Sunday, 29 April 2018

Predators (3½ Stars)

This is the best of the Predator films so far. I can't quite bring myself to give it four stars, mainly because I can't feel any empathy with the alien creatures, but the film stands out above the others because of its outstanding cast. Finally there's a Predator film with people who can act! Another advantage is that the original script was written by Robert Rodriguez.

Unlike the first two films, "Predators" doesn't take place on Earth. The film opens with eight people from different backgrounds who don't know one another falling from the sky into a jungle on an alien planet. There are others, but not all of them survive the fall. They have parachutes, but at the moment they begin to fall they're still asleep, so not all of them manage to open their parachutes in time.

What the eight survivors realise when they meet is that they're all experts in their respective fields of fighting skills. There are four elite soldiers, two criminal enforcers and a serial killer who was waiting on death row. The eighth is a medical doctor who doesn't seem to fit into the group.

As they find out from a human survivor they meet in the jungle, the planet is a type of safari park. Humans are brought to the planet ten at a time. Three creatures hunt them in the jungle. When the hunt is over another ten humans are dropped from the sky and another three creatures come to hunt them, in an endless cycle. Usually the hunt ends when the humans are all dead, but on rare occasions humans manage to kill the creatures and are left on the planet to participate in the next cycle.

At the beginning I said that I feel no empathy for the creatures. Maybe that's not the right way to describe my feelings, but I can't think of a better word than "empathy". The viewer isn't expected to like the creatures, the Predators, but I always want to get inside the head of the bad guys in any film I watch. I want to understand why they do what they do. The best villains, like Loki in the Marvel films and Blofeld in the James Bond films, are charismatic and likeable. Even villains like the Terminators are easy to understand: they've been programmed for self-survival, i.e. they want to kill John Connor before he kills them. I can understand that. I can even relate to it on an abstract level. But the Predators? They kill for sport. That's all.

I know that people kill for sport in the real world. There are safari parks in Africa, but for me they're barbaric. They bring out the worst in humanity. When I was working Bosch in Homburg I had a colleague who went on safari trips. He boasted about all the animals he had killed. He once told me that it's no fun shooting elephants. "They're stupid animals. They just walk straight towards you and don't try to avoid you when you shoot them in the head".  My initial reaction was one of disbelief. I looked at him like he was crazy. Once it sank in my feelings turned to rage. I wasn't really angry with my colleague; for me he was just an idiot who didn't know better. I was angry with owners of African game parks that offer rich Europeans a holiday killing for money. He told me that he had to pay a fee for each animal he killed. Barbaric. That's the only word to describe it.

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