Adrien Brody and Topher Grace joining forces to revive a franchise inaugurated by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura doesn’t exactly say, “Badass!” or even, “Necessary!” But of course a lot has happened to that franchise in the meantime — too much, says producer Robert Rodriguez, a fan from way back, who has seen fit to reboot it and return to basics. And so, while Rodriguez dusted off an old script and handed it over to some other writers and to “Vacancy” and “Armored” director Nimród Antal, we braced ourselves for some sort of steroidal reality show, like “The Most Dangerous Lame.”
By contrast to which, the actual result of “Predators” isn’t half bad. It isn’t, like, good or anything, but who expected goodness?
Eight little humans find themselves heavily armed and unconsciously parachuted into the game preserve of another planet’s jungle. They’ve never seen each other before, and at first they know neither that it’s a game preserve nor that it’s another planet. They figure these things out when someone starts hunting them and when they get to high ground and discover a sky full of strange planets.
That hunting someone is of course the same occasionally invisible mandibulate extra-terrestrial who summered in the South American jungle in 1987, skinning and disemboweling the local humans until being dispatched by pre-governor, post-”Terminator” Schwarzenegger. Well, not the very same one, but several relatives thereof.
Their prey would seem to be an international array of warlike humans. “We are predators,” the sniper played by Alice Braga explains. “Just like them. We’re the monsters of our own world.” This explanation, which is reinforced by Brody quoting from Hemingway, almost makes up for being so irritatingly obvious by not quite accounting for Grace’s doctor, the designated wimp. Is he here to help keep the others alive so the predators can play with them longer? We’ll see.
Brody becomes the alpha of the group, perhaps by virtue of being the only absolute A-lister, and because his supply of weapons apparently includes the same gravelly-badass voice modulator favored by Christian Bale in the “Batman” movies. Also, he has bulked up for the role, and will gladly flash his mud-caked abs to prove it.
The others? Well, let’s not trouble ourselves much with them. Instead, let’s wait for the big reveal of Laurence Fishburne, riskily harkening back to his film debut in “Apocalypse Now” by imitating Marlon Brando’s lunatic Colonel Kurtz. He does at least abide by a time-honored actor’s rule: If you can’t be interesting, be brief.
Otherwise, with John Debney’s score sometimes trying too hard to punctuate self-evident moments, Antal moves the action along at a good clip — slowing down only to allow for the stupid paraphrasing of lines from “Jaws” and “Scarface,” and to draw out a climactic beheading. Though few, these protractions do allow the mind to wander. One can’t help but note that the aliens, however brutally rapacious, obviously are quite advanced. They have spaceships. They have lasers. They have personal cloaking devices. And, as this movie indirectly suggests, they have extremely thorough research on the individuals who become their prey. Is there more to their culture than we’ve been told?
Maybe the next film can be about the lonely activists of the predators’ home world who bravely protest their barbaric sport and try to raise consciousness. Maybe it can be a comedy.