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The Cynical Optimist : Predators

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If it bleeds, we can kill it…

“When I was little, we found a man. He looked like – like, butchered. The old women in the village crossed themselves… and whispered crazy things, strange things. El cazador trofeo de los hombres.”

Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse. ‘El cazador trofeo de los hombres’ means the demon who makes trophies of men.”

I was three years old when ”Predator” came out in theaters… needless to say, I wasn’t there on opening day (unlike Clint, whose ‘old ass’ was there front row center! lucky devil!). I would, however, go on to catch glimpses of Stan Winston’s magnificent monster on cable and (eventually) my very own Rated-R VHS tape and fall in love with its iconic design.

Long after the Universal Monsters had been buried by over-exposure, the ‘80s brought forth new, terrifying monsters for us to behold. Names like Dracula and Frankenstein were replaced by Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, where as the ‘50s space invaders and radiated beasts gave way to Aliens, Predators, Critters and even Gremlins.

Like most kids growing up in the ‘80s, my life was constantly bombarded with insanely awesome looking creatures, whether it be space aliens in a cantina or a vagina-faced, dreadlock-havin’ Predator, stalking Arnold Schwarzenegger through the jungles of Guatemala.

Predator is one of my all-time favorite films. It is a quintessential ‘80s action film while, at the same time, a suspenseful survival tale that just happens to have science-fiction sensibilities.

Since 1987, a lot has changed. The Alien and the Predator, two of horror’s most iconic modern day monsters, have been degraded to professional wrestlers, two cartoon characters ever engaged in a series of suplexes and body slams.

After an underwhelming sequel in 1990, it was reasonable to assume that the ”Predator” Franchise was dead. Though comic books, novels and toys carried on their legacy, there wasn’t much worth seeing at your local theater when it came to these once-terrifying titans.

After two completely irrelevant, widely disappointing ”Alien Vs. Predator” films, (our generation’s equivalent to ”Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man”) my twenty-year love affair with the Predator was coming to a close, that is, until I saw Nimrod Antal’s film.

”Predators” is, to be completely blunt, fucking awesome. As a mega-fan of the franchise and someone who has longed to see the creature be treated with the proper respect it deserves, I am fully satisfied with this film.

I don’t even really want to give a plot synopsis, because honestly, that would be rather pointless. We all know the Predator’s box of tricks – invisibility cloaks, laser cannons, first aid kits and wrist gauntlets filled with deadly blades and booby traps.

What you need to know, is that this is a great movie. It’s suspenseful and intense, dark and deeply rooted in the Predator mythos. It doesn’t recreate the wheel, nor does it see reason to. It elevates the source material and pays tribute to the original film while also delivering a great story of its own.

Adrien Brody and Alice Braga are fantastic in this film as two of Earth’s deadliest predators, and the rest of the cast (while at first may seem too cliche) are developed subtly by not allowing the characters to say much or reveal too much about themselves.

I will speak of only one sequence, one that simply can’t go unmentioned. Louis Ozawa Changchien plays Hanzo, a Yakuza assassin who is plucked from Earth and brought to the Predators’ game preserve to be tested and studied.

Upon discovering an ancient blade left by a fallen Samurai, another combatant brought to this place centuries ago, Hanzo faces a predator in hand-to-hand combat. The sequence is filled with subtle Akira Kurosawa imagery – the wind gently blowing through the tall grass as Hanzo, with his blade, engages in a lengthy duel with the Predator and his wrist blades.

It is a largely silent scene, filled only with the sounds of wind blowing through the grass and the occasional battle cry of the warriors involved. It cuts through all the bullshit that films like Alien Vs. Predator have watered the franchise down with. It gets back to the most primal, beautiful element of the original film – a hunter’s respect for it’s prey, and the honor in dying at the hands of a fellow warrior.

Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal have honored the Predator in creating such a satisfying and worthy film. Predators will take its rightful place on my own trophy shelf of DVDs and Blu Ray discs, right there beside the original Predator.

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