This past Friday, the Robert Rodriguez produced Predators, the third entry in the popular franchise (not counting the AvP entries), was released, and fan enthusiasm is at an all time high for the franchise.  With mostly positive reviews and a decent box office opening, is this a revitalization of the beloved franchise?

I loved the first two Predator movies, and with talent like Robert Rodriguez, and direction from Nimrod Antal (Vacancy), was definitely excited about this newest entry.  Does Predators live up to the hype?  After twenty years, does it bring life back to the alien hunters?  Or should they have been left dead?

Warning: very MILD spoilers after the jump!

First things first – I’m not an Adrien Brody fan.  Never really have been.  He’s just…funny lookin’.  And really, casting him as a bad ass mercenary that takes on the larger-than-life Predator creatures?  I didn’t see it.  Apparently, he lobbied for the part, and worked out to be in great shape for it.  And I have to admit to being wrong – he does a DAMN good job in Predators.  He’s appropriately gruff, and he really is imposing, and you can see why a group of killers would follow him.

Adrien Brody and a portion of the Predators cast.

Predators begins with Brody’s character Royce falling through the air, his chute opening just in time for him not to die.  He quickly finds that he’s not the only one, though, and comes across a group of the world’s greatest killers – some honorable, some not so much.  After discovering that they’re not even on Earth anymore, they’re assaulted by a pack of alien dogs and realize that they’re being hunted.

Much like the first film, the strength of Predators is in its characters.  Almost all of them are memorable, and different enough so that you won’t confuse one for the other.  Not only that, the acting is uniformly good across the board, even Topher Grace, another guy I’m not usually a fan of.

But what’s really important…is the action any good?  Luckily, solid direction from Nimrod Antal saves the day.  The film does start off a little slowly, but it’s intentional to get you into the characters.  Once the action hits though, the film moves at a rapid pace until the ending credits roll – much like the first, each character gets their moment to shine, and are typically picked off one by one when they go up against one of the Predators.  Each Predator is taken out in very different ways, including a very different take on a Japanese swordfight (it’s cooler than it sounds).

I really dug Predators, and I hope that it makes enough money (it only cost $38mil) to reinvigorate the franchise.  I’d love to see some sequels to the storylines set up in this movie.  The cast and crew obviously care about the material – there are callbacks and references to the original that true fans will catch instantly.  The music by John Debney is damn near perfect – it’s exactly what you’d expect, and it feels right.

Is it perfect?  No … I mean, there’s plenty to like, but there’s not much original here.  The film is held up by the strength of its actors and direction, but the real fault is in the story. Not only that, I know Schwarzenegger turned down a cameo, but could they not get Danny Glover for the Laurence Fishburne role?  I think that would have been an awesome callback to the original franchise.  Not only that, it wasn’t an active role, so Glover wouldn’t even need to get in shape.  Just…wasted opportunity.

In the end, it’s just not as awesome as the original, but few films are.  Still, it’s an admirable entry in the franchise.  Definitely worth seeing if you dug the originals.

Paul's Awesomeness Score - 7 out of 10