Predators (UK - BD RA/B)
Chris takes a look at the Blu-ray release of the recent entry in the Predator series
Royce (Adrien Brody) awakens from unconsciousness to find himself in free-fall. Thankfully he's wearing a parachute, which opens automatically guiding him to a safe, if rough, landing in an unfamiliar jungle. Shortly afterwards he meets a number of other people who also arrived in this mysterious manner: Mexican drug cartel enforcer Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Spetsnaz soldier Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov), Israel Defence Forces sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga), Revolutionary United Front officer Mombasa (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), death row inmate Stans (Walton Goggins), Yakuza enforcer Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien) and doctor Edwin (Topher Grace). With the exception of Edwin each member of the team is a lethal killer, armed to the teeth and looking for answers as to how they ended up in their current predicament. After trekking through the jungle and uncovering numerous oddities they find themselves on higher ground, where the strange sight of an alien sky leads them to conclude that they are no longer on Earth. Before too long it becomes apparent that they are not alone on the planet and that someone, or something, is hunting them...
The original Predaor is one of my favourite eighties films (actually one of my favourites full-stop) and after suffering years of disappointing sequels and spin-offs I wasn’t expecting much from this Robert Rodriguez-Nimrod Antal effort. Still, some twenty minutes into the theatrical screening I realised that I wasn’t having a bad time. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a religious experience, but I enjoyed the franchise’s return to the jungle setting and I found the whole thing very atmospheric (largely due to the score). Unfortunately my excitement peaked around the time the Predators were introduced and while I found the rest of the film perfectly serviceable I left the cinema with a sense of indifference.
This second viewing on Blu-ray hasn’t really changed my opinion of the film either way. Sure there are some cool bits, but at least half of the characters are tragically underused and I’m not the biggest fan of the new Predators’ design. I do like snarly-voice Adrien Brody in the lead role though. I definitely think the filmmakers made the right decision in casting a decent actor rather than some sort of Arnold clone (largely because there is no one else like Arnold). The set-pieces are also decent enough, if nothing I haven’t seen before in similar man versus alien movies. There are also a few plot-points that aren’t answered particularly satisfactorily, the main one being how Laurence Fishburne is still so fat after being stranded on an alien planet for ten years… I don’t know what else to say really. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It’s a perfectly decent way to spend one hundred minutes of an evening, but don’t expect to come away remembering much of the plot or caring too much about the characters.
Fox’s most recent Predator-related Blu-ray offering wasn’t exactly a resounding success. As my colleague Gabe Powers points out in his review of the original film (linked below) the transfer is marred by excessive use of DNR, rendering the image waxy and giving characters an uncanny appearance. Thankfully those mistakes have not been repeated and this 2.35:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer is every bit as good as you’d expect from a film released this year. Although not apparent from the terrible print I saw at the cinema, the film was shot digitally and as such the transfer to Blu-ray is exceptionally clean. Colours are also incredibly strong; the lush greens of the jungle environments look particularly fantastic, but I was also struck by the brilliant blue bolts from the Predators’ plasma casters and the vibrant hues of their thermal vision. The image is also extremely detailed, with superbly rendered locations, fabrics and facial textures. Contrast is also just about perfect, preserving plenty of detail in the darker areas of the screen. To be completely honest with you I always find it much easier to criticise a poor transfer than a good one, as there are only so many ways to say ‘it’s great’. In this case that’s the perfect adjective, so I’ll leave it there.
As is usual for Fox Blu-rays the primary audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 affair. I don't know about you, but I'd expect nothing short of audio excellence from such a recent feature. Thankfully that's exactly what we get. The tiny details in the opening minutes when Royce lands on the surface are wonderful. The jungle is alive with the sounds of insects and squawking birds, which really makes you feel like you're along for the ride. When the calm is suddenly shattered by Nikolai's Minigun it comes as a genuine surprise, but the track makes excellent use of the situation by placing ricocheting shells around the soundstage, each hammered home with pounding bass. This expansive sound field continues throughout the rest of the film, with environmental sounds and weapons placed all around the listening position. With all of this going on you might expect dialogue to get lost in the maelstrom, but it’s clear and well-prioritised, with some neat placement in the various channels when the Predator’s (and Nolan) imitate the combatant’s voices in a manner similar to the creature in the original movie.
For all of its aural extravagance perhaps the most impressive element of the mix is the score, possibly because it is so familiar. John Debney’s original music is accompanied by a hell of a lot of Alan Silvestri’s score from the first film, which was clearly intentional. It grants the viewer an instant rapport with the piece, engendering positive feelings of nostalgia (at least if I’m anything to go by). The inclusion of ‘Long Tall Sally’ over the closing credits is another nod to the original, although it’s a slightly different version. Like the video, Predators’ audio track is top-notch.
Audio Commentary by Robert Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal: This track is generally pretty light-hearted, but it's informative enough. Rodriguez does most of the talking, but Antal occasionally dives in to offer his thoughts. There's plenty of info about the genesis of the project and the so on and so forth, making this quite an enjoyable chat track.
Motion Comics (10:56 HD): A series of motion comics are also included and focus primarily on where some of the principal characters were when they were kidnapped by the Predators. There's also one that explains how the crucified Predator came to be in in his predicament. The vignettes are voiced by the film's cast and they're entertaining enough, but obviously not up to the standard of something like the Watchmen motion comics.
Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn (40:12 HD): This six-part featurette focusses on the titular characters and how they have evolved across the films. It acts as a making of featurette, covering many aspects of production including locations, production design, casting, effects and direction. Although it's a fairly long piece I didn't really feel that it delivered as much information as it could have. Most of what I heard here I already knew from the commentary.
The Chosen (04:52 HD): This is a very short promotional piece that introduces you to each of the characters. It's pretty fluffy stuff.
Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene (07:06 SD): This short featurette provides a brief overview of the making of the Predator dog scene.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (11:21 HD): Nine deleted scenes follow, but to be honest none of them really adds much to the proceedings and generally consist only of slight extensions.
Live Features: At the time of writing I cannot access the online Predators material.
DVD Copy: Given that this is one of Fox's Triple Play releases, we also get the feature film on DVD.
Digital Copy: In keeping with the above, a Digital Copy of the film is also included on the DVD.
Predators is an odd beast. It’s the sort of film a geek like me should love, but while it’s definitely the most enjoyable entry in the franchise since the original feature, there’s just something missing. I can’t quite put my finger on what, but when I struggle to remember exactly what I like about a film a few hours after watching it I know there’s something wrong. Technically the Blu-ray is excellent in the audio-visual departments, but apart from the commentary track the bonus material has a largely insubstantial feel to it. Even so, this is a must-buy for fans of the film and the quality of the presentation probably warrants a rental even if you only have a passing interest.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 1st November 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian, Dolby Digital Audio Description 5.1 English
Subtitles: Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Danish, English HoH, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Motion Comics, Deleted and Extended Scenes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Nimrod Antal
Cast: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershala Ali, Danny Trejo
Length: 107 minutes
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