Big Picture Big Sound

Predators Blu-ray Review

By Greg Robinson

The Film

When James Cameron directed Aliens, he achieved the impossible. He took the quintessential sci-fi horror film of our time and gave it a sequel that was not only worthy,  but - depending on who you talk to - every bit as compelling as the original. Unlike Ridley Scott's Alien, which pitted the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo against a lone, terrifying extraterrestrial, Aliens (plural) upped the ante - and the action - by adding multiple creatures to the mix and moving the setting to a distant and unfamiliar world. The result was pure genius and Aliens quickly became one of the Top Five Best Sequels of All Time. The year was 1986.

In 1987, a mere one year later, Director John McTiernan gave us Predator. With the possible exception of The Terminator, Predator was action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger's finest hour. In the film, Dutch (Schwarzenegger) leads a team of badass mercenaries deep into the jungles of South America to battle a lone, terrifying extraterrestrial. Sound familiar? It should. Clearly inspired by the Alien films, McTiernan achieved similar greatness by investing in tension, characters we care about, and the frightening believability of Stan Winston's physical effects work. (That, and a belt-fed mini-gun hoisted by a tobacco-chewing Jesse "The Body" Ventura. What are the chances McTiernan knew he had not one but two future governors in his principal cast?)

Sadly, the inevitable Predator 2 was little more than mediocre; somehow Danny Glover and Gary Busey running around Los Angeles just didn't feel like a Predator film. And as for Fox's misguided attempt at reviving and pillaging BOTH the Alien and Predator franchises simultaneously with their shameful Aliens vs. Predators films, well, this sentence is about all the ink I'm willing to spare talking about them. In short, the sad fact is that Predator never received the sequel it so deserved.

Until now.

Seconds after the 20th Century Fox logo fades to black, we are immediately - and quite effectively - dropped into the jungle where we meet our hero, the surprisingly-versatile Adrien Brody. After only two or three minutes, when the PREDATORS logo finally flashes on screen, it's evident that Producer Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) and Director Nimrod Antal (Vacancy) mean business. And it's a good thing too, because that little "s" on the end of this film's title immediately creates great expectations.

Much like The Most Dangerous Game, Battle Royale, Cube, and of course its namesake predecessor, Predators takes a diverse group of individuals and thrusts them into a game of life or death against the most dangerous hunter any of them has ever encountered. As Brody's character Royce says, after putting the pieces together: "This planet is a game preserve. And we're the game."

The Picture

Earlier this year there was a fair amount of debate surrounding Fox's recent "Ultimate Hunter" Blu-ray Edition of Predator. In short, the picture's film grain and texture was largely scrubbed away via excess digital noise reduction (DNR), leaving Schwarzenegger and crew to look more like wax figures, and leading some Blu-ray critics to essentially call the disc "one ugly motherf***er." (I'm paraphrasing.) Our own Chris Chiarella was more forgiving, but he too complained about the actors looking "too perfect" and the "cranked up" DNR.

Thankfully, Predators has no such problems. In fact, the picture looks downright terrific and wonderfully film-like, a surprise considering the filmmakers used the Genesis digital camera to lens the film. Skin tones are spot-on, the lush greens of the jungle have an impressive visual pop and there's just an incredible amount of detail on display. Blacks appear sufficiently deep and there is little to no crush affecting detail in the shadows.

The Sound

I mentioned Jesse Ventura's mini-gun, one of the more impressive sounds from the original Predator. As further evidence that Predators is a Predator movie through and through, the mini-gun is back and its ability to lay waste to your surround sound system hasn't lessened in the years since we've seen it in action.

Fox gives Predators a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and it's engaging from minute one and that impressive pre-credit sequence I mentioned earlier. Aggressive use of the surround channels and plenty of bass make for a stellar home theater experience, but the true highlight here is John Debney's score and tribal-esque musical cues, which bears a strong and comforting resemblance to Alan Silvestri's superb work from the original Predator.

The Extras

Fox presents Predators on Blu-ray with a respectable smattering of bonus material. Chief among the extras is a lengthy featurette entitled "Evolution of the Species" which covers just about every element of the film's production. Although he didn't direct the film, Robert Rodriguez was obviously a key player in getting this film made and his energetic commentary with Antal is further evidence of this. Rodriguez also features heavily in the disc's other major extra, a set of motion comic prequel vignettes, where a few of our protagonists' back stories are further fleshed out. Unfortunately we don't get a DVD copy of the film, but a Digital Copy is included for fans of watching movies on the go.

Final Thoughts

Forget Aliens vs. Predator and forget Predator 2. Although it isn't perfect, Predators is the sequel franchise fans have been patiently waiting for. Although it doesn't break much in the way of new ground, it does kick a whole lot of ass - and isn't that what it's really all about? Add to that a superb technical presentation from the folks at Fox and you've got one Must Own Blu-ray title.

Product Details

  • Actors: Adrien Brody, Lawrence Fishburne, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo
  • Director: Nimrod Antal
  • Audio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Region: A
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Rating: R
  • Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Disc Release Date: October 19, 2010
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • List Price: $39.99
  • Extras:
    • Prequel Motion Comics presented by Robert Rodriguez
    • Featurette: "Evolution of the Species: Predators Reborn"
    • Featurette: "The Chosen"
    • Fox Movie Channel presents: "Making a Scene"
    • Deleted and extended scenes
    • Audio commentary
    • Digital Copy
    • BD LIVE


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View all articles by Greg Robinson
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