Predators wastes no time. Past the Fox fanfare, Royce (Adrian Brody) is being dropped from the sky, minus parachute. The audience knows nothing of Royce, but surely walking into a sequel to the Predator series, they surely know what Royce is getting into.
It’s odd then that the film slows to a crawl. The expected character introductions, all of them remembering a beam of light and waking up in free fall, is established quickly. Predators switches gears, apparently building a mystery about what they are up against. Duh?
The film needs that sense of wonder and realization. It’s important. It needs some time to build too, but the Predator(s) is no longer a mystery. We know Arnold Schwarzenegger can take one out, and we know Danny Glover… well, forget that ever happened. With all of the time spent dealing with these realizations, maybe a few minutes could have been spent explaining some things?
That is sort of the mantra of the Predator films though. Looking back, the original doesn’t let the audience in on much. They can see via thermal vision, they can cloak, and they’re strong as hell… oh and they’re alien. Also a “duh.” It’s nice to see one of the Predator’s home worlds, this one utilized as a game preserve assuming because people on Earth get a wee bit suspicious when special ops teams are wiped out.
Nothing is done with the opportunity though. The audience is given an action scene with the Predator’s pet dog/warthog/thingies, but the rest of the world, minus the various moons on the horizon, looks a lot like Earth. Even one of the characters, Isabelle (Alice Braga), states is looks like a jungle in the Amazon. Earth-like birds are heard chirping and insects are heard calling. So much for the fantastical.
Then, we are told of a war between Predator factions in what amounts to a cameo by Laurence Fishburne. This plays a critical role in the finale, yet there is no reason for the war in the first place. Apparently, the new Predators are ticked off the old one got a starring role with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s better than anything else the film provides.
Nimrod Antal directs some impressive action sequences, easily the highlight as if the expectation were any different. They give the series a different feel, including a tense, well crafted sword fight that brings out a bit of character in the Predator, showing again that while they may be vicious, they are not mindless. They do exist for a purpose, even if the various sequels and such sort of tossed that out the window.
Fox delivers a sparkling, stunning, vivid AVC encode for Predators, at least from the start. Shot digitally using the Panavision Genesis, the clarity afforded by the photography is truly immense. After Adrian Brody’s fall, he thuds to the ground, the first close-up of the film providing a monumental level of texture, both in terms of facial and clothing detail. The daytime shots in the beginning have the sun glistening through the trees to brightly illuminate some of the thickest jungles (Hawaii location shoot) you’ll ever see on film (or in video apparently).
How much this transfer resolves in these conditions is remarkable. Trees and shrubbery are individually visible deep into the frame, the inky, rich black levels aiding the depth of field. There are few instances of shimmering or flicker where the resolution simply isn’t enough like 24:26 when the camera pans upward towards the sky. The tall grass delivers that little bit of shimmer in motion that is just enough to notice. It’s not just these jungle shots either, the fully resolved facial texture, from pores to dirt (and sweat as the film moves on) is as reference as Blu-ray can be.
There is a smattering of noise, the first instance at 8:25, the digital nature showing through and the encode somewhat helpless at maintaining the same cleanliness. That’s rare though, with the generally cool color palette adding to the pale flesh tones, while the greens come alive. Every plant is vivid in terms of color depth, obviously meant to be a stand-out by design.
Past these opening moments, things take a turn for the worse. Smoke and fog comes through slightly noisy, although the real dip comes in terms of the black levels. During the sequence where Laurence Fishburne saves the crew at 52:12, they begin to lighten up. It remains natural though, the sun setting and causing a dip in the overall contrast. Once inside the makeshift Predator-ship home, the black levels are all but lost. They lack intensity, and give the image a softer, muddy quality. Numerous films shot with the Genesis suffer this same result. That said, that detail typically remains, some strongly focused lighting keeping it prominent.
Things pick back up for the finale, a trip into the Predator camp for a showdown rendered well, the blacks returning to an adequate state, and some impressive fire creating some intense lighting. It is probably important to note that shadow detail remains intact throughout, whether the blacks are lightened or as wonderful as they from the start. It’s truly close to hi-def perfection.
Thankfully, the audio produces a consistent level of quality all of the way through. The jungle of this nameless planet carries all of the pleasantries of Earth, from those above-mentioned birds squawks to insects chirps. Save for the heavier action scenes, they are a constant presence, creating a wonderful and seemingly authentic atmosphere.
Of course, no one is listening to this DTS-HD track for its ability to process bird caws. They wants guns, and Nikolai’s heavy machine gun fires from the start at 3:30. The low-end produces a satisfying rumble, naturally balanced with the other elements, like those soon-t0-be-dead trees splintering from the lead fired at them in the surrounds. The first major action scene, that of a set trap, does everything. Sharp wood stakes swoosh down towards their victim, and hit the ground with a solid impact from the sub.
Lest we forget those stereo channels, creating natural pans during the creature assault at 27-minutes, from gunfire zipping side-to-side to the monster things moving in for the kill. Pans are natural, and the fronts are split wide. Indoors, just inside Fisburne’s ship actually, there is an echo to the dialogue, spreading it around the soundfield cleanly. Generally, it’s all placed in the center where it should be, the balance between the various elements about as perfect as they come. Gunfire never takes over the score, the tight bass never overwhelms the highs, and the aggressiveness of it all never drowns out dialogue.
The finale, with powerful Predator roars, spaceship engines kicking in, and vicious close-quarters combat is simply awesome. It ends with the cleanest, purest rendition of “Long Tall Sally” you can imagine over the end credits, not only a great homage to the first Predator film, but a fine way to show off the fidelity of this mix.
Fox did not send a screener for Predators, and as such, this review is based on a rental copy with no extras. Should a retail copy be obtained, this review will be updated.