides he’s going to take said ship and get outta Dodge. More on that later.
Noland pretends he’s going to bed, then lights a fire to smoke out his guests, and keep their stuff (mostly weapons and ammo). We lose two more: the punchable prisoner, and the lovable Nikolai, in the escape from the ship. Nolan gets blown up by a Predator.
Also, it turns out Doctor Topher Grace is a total weasel out for himself. Who saw that coming? All of us, actually.
Now, It Gets Really Cool
To be honest, I’ve seen the last half hour or so of this movie more often than the rest. It’s on TV a lot, and I tune in to catch this.
The start of this grand finale is a sword fight between a Berserker (I prefer that to “Upgrade”) and our too-cool-for-this-movie barefoot Yakuza guy who was actually named Hanzo (Louis Ozowa). The duel to the death takes place in the middle of a field, while a gentle breeze blows. It’s really a visually stunning scene. Probably the best looking cinematography in the entire movie.
The Final Three
We are down to the following: Brody, Braga, and Grace. Grace gets injured in what amounts to a bear trap, and can’t walk without assistance. Brody says he’s dead weight. He suggests using Grace as a boobytrap (like the Preds did with Cuchillo earlier). Braga is outraged.
She says, “He’s one of us.” Brody: “He is… they want you to feel something for this man. To be human.” Braga: “And what are you?” Brody, quoting Noland: “Alive.” She tells him he should just go and get that ship he wants. So, he leaves, and she’s alone with Doc Topher. This dude was useless enough to begin with, now he’s hurt to boot.
A predator captures them in a net, then drops them into a pit. In the said pit, Doc Topher reveals himself to be full-on evil. Because, of course. He slashes Braga with a scalpel he dipped in a neurotoxin (from a plant they’d found earlier in the film). It paralyzes her. In typical bad guy fashion, the not-so-good doctor tells her everything, as he assumes he’ll be killing her.
The Enemy of My Enemy…
Meanwhile, Brody goes back to the camp to talk to the Classic who is strung up on the totem at the Predator camp. He offers them a deal: I’ll cut you down, you take me to the ship. This actually works. After briefly considering killing him, the Classic orders up the ship on a wrist communicator. Like Buzz Lightyear. A little hologram of Earth pops up.
As it turns out, the Berserker/Upgrade Predator doesn’t take too kindly to their hostage being cut down. Classic Pred steps up to protect Brody, since, you know, they’re friends now. The Predator basically tells Brody, nonverbally, to run. Now it’s a big on little Predator battle, while Brody runs to catch his flight off the planet.
Little Predator Classic dies, and then Berserker blows up the ship as it’s flying away. Oh no, our main character got blown up.
Meanwhile, Back At the Pit
Evil Topher is evil, paralyzed Braga is paralyzed. Oh, and by the way, Topher’s injured leg suddenly seems fine. Not sure whether he was lying about how badly he was hurt, or it was a continuity error. Either way, he’s walking around in the pit. He’s totally going to kill her now.
Surprise! Brody wasn’t blown up, and he’s back. Doc Toph pretends to be relieved to see him, but he’s not buying it. Brody pulls them out of the pit, using the net they were trapped in earlier. “It gave her something, I don’t know what, and it paralyzed her,” says evil doctor. Brody doesn’t buy that, either.
Brody gently tells Braga she’s been so busy looking out for others, she forgot to look out for herself. It’s out of character for him, to say the least, and is actually touching. While he’s comforting her, and assuring her they’ll get off this planet, Doc Grace is sneaking up behind.
My Favorite Part
We finally arrive at my favorite moment in this entire thing. Braga is practically blinking out Morse Code at Brody, so he’ll know Topher is sneaking up with the scalpel. “I didn’t think you’d come back, but she never lost faith in you. I owe you an apology, you are a good man after all.”
Brody says, “No. I’m not.” Jumps up, grabs weasel doctor, “But I’m fast.” Then he stabs him somewhere in the torso. This all happens in about ten seconds. It’s glorious.
Braga gives an, “Oh, thank God” expression, because she wasn’t sure her Morse Code had been received. By the way, I don’t know much about Alice (pronounced “Ah-Leesa”) Braga, but she was fantastic in this movie. I was right when I said we would dig her.
Nods to the Original
Brody defeats the Predator with nods to what Arnold did in the first one. Mud to block heat signatures, saying, “I’m here, come kill me,” and so on. This, along with Braga’s rundown, and the “what the hell are you?” from earlier, may be pandering to the fans, but whatever.
This Predator doesn’t laugh maniacally. Thank you, movie. In fact, they’re silent the entire time, other than calling for help as Cuchillo, and repeating “it’s a trap” right after Brody says it.
Brody uses a more hands-on approach than Dutch did in the first film, though, decapitating the Berserker with its own weapon. He also has some help. Braga starts to regain a bit of movement, just in time to fire a shot that saves Brody’s life. Lucky break, eh?
Introductions Are Finally Made
At the end of the movie, Brody finally tells Braga his name is Royce. She had been asking what to call him, and never received an answer. She smiles and says, “Nice to meet you, Royce. I’m Isabelle.” It’s all kinds of adorable, you guys. The chemistry between these two is great.
The next morning, they see new game dropping in via parachute. Royce, not wishing for he and Isabelle to become the new Nolan, says, “Now, let’s find a way off this f’ing planet” (except, he, you know, says the whole word). They turn and walk away, literally helping each other remain upright. It’s been a really rough journey, you guys, and they’re exhausted.
You probably are, too. Thanks for reading!
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Predators? Comment down below!
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