Tag Archives: 2011-01-05

Predators

When Arnold stepped out of the jungle, covered in mud, and stabbed the alien predator thing in the face (metaphorically), he was doing so with the weight of the 80’s action movie genre behind him.  Any movie which tries the same post year 2k does so with the weight of the 80’s action movie clichés crushing them from above. The 80’s gave us the new face of the Action Movie, and then it was caved in mercilessly during the 90’s and early 2000’s by the likes of Tarantino and the Wachowskis.

In the late 90’s and 2000 onwards, the action movie had to smarten up and add something new.  And it needed to be cool, otherwise it just got slated and slotted into the ‘another 80’s cliché movie’.  But these days, it seems to be okay to relive the glory of that decade.  Sometimes you have to poke a little fun at your age (The Expendables, Red) and sometimes you need to accept the clichés and deliver some interest and excitement anyway.

Predators is an ensemble movie which takes us back to the jungle and pits a group of natural killers against the universe’s paramount hunter.  There’s no apology and in fact the whole movie setup apes the lack of depth- our ‘heroes’ are dropped into the jungle unconscious, to wake up (hopefully) as they fall from the sky, their parachutes opening at the last moment.

Nimród Antal (director) couldn’t have made the point any clearer – don’t worry about why these folk are here, don’t worry about where they came from, or who they are.  Worry about how they’re going to survive – that’s all they’re doing.

If you do that, and if you settle back to enjoy an action movie which knows that’s all it is – then you should enjoy this.  A collection of unlikely heroes who slowly get hunted and killed by the Predators.  Surprise alliances, surprise treachery and some madness along the way.  The action is exciting, the dialog is kind of interesting and Laurence Fishburne turning on all he has for the lone survivor stint adds some grit.  Adrian Brody pulls off action hero better than I thought he would.  A simple complaint is that although I don’t think anyone should artificially bump up or down gender roles in a movie, would it have hurt to have a few more women in the pack of killers?

The surprise turn is from Topher Grace but I’ll leave you to guess why.

The pace is quite tight, it doesn’t try to tease us with aliens we’ve already seen, and it adds plenty of fun.  Predators is better than I expected, and as good in it’s own way as the original movie it makes reference to.

Centurion

Neil Marshall’s output has been a little bit hit and miss for us.  I’m not a big fan of the overt horror in Descent, although I loved the blackly comic Dog Soldiers, and I enjoyed Doomsday despite the flaws.

So I wasn’t sure what Centurion would deliver.  Set at the time Hadrian started building his wall, the movie kind of tells the story of the Roman 9th legion.  Kind of, because it’s actually about a Roman soldier who’s not in the 9th legion, but joins it temporarily.

The legion comes up against the native British Picts, and the movie really covers the results of that encounter.

Centurion contains Neil Marshall’s trademark gore.  The hand-to-hand fighting is brutal and blood soaked, there are exploding heads and departing limbs a-plenty.  There is significantly less comedy in Centurion than Dog Soldiers, but it’s not lacking entirely.  The commander of the 9th is particularly colourful and his introduction gives us a little glimpse of the magic scenes from Dog Soldiers.  The story in Centurion is pretty simple, a straight forward tale of betrayal with a hint of love.  The depth in the film comes from the incredible breathtaking scenery juxtaposed with the brutal combat and the rigid sense of honour in the lead from Michael Fassbender.

Fassbender is compelling, and his counterpart in the story (the mute hunter played by Olga Kurylenko) provides a worthy adversary.  There’s a reasonable amount of tension, and it’s never really clear who’s going to make it through to the end.  Treachery comes from all angles, while  Quintus Dias (Fassbender) struggles to keep his men alive.

I enjoyed watching Centurion, and while it had some excellent moments, it didn’t deliver the constant high quality of Dog Soldiers.  Worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Roman historical fantasy, probably higher quality than Doomsday but not Neil’s best.