Review: Predators (dir. by Nimrod Antal)


Predators

It would be 20 years before those space-faring hunters, the Predators, would grace the bigscreen once again. Sure, they were part of the two Aliens vs. Predator films of the early 2000’s, but I don’t count them as part of the Predator franchise just due to the fact that they weren’t the headliner. Plus, those two mash-up films were all sorts of something awful.

2010’s Predators by Nimrod Antal (produced by Robert Rodriguez) looked to bring some new life into the scifi action franchise which the two AvP films quickly drained of life and excitement. From the early 1990’s til the release of this film, the franchise gradually built up it’s very own unique film universe which (through novels, comics, games, etc.) was as rich as any scifi franchise. Those who followed this world-building began to understand the Predators culture, mindset and technology.

For some, this meant erasing some of the mystery that made the Predator such an iconic film monster, but others thought it helped established rules for others to follow to help streamline the stories instead of relying too much on one-upping one story after the other.

Predators followed some of the world-building done prior, but also introduces a new wrinkle in the lore by adding the so-called “Super Predators” who were bigger, faster and meaner than the classic ones we’ve seen through the decades. Also new to the Predator lore was setting the film on an unnamed planet which would act as some sort extraplanetary game preserve where Predators could hunt their chosen prey at their leisure and on ground they know.

This new plot point adds a dimension to the film’s narrative in that the humans being hunted had no where to go. Their chances for survival even less now that whatever advantage they might have had on Earth go by the wayside. They’re now being hunted on Predator ground. It’s akin to sport’s game hunting where rich dentists and lawyers pay to hunt specific game in a controlled and managed way in the savannah’s of Africa.

Yet, despite these new additions to the franchise’s lore the film, for the most part, works as an action film. We have the requisite band of misfits, murderers and killers. The worst humanity has to offer but the best at what they do. They run the gamut of black ops mercenaries, elite snipers, drug cartel and rebel enforcers and right up to even a serial killer.

Leading this ragtag bunch, however reluctantly, was the enigmatic Royce played by Oscar-winner Adrien Brody (who actually pulls off the wiry, cold-hearted black ops killer). It’s through his character that the entire film hinges. He’s not the type to play well with others, let alone work with a team as disparate as the one he’s accidentally been stuck with on an unnamed death world. Still, the film works with him as it’s lead. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to believe that this character could easily kill everyone around him and have the best chance to survive being hunted.

He’s the stand-in for the audience who scoff at how those around him make one dumb mistake after another. This is not to say that he’s likable, because he’s definitely in the anti-hero mold who would sacrifice his own teammates if it meant living another hour. Yet, he also understands that his best chance at survival is to continue to use the others even if it means saving their lives.

Nimrod Antal has an eye for action that was very much a throwback to the McTiernan days of the franchise. He allows the scene to unfold in long, sweeping takes to establish a sense of the action’s geography. It’s a skill that less and less action filmmakers use nowadays as quick cuts and edits have become the go-to technique to make a scene more action-packed than it truly is.

Where the film suffers has less to do with Antal’s direction, but more on how exposition-heavy the film gets to try and explain the situation to the rest of the cast. Every time the film ends an action sequence we get some exposition to explain what’s going on to the characters. the writers even wrote in a character (played by a very game Laurence Fishburne) whose only role is to be Exposition Man.

Now, let’s talk about the new Super Predators. They’re an interesting trio of hunters that actually adds some new color and excitement to the Predator series, but at the cost of the more classic Predator we saw with the first two films.

We have three new types of Predators who represent three types of hunters. There’s the Tracker who uses a sort of alien hunting dog to flush out the prey. Then there’s the Falconer who uses a sort of cybernetic drone who scout ahead and look for the prey. The drone looks like something out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Falcon bag of gadgets. But it’s the biggest and baddest of the three, the Berserker, who headlines the new trio. Where the other two have a specific hunting role to play, the Berserker is just as its named. There’s no skill to this hunter, but just sheer brute force to take down what it’s hunting.

They’re a cool-looking bunch but they do detract from the more classic Predator. They actually make the original ones seem more than just a tad useless and helpless when put up against these newest trio.

Predators was definitely a couple steps above what audiences had received with the two Aliens vs. Predator films. Despite some shortcomings with an exposition-heavy screenplay and a narrative choice to make the classic Predator less intimidating, Nimrod Antal’s entry into the Predator franchise has enough action and new world-building additions to bring back some excitement into the series. It’s a shame that the stink from the two AvP films impacted this film and how many people ended up seeing it, but with each passing year more and more people have begun to rethink their initial negative feelings about Predators and give the film it’s just due of being a fun and exciting scifi actioner.

Review: Metallica: Through the Never (dir. by Nimrod Antal)


MetallicaThroughtheNever

“And the road becomes my bride”

Concerts have been a major part of a teenager’s transition into adulthood. Often have we begged our parents to get us tickets to our favorite band’s concert as they toured straight into our hometowns. We’d beg, cajole, promise whatever just to be able to attend that big show that we thought everyone we knew would be attending. Rock concerts have been a huge part of this coming-of-age journey. It’s the show that our parents dreaded (especially the metal shows) and the ones that pulled in the outcasts kids.

We would either outgrow this youthful event because it’s not something that interests us, but most often it’s just because we either do not have the time to attend rock concerts due to work and other adult responsibilities. While we would still go to a concert of our favorite band when time and money affords for it in the end it’s something that’s become more of a past-time to reminisce about.

Metallica: Through the Never is the latest concert film that could change all that. Filmed during Metallica’s latest world tour, the film was directed by Nimrod Antal (Armored, Predators) and turns what could’ve been just your typical concert film into a surreal mixture of excellent concert footage and an apocalyptic narrative involving one of the band’s roadies. The latter felt like an extended music video and the lack of dialogue by the film’s narrative lead in Dane DeHaan does give this part of the film it’s surreal vibe. This part of the film could easily come off as one of Metallica’s music videos. It has mayhem involving nameless rioters battling an equal number of police right up to a nameless, gas-masked horseman who ends up paying particular attention to our beleaguered roadie.

Yet, while this apocalyptic-like narrative makes for a nice sideshow the main reason to see Metallica: Through the Never is the concert footage. While Antal does a good job with the story going outside the concert it’s inside where he shines. Making use of over 20 cameras on cranes, dollies and handhelds, Antal is able to make the concert footage feel like one was actually at the show. He uses every trick in the book from close-ups of each band member to sweeping crane shots that gives a bird’s-eye view of the concert.

It’s this part of the film that may just be one way for those of us who grew up going to concerts but have lost the time to return to such events to finally experience them again. It helps that the 3D used helps give the feel of not just being there but an enhanced experience that one may not find while actually attending the show live. But it doesn’t end in just the visuals.

A concert film can only go so far on how it looks. In the end, if the film doesn’t do a great job capturing the audio of the event then why even bother watching. Metallica: Through the Never doesn’t skimp on the audio assault. It is just exactly what I mean when I say audio assault. The audio in this film brought me back to attending past metal shows from my youth in near-perfect volume and clarity.

Metallica: Through the Never needs to be experienced in as big a screen as possible and if one’s able to see it on IMAX then I recommend they do so, but if that’s not possible then I still say go out and see this unique take on the ubiquitous concert film. It might not be the same as attending a Metallica concert, but it’s the next best thing to actually attending one.